3 Lessons Solo Travel Taught MeTo travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. ~Elizabeth Gilbert
Six years ago, I took one of the boldest actions of my life. I traveled solo halfway across the world to Ubud, Indonesia (Bali). In June 2008, I was 27 years old and had never left United States soil despite a constant longing to.
A combination of fear and comfort held me hostage in familiarity — until I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This bestselling novel chronicled the author’s adventures through Italy, India, and Indonesia as she sought to “find herself” after a divorce.
The book’s vivid descriptions of Indonesia’s rich culture and lush countryside converged with my imagined vision of ornate wood-carvings, colorful temples and sprawling rice paddies.
The beautiful tapestry of life I envisioned left no question about where my first trip abroad would be once I mustered up enough courage to go. And whenever I went, I decided I would go alone — just like Elizabeth Gilbert.
I let the thought of traveling by myself to an unknown distant land linger in my mind for a few weeks to see if my inner voice would talk me out of it. To be completely honest, part of me hoped it would. I guess I thought that giving up the dream would be easier than overcoming my fears.
But the longing didn’t go away. So, three weeks after finishing the book, I took a leap of faith — in myself — and purchased a plane ticket. It was one of most unsettling things I’ve ever done.
No Backing Out
But as soon as the purchase was complete, the knots in my stomach settled and the fearful thoughts faded. Interestingly, buying the ticket alleviated my anxiety and doubt because I had already won half my battle with them by relinquishing the option to back out.
I had a $1500 non-refundable ticket in my pocket to prove it.
I performed several Internet searches to find a trusted guesthouse to stay in, and I purchased a travel guide to plan other aspects of my trip. I got a few vaccinations, purchased a fake wedding ring to repel uninvited friendliness and learned a few Indonesian words. Selamat pagi.
When September came, I boarded a plane to begin one of the most amazing voyages of my life.
After arriving and getting over the initial shock of being thousands of miles away from home or anyone who knew me, I was fine. I had to be.
I spent the next ten days observing Indonesian culture, biking through its landscape, visiting shops, eating unprocessed food, reading Love in the Time of Cholera, and telling people that, yes, I was black and, no, I wasn’t related to Barack Obama or Michael Jordan.
What I’m Made Of
I wasn’t mugged. I was never taken advantage of. I wasn’t harmed or even threatened. None of the fears I had before my trip materialized. If I had let those fears stop me, I would have missed out on one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
It was this trip that showed me what I was made out of: southern sass and boldness. And since returning from the trip, “Be bold” has become my mantra.
Boldness, as I use the word, is not something to be to be measured by danger or risk. A person doesn’t need to gamble with injury or death to be bold. Nor does a person need to travel across the world to qualify. Here is what I learned about boldness:
1. Comfort is Overrated
I use bold to mean uncomfortable. So, what “be bold” really means is “embrace discomfort.” It is discomfort that produces awareness and growth — not comfort.
Sure, comfort feels good. It wraps you up in easiness and coddles you. It’s safe and warm, and lulls you into inaction. It likes to keep you where you are. It convinces you not to push beyond your self-imposed limitations.
Comfort persuades you to stay in relationships, careers and cities you’ve outgrown. It is one of the most powerful forces behind dreams deferred, risks not taken and life unexplored.
You cannot be both bold and comfortable at the same time. Boldness requires you to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you want to integrate more boldness into your day, ask yourself a simple question before completing a task or making a decision. What is the easiest, most comfortable action I can take? Then, eliminate that option and go with one that causes you a little more apprehension.
2. Commitment is Underrated
It’s funny how commitment has the ability to minimize fear. Once I bought the plane ticket to Indonesia, fear took a back seat to planning the trip. Maybe that’s because we feel fear when we think we are in some kind of danger; if the danger isn’t real, the fear is just imaginary, too. The commitment, however, is real.
The more you commit to yourself and follow through on your commitment, the more you will learn to trust yourself. The more you trust yourself, the more confident you will become.
The more confident you become, the less you will allow fear to stand between you and the thing you want to do. And the less you allow fear to stand between you and the thing you want to do, the bolder you will be.
3. Most Fear Only Exists if You Make it Real
When fear tries to stop you from making a commitment you really want to make, ask yourself if the danger is real or imagined. Nothing that I feared happened! I was breathing life into a fear of danger that never existed.
Compare it to the regret you will feel if you let fear win. Fear or regret? Which would you rather feel?
Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.
Cultivate a habit of making more commitments to yourself and keeping them. Start small and commit often. Promise to call up a friend you haven’t spoken to recently, take a walk, speak up in class or offer a suggestion in a meeting.
Commitments that cause you a bit of uneasiness are the best ones to make and keep because the more you embrace discomfort and conquer it, the more you will welcome it for opportunity it presents.
Soon enough, you will get to the point when not doing something you said you would do will cause you more discomfort than doing it.
Do you have any tips on how to be bold? Leave them in the comments!