A lot of people have a list of things to do before they die.
For some, it includes traveling solo. Unfortunately, for some people, that item will always remain unchecked.
Why? They could tell you: I don’t have any money. I’m too lazy to make plans for myself. I don’t have the time to travel. I’m afraid to travel solo.
Yes, the world is full of excuses that we can use to justify our decision to stay where we are. I’ve used some of them too. I remember the crystal merchant’s reply to Santiago when the latter asked him in The Alchemist why he was not pushing through with his pilgrimage to Mecca. The merchant said: I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.
For him, then, it’s better to have the dream than fulfill it. He’s afraid of the hole it will leave in his life if it’s gone.
I took a leap of faith by traveling alone when I was 11. I was a bit worried, yes, but the excitement was stronger! I was around three years old though, when I first became conscious of how addicting it can be to be on the road.
Every time my parents took me on their trips, I felt so happy, so lucky to be chosen to go. Through those early trips, I realized that anything is possible, including, yes, backpacking in Europe.
So how do you take the leap of faith and travel solo? How do you take that first step off the solid ground that you’ve always been loathe to leave by yourself?
Want it hard enough, and it will happen! When you want something hard enough, you’re more open to possibilities, more aware of opportunities that can help you get it. The Secret and The Alchemist are saying the same thing; the desire has to come from you first—get rid of all the fears that are holding you back. If you really want it, you can find ways to get it. Otherwise, all you’ll have are excuses.
Do something to address your limitations. You don’t have money to travel? I didn’t too. As a non-profit employee, I didn’t earn much. No matter how you look at it, traveling costs money, no matter what some people may tell you otherwise.
You need to eat, to pay for your transportation and the entrance fees to museums and such. But it doesn’t mean that you have to be a millionaire to be able to travel alone.
I saved like crazy for years, setting aside 20-30 percent of my monthly salary into my travel fund. I looked for other ways to earn: editing papers, writing website content, monetizing my blogs, among other things.
My earnings from those all went to my bank account. I skipped on going to the cinemas or eating in restaurants. I bought clothes on sale. I used my phones till they broke down or got lost, uncaring about the latest gadgets (except for my Kindle!) that would surely take a big slice off my monthly salary.
I wanted desperately to travel, so I found ways to address my financial limitations.
Choose your destinations well. One way of addressing budget challenges is also to choose your destination well. For us in Asia, for example, the other Asian countries are pretty cheap; I only had $200 when I went to Saigon, but I was already a millionaire there.
You can have interaction with locals and free accommodation through Couchsurfing too, so you can really save a lot! And of course, nothing beats traveling in your country first.
Prepare for your trip in advance. I prepared for my backpacking trip in Europe for years, buffing up my savings, building my skills, and building my network in Couchsurfing. I wanted to make sure that I will travel cheaply in Europe.
I do regret it a little bit that I waited until now to take this trip. I should have done this years ago!
At least, though, I am doing it now. I am fulfilling that dream and unlike the crystal merchant, I’m not afraid that it will leave a hole in my life. I’ll just replace it with something else (update as of February 2015: That something else is to backpack in South America for 2 years starting July 2015!).
Living is constantly challenging yourself, be it through travel or some other goals, and I’m glad that traveling solo has made me what I am today.
How about you? Will you take a leap of faith and travel alone?