I went on a solo trip earlier this year, and promptly decided that traveling alone was *not* for me. What’s the point of doing anything fun if there wasn’t anyone to share it with? Plus, how are you supposed to get any good pictures without a friend to take them for you?
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling really, really overwhelmed. My month in Buenos Aires was a whirlwind, and I spent every day and night that I was living there doing something, surrounded by a million people, trying to distract myself from what I was going through. I’m not exaggerating when I say I went out 30 nights in a row, and never spent more than 15-20 minutes by myself. I was also working out like a crazy person, and sleeping 3-4 hours every night. It was exactly what I needed at the time, and I’m really grateful that I got to experience the city in the way that I did, but it was a *lot.* So this month, I’ve decided to take some *me* time to reflect. As it turns out, though, self reflection isn’t all that easy when you’re constantly surrounded by 65 people.
So, I booked a flight to Iguazu Falls (one of the seven wonders of the world!) and decided I was going to spend an entire weekend in solitude. I took my mission very seriously and deleted Instagram and Facebook off of my phone and vowed not to speak to anyone while I was gone, then downloaded a bunch of guided meditations and prayed for the best.
After a disaster at the airport (there was an issue with my ticket, so I had to buy a brand new, very expensive one on the spot, and came very close to cancelling the trip altogether), I made it to Iguazu and spent the night at my (pretty gross, with no WiFi) hotel meditating, writing in my journal and reading something called Priestdaddy. At promptly 7:35 the next morning, I boarded a bus for a 9 hour tour that was almost entirely in Spanish, a language that I do not speak. It worked out for the best, though, since I didn’t want to talk to anyone, anyway, for fear that it would interfere with my me time. So, left to my own devices, I put on headphones and hiked through the rainforest alone. I was in heaven.
If I could re-live the moment I saw those waterfalls every moment for the rest of my life, I would. It was the most overwhelmingly beautiful thing I have *ever* seen. I felt so small and insignficant (in the best possible way) standing next to the terrifying canyon, which was roaring so loudly I could barely hear my own thoughts — a welcome respite after spending 24 straight hours alone with them. There were approximately a zillion tourists around, and one wrong move could have thrown me straight over the guard rails and tumbling to my death, but I didn’t care. It was so special, I could have died at that moment and felt ok about it (is that morbid? sorry.).
You know that cheesy quote that goes, “live for the moments that take your breath away”? Yeah, this was one of them.
As I bopped back through the jungle listening to “Call Me Maybe,” I couldn’t help but feel like I was *finally* starting to understand all the hype about solo travel. This was fun! The rest of the morning was spent with me wandering, awe-filled, from waterfall to waterfall and reminding myself that this was ABSOLUTELY worth the extra $200 for the flight.
Since I had no one to talk to at lunch, it seemed like a prime opportunity for some meditating. I made it 17 seconds into my #DailyHeadspace before two enormous RODENTS jumped on my table looking for food. It was fucking terrifying, and definitely didn’t help with my zen. Then, after lunch, I was instructed to meet my group at a “moss covered tree” at 1:45 to continue with the tour. So, at 1:45, I parked myself in front of the tree (while multiple rodents stuck their noses into my bag) and waited for my group. 1:50, 1:55, 2:00… They never showed. Finally, at 2:15 I started to panic. I was lost in the middle of the national park, with no cell service, no tour guide and no idea how to say “where the fuck is my group????” en Español… Then I realized that we had crossed over to the Brazillian side of the park and the time on my phone had changed, so I was an hour early. Whoops! So at promptly 1:45, *ARGENTINA* time, I found my group at the mossy tree and was able to continue with my afternoon of taking selfies in front of waterfalls.
The last adventure of my solo day in the rainforest involved a boat tour *through* an actual waterfall. I was hesitant to drop yet another $60 on what was quick becoming a very, very pricey 36 hour trip, but I am SO GLAD THAT I DID. My best friend always says that it’s one of her favorite things in the world to see someone laughing alone, because that’s when you know they are really, *truly* happy. In the 35 minutes I spent on the boat going in and out of the falls, I damn near peed my pants (and no, not because I’d been listening to rushing water all day). It was just so, so much fun, and I couldn’t think of a single time in my life when I’ve experienced that much joy by myself.
At the end of the day, I went home, ordered $40 worth of room service, wrote 10 pages in my journal, realized a lot of really, really important stuff about myself (seriously) and slept like a baby.
The biggest difference between this solo trip and my last one was that I didn’t feel lonely a single time — I felt empowered. I didn’t have to answer to anyone but me, and spending time with my thoughts wasn’t scary this time, it was liberating. It gave me the chance to really, really think about some of the tough stuff I’ve been avoiding these last few months, and actually gave me a lot of clarity on how I feel about things and changes that I need to make in myself (I’ll spare you the details). Distancing myself from all of the noise — the program, the partying, the social media, the unsolicited life advice from people who have no idea what they’re talking about — gave me a chance to really figure out what *I* want, and the silence didn’t freak me out the way it usually does, which I think (maybe) means I’m growing up.
The experience was so rewarding, it actually inspired me to pull the trigger on something I’ve been thinking about for a while but was always too afraid to do. So, new plan for the future (drumroll please): I’m going to spend the entire month of February solo traveling through South America. Sure, it’s a lot longer than what I’m comfortable with, and I’m really going to kick my DuoLingo Spanish into high gear, but I feel like I’m up for the challenge. Considering this quick trip gave me so much insight and independence, I feel like a longer stint of solo-Zo will really, really help me figure my shit out. Remote Year has been great, but I think in order for me to get the full growth experience I’ve wanted as a traveler, I need to spend more time alone, exploring myself and my needs (… that makes it sound like I’m going to spend a month literally FEELING MYSELF, but you know what I mean). I’m also strongly considering continuing to travel and do this whole “digital nomad” on my own, but for now… baby steps.
As Beyoncé once said, “me, myself and I is all I got in the end,” and it’s true. Though in my case, “me, #myselfie, and I” may be a better fit .