I'm only a week into my current solo traveling stint but already I feel transformed. As I sit at the bar facing the window of the very same tea/ lunch place where I first got lunch in London over a year ago (a place I stumbled upon by wandering down streets that I found interesting both times), I think it's time to parse this thought swimming around my soul into words.
Three reasons why I think people "find themselves" solo traveling.
(Or: I just read Wild and I'm reading Eat. Pray. Love. so I'm spending my free time thinking up titles for my memoir because I'm a powerful young woman having beautiful life experiences all by myself dammit.)
1. You talk to people.
You meet people you wouldn't talk to in a different context. People from different places and with different stories. You "find yourself" in doing so because you tell your story so many times that you really start to clarify it. You start to find the most concise way to say: this is who I am, this is why I'm here, this is what I'm all about. When you're by yourself, you're much more inclined to talk strangers, and they're much more inclined to talk to you. Sometimes you find who you are by noting similarities, but often you find who you are by learning who you are not. Talking to vastly different humans is an efficient way to work at the latter.
2. You're in charge of yourself.
When you're lucky enough to find yourself in a new place with no responsibility but to care for yourself, it becomes essential to listen to your needs. You are the only one who's going to make sure you're filling up on what pleases you and the only one keeping an eye on your well being. Finding out how to listen to yourself and be patient with yourself is an added bonus to being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want, and take a nap whenever you need one.
3. Some unseen force that there's probably a German word for.
This one will probably have to be expressed in a poem or a painting to truly do it justice. There's something about knowing your feet are somewhere on the earth quite far from where they were born. Distance is a powerful sensation. Maybe that's why an Australian will say things to an American like "I don't see why Australia would be at the top of your list. I guess it's exotic to you, being so far away and all." Is it the distance? Is it the newness? Perhaps. Or maybe it's something that doesn't quite have a word. The Germans probably thought of one though. They seem to have words for everything.
Solo traveling is scary and lonely at times, but my goodness how transformative and soul expanding. Whether you book a flight across the pond or hop into your car and drive across state lines, I highly recommend everyone take the time to "find themselves" all alone, in a place you've never been.