This post comes from our contributor Kristen Hedges.
I’ve always been a wallflower. I thrive on background noise and body language. And I don’t need much to be happy – only a pen, some paper, and a comfortable place to sit. So it doesn’t strike me as strange that I’ve always preferred traveling alone (for short trips, at least).
Last weekend, I found myself flying from Texas, to the smoldering desert of California for a yoga & music festival. My husband drove me to the airport, helped me to sling a small pack over my shoulder, and kissed my goodbye.
When I arrived to the retreat center in Joshua Tree, my notebook pages were already bleeding through to both sides with stories of the airport, a dirty plane, the car rental waiting lounge. I adjusted the bag on my back and checked in at the gate.
“Anyone else checking in with you?” A woman asked, squinting up at me through the afternoon sun.
“No, just me,”
“Brave, aren’t you?” She raised her eyebrows and laced a festival pass around my wrist.
“I guess,” I said, “But it really is lovely traveling alone.”
Often, I find that folks are a bit frightened to travel without at least one companion. They think that, for some reason, they will have less fun, or that the whole experience won’t matter as much if it hasn’t been properly shared.
But cultivating a sense of comfort and adventure with my own Spirit has been one of the most beautiful things I’ve come to experience. When I travel alone, I often learn more about myself (about my perfect imperfectness, my flaws, the things I need to let go of, the things I need to embrace) than I would have if I had wrangled someone to come along with me.
Traveling alone, I’ve made lifelong friends, and strengthened the relationships with my loved ones back home. And above all, I’ve honored a sacred relationship with myself (which, as it turns out, is the most important connection I’ll ever have).
I don’t feel that I’m brave. I feel connected. Empowered. Centered.
So, buy a round-trip ticket to the place you’ve always wanted to see. Pack lightly, if you can. Bring a notepad, some pens, an open mind, an open heart. Accept and honor every person that you meet, every experience you collect. And when you get back (if you ever get back), tell others of your adventures and take pride in the fact that you traveled alone.
Or, keep the entire memory to yourself, forever pressed between the pages of a notebook. This time, it’s only up to you.
Have you traveled alone? And if not, where will you take yourself first?