First stop – Istanbul
Except for the last trip to Morocco, on each trip I went alone. All alone. When I was twenty something years old, I sat on the flight of Croatia Airlines. Destination was Istanbul. Plane ticket was cheap and Istanbul was a world I knew nothing about. I was hungry. For different worlds. For far away. Istanbul found me. It was chaotic and raw and majestic. It was perfect.
In Istanbul, I ran from the police and the water cannons and the pepper spray. I went to karaoke where I met a native American. I chatted with Turks over endless cups of tea. I went in and out of trams. I spent hours bargaining and getting lost in the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of about 4,000 shops selling spices and teas, pots, clothing, lamps and sweets. I sat in the Blue Mosque. Alone.
Upon graduation from college, I flew more than 8,400 kilometers away from Croatia. Alone. I put my whole life into a red backpack. One-way ticket had one name on it – Thailand. Again I was hungry. This time for the worlds that were even further. I went from one temple to another. I admired the lanterns in Bangkok Chinatown, I ate spicy foods and stared at the palm trees during long train rides. Alone.
In spite of fear, I dived into the mad sea in search of glowing plankton. I chased fireflies and sunsets. I was cycling around the island of Koh Phangan until my feet couldn’t take it. Or until I was being chased by dogs. I followed a Buddhist monk into the woods. He felt my presence but said nothing. I knew he was smiling at me. This childish game brought me to a mango stand. I bought two and tore them with my bare hands, enjoying their sweetness. Alone.
I moved to Ireland alone. I left Ireland. Alone. I visited Colombia. On my own. I came back to Ireland. On my own. Buenos Aires. Uruguay. Weekend in Brazil. Cycling through Vietnamese rice fields. Terrorist attack in Belgium. Alone.
Waiting on something or someone
How many times have I felt alone?
Very rare or almost never.
Feeling lonely was a sign that I needed even more alone time. Why? Well, loneliness is a feeling. The source of all feelings is within us. If we feel lonely when we are alone AND when we are with other people, who is responsible for that feeling? Ourselves or other people? We are responsible for how we feel. The answer is never in the hands of other people.
Endless plane and bus rides taught me that I can either complain and feel bad about being “all alone”, or I can become my best friend. I chose the latter.
Traveling has taught me not only how to take care of my stomach and safety issues, but also how to be gentle to myself. It’s sad that education fails to teach us how to love ourselves. I’ve got 17 years of education and one master’s degree behind me, yet life on the Road taught me more than all classrooms together. Education is important, but it does not define you. Diplomas don’t necessarily make people happy. I met employees of Facebook and Google, lawyers, engineers and other highly educated souls, who were making more money than an average employee yet, they were not happy. It’s great when in a group of people you can say that you work for Facebook, but who are you when no one is watching?
Don’t let other’s opinions hold you back. Don’t let anyone’s criticism or judgement define who you are. What others think of you has nothing to do with you. Be careful with what thoughts you are feeding into your mind because your thoughts create your experiences. They told me I was crazy when I was saving for more than two years to travel. Did I care? Nope. They were talking, I was working. I am a pilot of my own life. So are you.
You have to become your own best friend, otherwise you will always feel lonely, no matter where you are and with whom you are. No one can “fix” you. That’s your full-time job. Once you learn how to love yourself, you won’t “sell” yourself for anything less than powerful and awesome. You will learn that it’s not a tragedy when people leave because some people are lessons. Others are blessings. They are all teachers.
Why I am writing this?
Because traveling solo across the world is no big deal. I’m not brave, as many of you think and write to me. I simply know that:
You are enough. You are amazing. You can do anything you want, if you work hard enough. There’s a whole world out of school classrooms that they taught us nothing about. You are the centre of your world. You are the books you read and the words you speak. You are the people you meet and the situations you find yourself in. You are the mountains you climb and the seas you swim in. You are enough. Don’t put your life on hold, waiting for someone or something. I already know you can do anything you want. Come on now, start believing it yourself.