After a couple of years of deep contemplation, I decided that I was tired of living a life of quiet desperation. So after 18 years of teaching English at a public high school, I took my retirement (probably not the best idea financially) and set myself free. Free to do what?
I wouldn’t say I like to use the word retired because I am far from being retired, but rather reinventing myself once again. As of October 1, I rented my home for a year and took the advice of a well-travelled friend from Down Under and decided to do some Solo Travel to Australia, New Zealand and possibly Bali.
Real travelling, where you go slowly, get to meet people and explore the culture.
Why Travel Solo
According to my Aussie friend, travelling solo is the way to go at our age. It seems like a gutsy move, yet on the other hand, you aren’t hindered by others’ schedules, quirks, and annoying habits; you’re only hindered by your own – and there’s the rub. Can you live with yourself and your behaviours when faced with a stressful situation and no one else to rely on? That was part of the challenge and the thrill of adventure calling me — a real exercise in mindfulness. I wanted to shake things up; I wanted to become more conscious of the beauty around me. I wanted to test the mettle.
How we feel when we get older
I realized the older we get; we tend to like things a little predictable and safe. The older we get, we’re less likely to take risks, limiting ourselves and potential opportunities. This was made clear to me as I stayed in Brooklyn spending time with my son, who decided to stay in NYC after college and was lucky to find work in his field. Watching him navigate this busy metropolis — even commuting by bicycle from Manhattan to Red Hook— was impressive. Young people live life with passion. It’s why we love their company.
My 9 months adventure Down Under travelling solo on a budget.
So, as part of the Boomer Population, I didn’t want to lend credence to the saying.
Youth is wasted on the youth
Instead, I wanted to embody the quote by Helen Keller:
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Traveling Solo is a daring adventure!
I’m six months into my nine-month journey, and it’s been a fascinating feat battling uncertainty, sometimes paralysis, and mostly that ubiquitous enemy, fear. I’ve stepped on a few land mines along the way but haven’t lost a limb or suffered anything life-threatening. I’ve only taken a few blows to my ego and learned to be more mindful.
Yes, I have missed family and friends, and on many occasions wished they had been with me to share a beautiful landscape, but I haven’t (up to this point) been lonely. Among other things, my life is much richer because of the new friends who have entered my life. Listed here are the “among other things” I’ve learned about travelling alone and why I recommend it at any age…especially ours:
Taking risks keeps us youthful.
As we get older, our vision of ourselves should expand and NOT get smaller. Seeking safety and comfort is a natural reaction to getting older, but where’s the growth in that? Leonardo DiCaprio is credited with saying:
Every next level of your life will demand a different you.
Ageing requires courage, so take a big breath, unfurl the sails, and leave the safe harbour.
What I have learnt from travelling solo
I’ve learned to experience things for myself. I was rarely taught to form my own opinions, judgments, and thoughts for much of my life. I was taught to conform. Travelling solo has taught me that there is always some discovery to learn about myself.
Spontaneity becomes a way of life. The transition from living with a car, home, and “stuff” to a suitcase and backpack makes you realize how much your possessions own you. Travelling solo frees you to be spontaneous and affords you opportunities you might not otherwise have.
Travelling alone slows downtime and keeps me present. Other people can be a distraction. On my own, I’m much more awake, much more aware of what’s around me. My senses are heightened, and with the accompanied silence, the beauty of nature more palpable.
Travelling alone teaches you to trust your intuition. With no one to lean on, I’ve learned to trust my gut more about people and places, and I’m more apt to see trouble before it comes. I’m not fearful, just more attentive.
New friends are everywhere. Travelling with companions can often provide a protective bubble that can prevent you from interacting with locals and other travellers. People are more apt to approach you when you’re alone and invite you for a stay.
Solo Traveling sheds new light on the kindness of strangers and restores your faith in humanity. Peoples’ kindness, generosity, and hospitality have been amazing.
I’ve learned I am competent can take care of myself (self-efficacy). Developing a tolerance for ambiguity and new situations over and over has helped me deal with change, something most people try to avoid. Change is inevitable, and I’ve learned to keep my balance and stay steady when change shakes things up. I prefer to thrive in new situations rather than be immobilized.
Being vulnerable is courageous and allows for deeper connections with people. Being on my own has taught me to be more emotionally open with people. Vulnerability is a show of strength and builds deeper connections with people. I’m in my headless and my heart more. And that’s what’s it’s all about!
I’ve done dorm hostels, Airbnb private rooms, woofing (work exchange for room and board), house sitting, and guest.
I fear the world less and have understood that we all want to be known and understood. Travelling solo has enriched my life and given me more confidence.
And who couldn’t use a little more confidence?!
A few words about guest author Connie Ottmann
About Guest Author Connie Ottmann: She is a retired English teacher and artist from Maine, in northern New England, USA. Deciding to shake things up, she has been travelling solo since January 2016 in New Zealand and Australia. She says: “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made“.
You can follow Connie on her blog.