Dear lone traveler,
I know how you feel. I know how hard it is to repress the urge to roll your eyes whenever someone says “You are so brave” after one look at your messy passport. Because when you jump into a plane and you close your eyes during take off, on those moments when you let go of all the anxieties –– did I pack enough socks? How about pants? Is this jacket warm enough? –– you feel anything but brave. Weightless? Maybe. Excited? Most probably. Free? Definitely. But, brave? Not really.
Now, let me tell you something: you are brave.
When I told people I was alone my first time in New York City I thought their eyes would pop out of their heads. Everyone immediately got concerned about my safety and my sanity, even though I had already done it and survived it. I know this has happened to you too, my fellow traveler. I know you’ve had to shrug off everybody’s concerns because you are too used to not carrying any worries at all. You flutter from one place to another, widening your eyes at the beauty and not the danger, you notice the opportunities and not the fears. And that is what makes you brave.
“Traveling is like flirting with life. It's like saying, 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.”
― Lisa St. Aubin de Terán
Because in a world that tells you that life is not complete until you find someone to share it with, a world that constantly undermines the importance of enjoying your own company, there is nothing braver than standing proudly and yelling: “I love myself!”
I was once told that you should travel at least three times in your life, once with each one of your families. First with the family you've got, your mother and father, your sisters and your brothers; secondly, with the family you found, meaning your friends; and finally, with the family you built, with your husband or wife, with your children. But what about traveling on your own? What about discovering places that you would overlook if walking with someone else? Sure, having company is nice, but it’s about time we enjoy our own company too.
People forget that when you travel by yourself life is more than tables for one and lots of selfies. Traveling alone is about walking at your own speed, entering that crazy coffee shop that most of your friends would ignore, taking the wrong subway and having to walk a few extra blocks, meeting kind strangers that will take a picture for you to send to your parents, and smiling to yourself at night when one more perfect day comes to an end. Traveling alone is about finding parts of yourself that are scattered all around the world. It’s about crazy stories to tell your friends and family when you go back home, it’s about finding the perfect gift for the special people that are waiting for you.
"To belong nowhere is a blessing and a curse, like any kind of freedom."
–– Leah Stewart
I know many of you have traveled longer distances than I have, and that you’ve had to endure the awkward conversation that starts with you saying “When I was in…” and inevitably ends in “What the hell were you thinking?!” But, as someone who is constantly looking at the world’s map and wondering where the next spot is, I am writing you this letter so that you never stop traveling. So that you never sit still when you know you should be running.
Mostly, I am writing to you to give you some advice I should start following myself: Don’t roll your eyes. You are brave, and you are powerful. So the next time someone comments on how brave you are for going out on an adventure by yourself –– even if they don’t mean it, even if you know “brave” is just a euphemism for “stupid,” –– you smile and say thank you. Because there’s nothing braver than loving yourself.