The truth about lone travelers

My view on why we set out to see the world

I think all lone travelers are Romantics at heart.

I’m not talking tourists or vacationers, but true travelers; nomads who wander from place to place with no agenda save that of seeing the world, meeting new people, and learning about life from different perspectives.

Yea. Those people.

I believe all of them — us — to be Romantics.
Idealists.
Dreamers.
Such a mindset is necessary to say “enough is enough” and throw in the towel on the industrialized, cog-in-the-wheel, nine-to-five life.

You’re wrong.
It’s fearlessness that enables you.
And stupidity.
Not romanticism.

I choose to mindfully overlook your name calling and merely disagree.
Most of the solo-travelers I’ve met along the way have agreed with my experience of terror in taking that first step. Many of us still experience bouts of fear on a regular basis. It’s one of the strongest feelings in the beginning, only being surpassed by excitement. The angst soon gives way to simple nervousness, but it will eventually return, however briefly. So what leads us to cast aside the trepidation, but not others?

You’re all young with nothing to lose.
It’s really easy to stare fear in the eye ¹ when you’re still a child.

Wrong. On all accounts.

We’re definitely not all young. While I might fortunate enough to yet spot a gray hair, and only possess few fine lines, taking off to travel the world just shy of thirty-three is nothing to scoff at. I’m far from being a child. Frankly, most people my age have a child by now. I have friends a younger than me with children entering high school. Granted they were in high school when they had children, but that’s beside the point.

I have a four year degree, was part of the work force for over a decade, and was on a forward moving career track. I have a dog and friends. I owned a full apartment’s worth of furniture and kitchen appliances. I’d just finished paying off my car. I was saving to buy a house. Most importantly, I was completely independent in my ability to support myself.

In short, I gave up plenty.

Along the way, I’ve met a wide range of folks, from those who’re fresh out of high school at eighteen to sixty-five-year olds with spouses, children, houses, farms, businesses. Young-with-nothing-to-lose is definitely not the trait we all possess.

Then you’re risk takers and adventure seekers.

Again, I don’t agree. Sure, we’re willing to take some risks but everyone takes at least some risk in life. It’s just as risky to stay at an old job with a boss who punches holes in the wall of your office² as it is to take a new job in hopes that your new boss won’t equally be a complete dick bag. I’d actually say it’s riskier to hope that your old boss will change. And yet people stay in jobs they hate, with asshole bosses, for years. Sometimes decades.

So yes, travelers take risks to some degree, but it’s not like we’re all a bunch of adrenaline junkies. I’ll travel (certain parts of) the world alone, but I will not skydive, no matter how “safe” you try to convince me that it is. If I hitchhike, I only do so after extensive research about the area and still prefer having a buddy; there’s no way I’d enter northern Mexico or Ethiopia on my own; I don’t walk down back allies in the dark. So I wouldn’t say I take risks anymore than the average Schmo.

And if I was simply seeking adventure, I lived in Colorado prior to traveling — there’s plenty of adventure to be had. There are fifteen National Parks and Monuments within an eight hour drive of Denver. The hiking trails and climbing routes alone are enough to occupy even the greatest outdoors-man for a lifetime of weekend escapades.

Fine. I’ll hear you out.
Why do you think romance is the thing y’all share?

People who travel alone are often searching for something without really knowing what. We say we’re searching for ourselves, an alternative way of life, the place that we’ll ultimately feel is the best home for us, or just want to see all the beauty the world has to offer — and in some ways we are. But I’ve noticed a few things that seem to be true for most of the people I’ve met.

Eventually, we all realize that the concept of “knowing who you are” is absurd— we’re humans. Everyone grows and changes throughout life. Those of us who travel just learn to accept that we are much faster at adapting and evolving than others. We crave change while others latch on to the illusion of stability.

We also all realize in due time, that a waterfall is a waterfall, mountains are mountains, forests are forests, glaciers are glaciers. No two are alike and yet they’re all… same same.

But what I’ve really noticed is that once a lone wolf finds a partner, or even a pack, she tends to move around a lot more slowly.

A traveler will always be a traveler. Her heart will always long for something more than her provincial life. But once she has someone to be with — someone who empathizes with the feeling of not fitting into the society she was born into, someone who is willing to listen with an open heart and accept her for all her flaws, someone who is happy to live a simple life and take joy in togetherness and connection — seeing as many places and as many things as quickly as possible is no longer the top priority.

Instead, time is taken to find joy in getting to know an area and live whatever version of a simple life that each destination has to offer; recognizing the sameness in each, but appreciating the subtle differences.

And for this reason alone, when we set off on the trail, leaving behind everything we’ve ever known, I think we’re looking for more than ourselves.

We’re looking for that one person who enables us to see ourselves in the soul of another; to recognize that, while subtly different we, too, are all the same.

¹shout out to Passenger’s song Home — “fear is for the brave, cowards never stare it in the eye”

²shout out to my own father for enduring that hell during his career

Sassy+Loving. Scientific+Spiritual. Nomadic. Always sincere, often wry. Hopefully romantic. Polymath.

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