United States

Don’t Be Afraid To Travel Alone

United States

When I was very young, I was inspired by National Geographic TV shows, Steve Irwin, and naturally, The Wild Thornberrys. I’ve seen family videos of me as a 4 year old acting out little Amazon trips and playing with stuffed animals ‘that I met in the wild’. This fascination with the outdoors continued to grow and grow until I got to an age where I wanted nothing more than to actually travel.

Less interestingly, I also had this weird obsession with numbers and time, and when mixed together, kind of instilled this fear of time running out into my mind. I was 16 when I learned in biology that the average human life is 28,000 days and also when I first decided seeing the globe was what I needed to do with those days. But at that age, I was unable to go alone and so I waited. At 18, I could have begun going alone but fear is what stood in my way.  At 19, I started taking long back packing trips across America; one of which was an East coast road trip from New York to Florida. It was INCREDIBLE and it fueled a more intense travel bug.

2014: I was 20 when I stepped on foreign soil. My first country was Jamaica, followed by the Cayman Islands, then Cozumel. A month later, I was in Ireland for 2 weeks. Four countries in 2 months. The number continued to grow in the next two years.

2015: At 21, I backpacked 7 European countries solo, went to Canada twice, studied abroad in Korea, visited North Korea, and volunteered in Thailand.

2016: At 22, I had two jobs and was a full time student studying wildlife conservation. But above all I was a traveler. A solo traveler at that! In 2016, I volunteered in Costa Rica, traveled to Hong Kong and the Czech Republic, and moved to Korea. So far at 23, I have seen 20 countries and my goal is to see as many as my age represents.

I’ve come to realize that some of my travels have been a coping mechanism for stress. While others may drink away their feelings, I book flights to literally fly away from them. But, I am quite proud of my vice. It has allowed me to experience first hand, other people’s livelihoods. I have seen the happiest people living in huts; laughing, cooking, playing. I have seen the most unhappy people living in luxury. It’s not what you have, it’s how you have it. As a solo traveler, I have had the freedom to be able to wander by foot into neighborhoods, villages, and temples. One of my most memorable experiences was walking for hours through a forest in Thailand and stumbling across a temple unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The monks were dancing, not meditating! They grabbed me by the arm and we danced together until sunset. If I ever lose my memory, I hope I don’t lose that one.

Moral of my story is; don’t be afraid to go alone, don’t be afraid to get hurt. If you have to be afraid of one thing, fear time running out. 28,000 days of life. Make the most of it before the clock strikes 12.

Contributed by Megan Weidle