The plane lands with a jolt. Rolls to the gate. Shuts off the engines.
You and the other passengers file off the aircraft. Through the terminal. Past immigration. Baggage Claim. Customs.
You step outside into a country where you know no one.
Perhaps you don’t speak the language. The air is different. Heavy and humid. Or maybe cold and sharp. Your nose catches new smells and catalogues them as memories—later, this will be a remembered place.
Welcome. You have just crossed into a vast field of unknowns.
Is it terrifying—or exhilarating?
Someone asked me recently if it ever gets lonely, this solo traveling.
Basically, no, I don’t.
I have experienced dozens of iterations of the above scenario—arriving by air, land or sea—and for me it is always exhilarating. That is, in part, why I will fly from Rome to Agadir, Morocco at the end of September—to spend six or seven weeks in a place where I know nobody.
While I love traveling with or visiting friends (and do so often), I crave the spaciousness that only comes with solitude. Maybe you do too.
Nothing can replicate it. It arrives the moment we leave every known thing behind us. Hug our loved ones goodbye outside the airport. See our traveling companion to the train station, then turn back to a foreign city alone. Click “complete payment” on a one-way ticket for one.
Solitary spaciousness arrives when face the forest, the mountains, the desert—whatever our alluring yet frightening place may be—with a pack on our shoulders and uncertainty in our chest, knowing that no one is coming with us this time.
Does that scare you? It probably should. There are monsters in the forests, the mountains and most of all the cities. But more than that—more than that there are monsters in our hearts and minds.
I believe that is what people fear most of all when they fear setting out to travel alone. There is the external risk, of course, but I suspect loneliness—ourself facing ourself—instills greater terror.
Why don’t I ever get lonely, then? I’m not actually sure, not entirely. Maybe I do, but it no longer scares me, and so I call it solitude instead of loneliness. I do know this:
Our comfort zone expands every time we step outside of it and thrive there. There is nothing more intoxicating, full of life and purpose, than entering the unknown territory alone.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”