In 2011, I decided to go on vacation alone. I was simply unhappy with my circumstances and recognized that I needed to do something for myself, and I had absolutely no desire to share that experience with anyone else.
I was dissatisfied with my job and the direction my career was taking. I worked for a company that didn't recognize my talent or take my ideas seriously. I hated the work and could feel it wreaking havoc on my soul. On top of that, I was dealing with a handful of family matters that were causing more stress than I had ever experienced before. I needed to escape, to get away, gain some perspective, and experience something new.
So, I booked a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. I spent 10 glorious days exploring the rain forest, relaxing on beautiful beaches and meeting fellow travellers from all over the world. Each night, I slept soundly in my comfortable, king-sized bed (a major feat for an insomniac!). And every morning, I felt refreshed and ready to take on my next adventure.
As fun as the trip was, it was also a learning experience. I learned things about life and about myself in those 10 days that I never would have found out otherwise.
Here are my discoveries.
1. Independence is Freeing
Sitting in a restaurant watching a performance by flamenco dancers, I felt liberated. I don't need the company of another person in order to be happy. I didn't feel bored, I didn't feel out of place, I felt totally blissful sitting there alone on my second night in this new, exotic place. And I continued to learn this over the next week and a half. Companionship is a wonderful thing, but sometimes, my own company is more than enough.
2. Friendship and camaraderie can break through any language barrier.
During one of my day tours, I ended up befriending two older women from Columbia. They were best friends, were having the time of their lives and decided to share that fun with me. They also didn't speak any English. And I had a blast with them, even though we weren't able to actually speak to each other. Somehow, we understood each other anyway. This reminded me that the world may be big, but we are all the same.
3. Being alone helps you remember the parts of yourself that get forgotten.
In regular, day-to-day life, we tend to only be certain versions of ourselves. We have a version of us at work, and versions of ourselves around friends and family. We become used to playing these parts and often forget about the truest form of ourselves. When you travel alone and are meeting new people through your journeys, you start to find that part of yourself that gets stifled in day-to-day life. Maybe this side is adventurous, whimsical, creative, or is quiet and contemplative. It was during these 10 days that I was able to explore those different sides of myself and let them wander freely, without the responsibilities of everyday life and the expectations of people who know me.
4. I loved doing exactly what I wanted.
Traveling with loved ones is a fun, shared experience. But, there's always compromises that need to be made. A trip to the museum you've always wanted to check out might get skipped over to make room for the sight-seeing expedition your travel partner had planned. And, I have this issue that makes me want to make others happy, which means that the things I want often get looked over (by myself and others). Because I was traveling alone, I got to make all the decisions. I did everything I wanted to do. For the first time in my life, I didn't have to make compromises. I woke up every morning feeling elated and excited, knowing that I would be spending the day doing exactly what I wanted to do. There aren't many moments in life where this is possible, so I advise taking advantage of it while you can.