One way to guarantee you will meet interesting like-minded people in this life is to put yourself out there to meet them, and, in my view, the best way to do that is through travel. Solo travel. I tend to travel alone and people ask me all the time how I do it. How do I just pick up and go somewhere by myself and aren't I afraid? They also mention that they couldn't fathom taking a trip somewhere alone (let alone dining alone, but that's another blog post) as they would like to have someone to share the experience with. That's all fine and good, but maybe they haven't heard of a little thing called Facebook which allows you to share your experiences with a gazillion of your closest friends.
But I digress.
Traveling alone gives you some things that you may need to work on, like confidence, self-esteem, and strength. (As an only child, I have long been used to doing things alone so hopping a flight solo is not a big deal to me.) I can more or less pinpoint the moment in my life when I developed my street smarts as a teenager that continue to serve me well to this day. As a teenage model in Chicago, I would frequently have to go into the city for go-sees (modelspeak for castings), photo shoots, and jobs, and more often than not I'd find myself strolling past a construction site populated by a bunch of men who should have known better, but would harass me and catcall as I walked by. (These were the days before cell phones so I there was nothing to distract me from their hisses and hey babys so I was fully present each and every time for their unwanted attention.) As they whistled and said things they had no business saying to a 15 year old girl, I had to defend myself. I'd give these losers a piece of my mind as I passed and did my best to cut them down to size with either just a hard look or a few choice words. There were times when my mom would witness the entire scene from behind as I tended to walk faster than her because my legs are much longer. Okay maybe I still do that, heeheehee...She'd see me protect myself against their harassment and when she reached them, usually a minute or so later, she'd give them a second tongue lashing. It was quite a site! Seeing your 5'5 mom defend you to a crowd of rowdy men only to break them down so that by the end of her thrashing they would be apologizing with their heads bowed shuffling their feet in their steel-toed boots.
Those streets schooled me and quickly gave me the confidence and ability to be able to hold my own in any situation and in any environment. I am now grateful for those experiences. Now if/when I find myself in a similar scenario–don't even get me started on dealing with Italian men in Italy–I am well equipped. Thanks mom!
I understand not everyone has the shared experience of being a teen model forced to grow up quickly and defend herself which directly contributed to gaining confidence and self-esteem at a young age, but we can use travel as a way to work on these areas within ourselves if they are lacking. I always meet the most interesting, bold, engaging people when I travel alone. People tend to be more open and focused on the present and enjoying every minute. There is more human connectivity and actual conversation as solo travelers are sometimes seeking to share the experience with someone they meet along the way. Be it sharing a meal with a stranger or simply striking up a conversation with someone you meet at a museum or coffee shop, traveling solo is a great way to meet new and interesting people, and I have friends all over the world to prove it! And trust me ladies, regaling your tales of a solo adventure to a handsome fella you happen upon while you are out and about being fabulous, is not only a great conversation starter but makes you far more interesting than the girl next to you who hasn't done anything of note lately.
I took a solo trip to Mexico City recently and traveled alone to Istanbul last year as well. So many people questioned my sanity for traveling to those places by myself and told me I was putting myself in grave danger by going to each place. Had I listened to the naysayers I would not have had the amazingly awesome experiences that I had and met the cool new friends that I now have. Everyone had warned me that both places were risky, but you know what else is risky? Not going anywhere and risking living a dull life at home watching reruns of the Golden Girls because I am too afraid to open myself up to adventure. THAT is the riskiest of all: not living the life that I was blessed with.
So I encourage each and every one of you to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone and get out there and see the world. It really is a wonderfully vibrant place that's all yours for the taking. LIVE your life and get out there and give it a go! Leave your fear of the unknown at home and have a crack at life. You don't have to spend ten hours on a plane to Turkey like I did or spend lots of money, but even taking a day trip to a new place can recharge the batteries and open your eyes to new and different things. Life is too short not to.
Now get out there and LIVE, damn you! Live!
See you on the road!
(Click here for pics of some of my travels. Some were solo trips, some not.)