Diverging from my old beaten life track and turn in the direction of travel and discovery has been the ultimate decision. Having the luxury expanding my sense of freedom certainly has given grounds for both gratitude and pride. The perks of travelling blended with trifles like culture clashes, language barriers and constantly getting astray, has sculpted me into a confident and independent woman. Unless personally experienced, I would confidently say it’s impossible to grasp the depth that fluctuating across the globe solo can bring.
However there is another side to nomad living worth mentioning. Behind all the beautiful pictures, adventure stories and life changing rendezvous there is a background story not equally as hyped. I find it quite interesting how many mistakenly hold the tenet presuming traveling alone is the scary part, not realizing the real challenge, for me , isn’t on the road but prior to takeoff. Behind the scenes footage would reveal me as a nervous wreck only the closest circle has had the pleasure encountering. Undoubtedly not all go through the same process. There are those who don’t feel the slightest agony before departure (shocker to me) and others describing varied intensities of nervousness and worry. Personally, I belong to the anxiety category. Reminiscing back to the months forgoing my premiere solo trip, I recall awakening during the midst of the night gasping for air in pure panic. I remember experiencing an excruciating remorse pulsating from the pit of my stomach for clicking “book”. Another recurring angst manifestation was the strange urge to check the visa requirements on a daily basis (which where crystal clear and fulfilled). I was convinced security upon arrival would lock me up and punish me for not reading the rules thoroughly (rational right?). Even when speaking to friends about my upcoming travel plans, the rush of exhilaration would take over my body and literally in seconds the same energy switched and transformed into a paralyzing sensation instead. Needless to say it wasn’t all smiles and giggles more like hyperventilation and the cold sweats. Although slightly off topic, I feel it would be remiss not to mention that my voyage was more than I could have dreamt of and worth all emotional torment.
Four years later the turmoil preceding my overseas adventures is still very much alive and active. Though I’ll happily announce the stressful dose has decreased with time (and amount of solo trips obviously), there has also been another tangible change. During the early days the anxiety was mostly consisting of overwhelming bodily sensations while the recent version includes an iterating line of thoughts. Although these crystallized beliefs are disguised as self-concern and care, they’re designed to make me second guess myself and cancel my plans. The set of thoughts will let me know that “ I’m getting too old” or “I’ll run out of money”. The anxious ideas will also target my social life by arguing that “I won’t click with anyone and end up alone or with people I find annoying out social desperation“. If I’m having a cruisy day I won’t bite. My anxious self will then cleverly gear up and turn to the “go to” safe card which is to allege that the decision to travel alone will end up being the biggest mistake of my life and will for all eternity come back to haunt me. I think regardless of how anxiety shows it’s face, it’s this invisible leash attempting to pull me back into the comfort zone far away from the unknown.
With time I’ve figured out the precise moment all distress surrenders. A personal tradition of mine is to burst out crying when I hear the aircraft engine start, the plane speed down the runway and finally leave Swedish ground. Nothing too dramatic, it’s more of a collected cry with a tad of sadness but mainly relief. The ‘bing’ sound giving permission to unbuckle the seatbelt has is my official kick-off to a new abroad adveture where all doubt is released and an exciting chapter begins.
My history with anxiety and traveling has made me prune to root for solo travels when I’m having conversations with people yearning to head out in the world but are captivated by discouraging beliefs or fears. I feel obligated to do so because I know that what’s experienced beforehand can be restrictive and too much to bare. I’ve also learned once over the anxiety threshold are utilities impossible to imagine and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on that!