I spent last week in Clearwater, Florida attending Phillies’ Spring Training as part of my 52 in 52 weeks bucket list challenge. During Saturday’s game, there was a guy sitting next to me who just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of traveling alone. “I can’t believe you’re here by yourself. I don’t think I could do that,” he repeatedly told me.
Each time, I laughed and smiled and insisted that I love it. But even after the game, the conversation kept repeating in mind and I was reminded of a time when I wasn’t so sure I could do it.
It was two months before I graduated from college and on a whim, I’d signed up for a 10K in Charleston, SC. I had wanted to run it for years and had friends that went every year. Only after registering did I learned they weren’t going and I was left with the choice to back out or go at it alone.
I chose me and booked the only thing I could afford, a one room cabin at the local KOA.
The night before the race, I lay all alone in my little cabin, questions and fears flooding my mind. Is this safe? Will I be raped and murdered in the woods? Will this be fun? What if I get hurt in the race, who will help me? What if I get bored? What if I don’t like me? In the midst of all those questions, these are the words that found their way onto the pages of my journal:
I’ve always envied those people, women in particular, who just seem to be able to do anything independently. … I’ve always wanted to be able to do it but would not because I didn’t know what I would do with myself or whether it was safe.
I’m lying in bed, in a cabin, at a campground and I am alone and it is fun. I’m getting up in six hours to run a 10K across a bridge with 40,000 other people and I will be all by myself. I’m looking forward to having a great time. But am I crazy? Normal people don’t do things like this…
The following morning, I drove as close as I could to the starting line, parked my car and began to walk, all alone, towards the crowd. Everyone was with somebody. Everyone had someone to talk with, stretch with and pass the time with. I would be on my own passing the hour or so until the race began. Was this an exercise in confidence and independence or just sad and depressing?
As time passed, I got a kick out of watching the people around me. What types of stretches did they do? What costumes had they chosen? Who had been training for this? Who knew what they were doing and who, like me, just felt like they were winging it (not just this race, but life)?
Before I knew it, we were off and running. Each mile bringing with it new challenges and surprises. A man on the corner handing out Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a band here, a DJ there, a group of men running in tutus, a massive bridge (not a surprise but a bigger challenge than you would expect).
I never felt alone while running but the feeling momentarily appeared at the finish line. There was no one for me to celebrate with. No one to congratulate me… No one there but me. And once again, I was faced with the question, could “me” be enough? Enough of a reason to take this trip, enough of a reason to celebrate?
It turns out, it was.
You see, the thing is, it’s not about isolating yourself from others or even so much about travel. It is about deeming your dreams and passions worthy (whether or not others have the time, interest or resources available to join you). It’s about choosing to believe in yourself and finally taking action sooner, not later.
So what about you? Have you ever traveled alone? Does the idea intimidate you? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.