Confession: I’m a travel addict. Sometimes I just want to get away from daily life, unwind and reset for the coming season. There’s no better way to collect your thoughts than to be alone with them for awhile. I think that’s why I don’t mind traveling alone. But one of the things I love most about my wandering spirit is that even if I travel alone, I’m never really alone.
I just spent six days traveling in the West Virginia/Washington, D.C., area. My goal was to hike 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail, just me and my camping equipment. When I told people my plans, they typically had one of three reactions. Some tried to convince me not to go. Others suggested I get hotel room to stay in at night and then take day trips. And then there were the friends who just told me I’m crazy (Which, let’s be honest— they already knew).
I’m not easily deterred, so I set off on my trip. This is not something new for me; In fact, I travel alone frequently. One thing I’ve found along the way is that people want to connect. Throughout my entire trip and on past adventures, I’ve always found other groups of people doing the same thing as me. More often than not, people love company and getting to know others.
On this trip, I met a family of three — a couple and their teenager, on the first day. Since we obviously have something in common (hiking!), we started talking and I ended up traveling with them for two days. We shared stories and had the most amazing conversations. They were on a three-day hike, so they left after a few days. Then, I met an older man who became a travel companion. He was a widower and told me stories about when he and his wife used to travel together, about how he is a nomad now, and about how bad my shoes were.
I have many stories of people I’ve met traveling that I probably wouldn’t have met had I been with another person. And even if I had met them, we probably wouldn’t have connected as deeply as we did. There’s no way around it . . . We connected because I was alone. It’s human nature to gravitate toward other people, and I think even more so if they’re on their own.
Because you likely won’t see each other again, people tend to open up to a complete stranger. They share their hopes and fears, and freely give advice on life. I honestly believe that there’s no greater lesson what what can be learned from a stranger.
Community is so important, but it’s not something you have to spend forever creating. Every time I’ve been alone, like in coming to America, in moving to St. Louis, or on trips, I’ve found an amazing group of people. Sometimes a community is for years, other times it’s for days, or hours. Getting out of your comfort zone opens you to new experiences that make like so much more grand.
Were there times where I was uncomfortable, or even scared on my trip? You bet! But you can’t let fear rule you. Being fearless isn’t about the absence of fear, it’s about doing something in spite of that fear. The fear will pass. That uncomfortable feeling is just for a moment. And if you make decisions based on fear, you won’t open your soul to new experiences. I can only hope that everyone gets to experience traveling alone some time in their life. I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I met on this trip and for the lessons they’ve taught me that I’ll carry forever.