It is odd how close power and vulnerability lie together.
Even though I’m traveling alone, I’m not really traveling alone. It has occurred to me that I often use the term traveling alone the same way I used it when I was 17 years old, fresh out of high school and traveling through Europe, alone with a friend. Alone, meaning that I did not travel with my parents. I wasn’t truly alone though.
I traveled alone to Thailand, Togo, and Tanzania. Sure, I did meet people right away though. How could I not, when I was living and working with them 24/7? So again, I was traveling alone, but never truly by myself.
I pride myself on the fact that I’m doing these things. I do travel alone. I make the plans by myself. I go there, not really expecting to meet new best friends, but people with more or less the same mindset. People I’ve never talked to before. And people I’ve barely talked to since.
This year is different though. Once again I’m traveling alone, but now, sitting in this hostel in Philadelphia, truly alone for the first time in…. forever?! This has a new meaning to me.
But the real challenge is happening right now. Right here on my bunk bed in an all-girl dormitory in the heart of Philly. Do I dare go out and sit in a restaurant on my own? Hostesses do not badger me to eat at their establishment as they did when I was walking around with another person. I’m just a random girl in a plain T-shirt and holey cotton tote bag, roaming the streets by herself.
Do I dare go and strike up a conversation with the random guy down in the hostel lobby?
Do I dare be by myself and find peace?
Do I dare say, “Screw it!” and make new friends?
I will have to step out of my comfort zone either way, so it’s win-win and lose-lose. It’s both and it’s terrifying and exhilarating. It’s empowering and making me feel vulnerable. It’s thrilling. It’s learning more about myself with every step I take, every word I say. It’s thoughtless words and middle-of-the-night facepalms. It’s my life right now. Right in this second.
(Authors Note: This was written right where I said it was (in a hostel room in Philly at 10.22pm) but somehow got lost in the incredible amount of blog drafts that piled up over the years.
I ended up going for dinner by myself the next day. I ended up saying ‘screw it’ and got a table for one in the secret garden of a very cute little restaurant, having a lovely chat with the waitress and eating an amazing salad. Thank you, Philly for teaching me so much about myself and my capabilities.)