How I got over my fear of traveling alone
This is another adventure and realization as part of my trip to Cluj.
One day, encouraged by my friend, I went to see Salina Turda by my lonesome. At the end of the day, I met two tourists: Rebecca and Jesse. Their first response to my question helped shift my perspective forever.
Here was my question:
How do you deal with traveling alone? Doesn't it get lonely?
Let's get the non-obvious out of the way.
What is a fear, really?
First off, as any good headline, it is exaggerated. Somewhat scientifically speaking, a fear is something that digs deep inside of our nerous system's emotional associations. To "get over" a fear is a process that conditions your neural patterns in a different way and away from those intense emotional connections.
Often times, it takes a bunch of sequential, spaced-out events to cause that "click" moment when you are "over your fear".
So really we are talking about that click moment and what clicked for me. Because it makes for a good story, and good stories help me click away from my fears.
What do I mean by traveling
I mean going to a place you've never been, and not knowing anybody there. And to top it off, most people there being of a different culture and speaking a different language (at least fluently) than you do.
I don't mean going to a place you know, meeting people you know, and where everyone speaks your language natively. To me, traveling in most places of the US, UK or Romania is not nearly as frightening as going to a country I know little about, with nobody I previously met already there waiting for me.
My specific fear
So this is my specific fear. To travel somewhere where:
- I've never been
- I don't know anybody that I previously met
- the culture is different from what I'm used to
- Most people don't speak any of the languages I speak fluently
For some reason, as soon as I go meet someone I've already met, 99% of my fear subsides. Really, as soon as you take away any one of the above four, my fear drastically drops.
Before that, I asked them how long they'd been traveling. I thought they came together, but they were actually each traveling separately for the six months prior. They went off to Asia for about 3 months, and Europe for another 6. They saw at least 15 countries in that time and were pretty much always on the road, on a decent budget ($30-50/day) and one of them was even working part of the time, doing some remote writing.
So now that you know who they are, here's what they said:
You are never really alone while traveling.
- You can always meet up with other travelers and join paths
- There will be times when you make friends with cool people and want to change your plans
- There will be times when you can go off on your own for a few days because you want to do something a specific way
And they could not have been more on point. I was never alone in Cluj. I was not alone on the way there, either (I got to meet wonderful people). And I was not alone on the way back.
In fact, I see the same attitude in my work as well: I am often afraid of running out of work, but it never actually happens. I can always find more work to do when I really put effort into it.
The bottom line
I think it does help somewhat to be easy going (these two certainly were). After all, they had met just a week earlier in Brasov, and were about to part ways a day later. But their plans worked out for that week. And they mentioned having had friends meet them for part of the journey, just as you would be living in one place: sometimes you see friends, sometimes you don't.
Yet at the end of the day, the best thing I can do is to be able to accept that fear and look at loneliness as a natural part of life.
Because it is. Because one can be lonely even when surrounded by the dearest people of all. And one can feel embraced by the world even with no person around to be seen.
To know and trust deep within you that you are worthy of companion.
Because you are. You don't need proof of that. It cannot be proven.
Time to travel!
So embrace life. Embrace this moment. Embrace your travels, and you will find companionship. It's a wonderful world and it's full of people that are waiting to meet you.
Today I am writing this on my way to Istanbul. This is the second trip this year that I've done meeting those fearful criteria. I didn't know anyone here, and I already feel like I have a friend and am about to meet more people throughout the week.
The new potential friend is my host! He has tons of business ideas, and runs the apartment building I live in along with several other things... and also has a textile business, and is just generally really cool :)
Thank you Vio, Rebecca and Jesse for the mindset shift!