Today is my first full day alone in Costa Rica. Yesterday, leaning against the door frame of the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, I waved goodbye to Beth as she faded down the road in the passenger seat of a white pickup truck. The final phase of my trip had begun.
While planning to travel with my friends, I knew I wanted to plan a little bit of time to be alone. I am a firm believer in solo travel. My past experience traveling to an unknown place alone made me realize the full capacity of my abilities. My mantra has become, “If I can handle this, I can handle anything.”
Now I am in that place again. Solo, vulnerable, unsure, calm, open, excited. All of these emotions have been swapping places in my brain practically every minute. I have decided to spend these last two weeks on the farm. It is a safe place to continue in my personal growth and to share with these wonderful people. With that said, however, the fourteen days ahead do not come without their own set of anxieties.
At this point, I have been in Costa Rica for just over two months. Nine weeks outside of all that is familiar. Honestly, I miss home. I miss my family and friends more than I ever have. I am facing life in my second language, navigating all of the newness. The discomfort that comes with this is amplified while traveling alone. Alone, another layer of my comfort zone is stripped away. Let me be more specific.
First, let’s talk language barriers. This is certainly on my mind the most, as practicing Spanish was one of the main drivers of this trip. I have been learning Spanish for ten years, actively for about four. I have lived in a Spanish speaking country before, having spent a semester in Spain. Yet, there is still something difficult in navigating the world in your second language. In his TED talk ‘4 reasons to learn a new language‘, linguist John McWhorter mentions that when someone is speaking in their non-native language, they are “husks of themselves, they’re shadows of themselves.” This illustration could not be more accurate. When traveling with friends, I had the opportunity to be my full self whenever I was speaking my native language, English. My culture, sense of humor and small corners of my personality were all developed in English, so it is more natural to be a more complete being in this language. Now that I am alone, however, I do not have the ease of expressing myself in full. It is a challenge, but also a brilliant opportunity to grow.
Second, there is an increase physical vulnerability. I do not feel as safe being a female traveling alone. Simple.
Third, I have to be ‘on’ all of the time. There is no one there to take over when I need to retreat into myself out of exhaustion. There is no one to take the reins when I am simply having an off day. I am my own support.
But I’m doing this anyway.
That is where the pure empowerment of solo travel comes in. Especially for females, it is important to defy the constant infantilizing messages telling us to not travel alone. My inspiring friend Faith wrote a brilliant piece about adventuring as a solo female on her blog. I encourage you to check it out. She writes about a “culture that supports the underlying assumptions of these questions: women should be scared to travel and be on their own, adventure is for men, and women need more parental protection.”
Despite the anxieties plaguing my brain, I am thrilled for the independence, tranquility, clarity and empowerment of this experience. It is allowing me to explore the many corners of who I am. I have space to think, write and imagine. I hope to land home with a sense of satisfaction and clarity. Cheers to all of the possibilities.
Solo travelers, what are your thoughts? I want to read your stories! All of my love to you all.