Laying awake in a tiny shack near the summit of Mt. Rainier, I asked the question I had been dying to ask. “What is it like being an FBI Agent?” The quiet, incredibly fit woman laying in the bunk across from me smiled, “It is not at all like what you think.”
I often overhear people fantasizing about the travel lifestyle. They use phrases like freedom, adventure and excitement. They describe exotic beaches, private islands and wondrous parties. When I hear these comments, I, like the FBI agent, smile. The real travel lifestyle is not at all what you might think.
When I go on my various life list adventures there is one fact that is inevitable. I will without a doubt spend a lot of time alone. This blog chronicles the exciting parts that happen between those points, but until now I haven’t talked about the activities (or lack-there-of) that fill the majority of my hours when I am traveling.
The most alone I have ever felt was during a two week period in Spain where I didn’t speak english to a single person. Admittedly, I was in a bustling city but for whatever reason, my plans unfolded in a way where I didn’t talk to anyone. Instead, I filled my time exploring the city and writing code.
Being alone is a fact of travel that I have gotten used to. In the beginning it bothered me a lot. I used to call home or check Facebook just to make contact with people I knew. Humans are social creatures and it has long been known that being solitary is a painful and hard experience. It still has an impact on me but it is now easier to deal with than it used to be.
To be fair, enduring aloneness is something that most people have to deal with occasionally. I have been home and spent days alone as well. It doesn’t only happen when I am exploring a new country. I have also talked to people who are living social lifestyles in a city they know well and still complain that they feel alone.
It seems to me that aloneness is not entirely dictated by proximity to people.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I prefer traveling with others over going solo. It is fun to share experiences and helpful to split responsibilities. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to do this with all of my travels. My lifestyle is simply too extreme to expect others to be able to join me on all of my adventures.
That said, I am not unhappy with my choices.
Is It Worth It?
HELL YES, ABSO-FREAKING-LULUTLY! Pursuing my life list is by far the most important and gratifying project that I have ever had the pleasure of pursuing. It is not always fun but it is a tool that has helped me grow more than anything else I have ever encountered. I have never even considered giving it up since I started.
While the time spent alone is not usually fun, it is certainly beneficial. It builds discipline, enforces thought and puts me in situations where I am forced to reflect and prioritize. I believe this is the reason I have the writing style that I do. I spend a lot of time alone and thus spend a lot of time crafting my thoughts. Thoughts, which I usually write down later.
All of us have to spend our entire lives with our own thoughts. Be the present moment good or bad, easy or hard, I find some happiness knowing that I trust and feel secure with the person I am. Being comfortable with my own company is the most valuable skill I have. Oddly enough, it took me traveling the world to finally learn to be this way.
Photo is of a submarine I dove in in Hawaii. I wasn’t alone for that adventure :-p