I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Solo travel has helped shaped me to be who I am today.
I started traveling alone out of necessity and not for pleasure.
As you see, my family immigrated to Canada as a whole when I was young. However due to various circumstances, they all drifted back to Hong Kong. I was left in Winnipeg, Canada to finish school alone. During my summer vacations, I’d travel to Hong Kong to see my family. That was the only way for me to spend time with them physically. Fortunately, my family was able to finance these visits each year.
It’s a mixture of complex emotions that I did not realize until much later. That was life as I knew it. I was in survival mode without conscious awareness.
After the fact, some friends and acquaintances see it as a sad childhood. Maybe so, however, it definitely helped shape my independence and ease with international solo travel. It also inspired an intrigue to learn from exploration and feed my curiosity.
Solo travel became second nature to me. Tokyo became my first cities to visit on my own – as I used to fly with Japan airline to Hong Kong. Japan airline was more affordable than Cathay Pacific and Canadian Airlines and they offered Tokyo as a stopover at no extra charge.
Reading a city map. Figuring out a complex metro system. Asking for help. Watching and learning. Smile often. Learn basic words of the local language. Talking to certain strangers. Mindful of budget constraints. Accepting fear and working with fear. Organizing the travel logistics. All these became a set of survival skills for me before I was of legal drinking age.
I made the best of the circumstances.
On my current travel within Europe, I am learning about lifestyles that I would not come across if I stayed in Toronto. Sure I may hear about it in a blog or a news article. However, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact or pose first hand questions to the person of interest.
I know I can be quite the introvert when I’m at home in Toronto. To the degree of living a life of a hermit – in some ways. There’s a familiarity. A comfort zone that I do not need to stretch or poke at after establishing it’s boundaries. I have my circle of friends. I have my list of preferred restaurants. I have my haunts.
The extreme opposite exists when I’m traveling. There’s no comfort zone. I have to learn to make new friends. I have to reach out and make connections. That alone is trying on certain days.
However, there is always a reward. From pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, I get to meet people I would never have met if I stayed in Toronto. Fellow travelers or locals. Interesting people. Well – all people are interesting in some way, shape or form. Just a matter of perspectives and understanding.
From my travels, I’ve been very fortunate to have met countless others who have left their job alone or with their partner/wife/husband – to travel and explore this wonderful place we call Earth/Home. While others have created lifestyles that allows them to intersperse work with leisure/adventure travel – every year, every season, every month. Some has never stepped foot inside an office and worked a “typical” 9 to 5 job. It is amazing and eye-opening knowledge for myself who to some degree still have a rigid understanding of work-life balance. This “engineer” mindset has been blasted through a few times in the last 2.5 months.
Mobility can be created as I have understood by all these travel lovers. They have chosen their priorities. Not all are single and unattached like myself. Some have young kids. Some are empty nesters. Some have chosen a life with their life partner with no kids. Some chose to wait to have kids. Some chose to wait to get married.
ALL is possible.
I have heard countless excuses and reasoning for staying home and procrastinating the desire to travel.
Don’t deny yourself of your true desires. If there is something that’s been pulling at your heart strings, see what changes are necessary to make it happen. It’s much more difficult to live with a regret.