Try not to be picky. Please don’t evaluative every little detail of your trip. Think globally, life is a movie not a snapshot. Over the course of my life, I have come to realize that joy is enormous and being joyless makes us small. Joy is about getting out of ourselves, being with people, trying new things, going outside, enjoying nature, exploring the world through travel. It pushes us toward creativity. It’s ideas and hope. It is seeing the big picture and realizing that all knowledge is connected. History is shaped by economics, sociology, and psychology but also by art, music, literature, and philosophy. When you travel look for the bigger themes. Be curious enough to ask “why”. You may be amazed to find out how much you are a part of the beautiful grand design.
Too many times through the course of history women were silenced. Too many times over the centuries their mobility and freedom were stifled by the notion that females needed an escort whenever they left their homes. Because of the spirited evolution of our gender, these limitations are gone. We now have more power over our lives, our choices, and our destinies.
I believe everyone is a teacher. I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe in the innate goodness of people. And as I have become a seasoned traveler, I finally have the confidence to talk to strangers, an endeavor that has brought me much joy. It may be just a “hi” in passing or a “nice day, isn’t it?”. I smile a lot, so many times I get smiles back. I use humor during some encounters because nothing is better than sharing a laugh with someone.
Talking to people is an art coming from the heart and made effective by intuition and careful awareness of the other person. Yes, I have come across people who don’t wish to be bothered. I don’t impose myself on them. I’m careful to engage people who have time to talk….people waiting in line, shop owners, other travelers, etc. I think I succeed because I am a person who genuinely likes people.
I think women have a advantage in connecting with people when traveling. Because of societal labels, fair or unfair, we are still perceived as a less threating gender. I find that I can comfortably initiate conversations with all groups; women, men and children.
Society is fractured right now. We label people who are different than us and then we join a tribe that believes the same things we do. We then become an exclusive group that diminishes the value of others. I feel strongly that we need to stop putting people in broad categories and start talking to and really listening to as many different people as we can. Our world needs to release itself from being so judgmental and distrusting. We can learn from each other and in the process make this planet a lot more peaceful place.
Michael Crichton in his book Travels wrote about how venturing out into the world creates a level playing field. Away home, no one knows our profession, educational level, or how much money we have in the bank. It is our character and attitude that distinguishes us. It is our spirit, our openness to new experiences, and our acceptance of others that defines us. As Thoreau once said, “Being is the great explainer.”
Copyright © 2018 The Autonomous Traveler. All Rights Reserved.
I remember when I first learned to ride a two wheeler, I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I remember finally building up some momentum and crashing into the back of my family’s red and white Chevy station wagon. I persisted and finally learned. I gave up on piano lessons, however. I love music and really regret that I stopped practicing. Playing an instrument would have brought me so much joy throughout my life.
“Beginnings are hard” is a motto in my family. Whenever my kids got discouraged about a new venture, I would pass on these words of wisdom.
Beginning a traveling adventure can be scary. Everything is new and uncharted. My advice is to give it some time. You may be forming unreasonable expectations of the perfect journey but it will be what it is. Relax! It reminds me of my first little dent on my first ever brand new car. It was kind of a relief when it happened. Perfection doesn’t exist, life is messy. Keep going. The journey is worth it.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
Doubts. Especially the night before a trip. Will my car or the plane have mechanical problem? What if I lose my passport or someone steals my wallet? What if I get injured half way through the trip? What if no one understands English? What if I get lost and nobody helps me?
My adult children are world travelers. I remember hearing their lists of fears before trips that mirrored my own doubts. Because of them, I have learned to acknowledge calmly this frenzied accounting of doom and gloom and sternly tell my imaginative mind to go on the adventure anyway. This is now our family traveling mantra.
Sometimes the biggest regrets in life are the adventures and opportunities we didn’t take.
Use common sense and listen to your mother or, in my case, to my grown daughter who made me promise before my solo camping trip across the US and Canada not get into a car or boat with anyone I didn’t know.
When I travel, I get up early to take advantage of the best part of the day. I treat myself to a nice lunch, sometimes a glass of wine. (A lunch meal is usually a lot cheaper than dinner.) After a full day of walking and sightseeing, I am ready for some relaxation time in my room. I stop at a shop that sells groceries to buy bottled water and some nutritious snacks. I like some quiet time to reflect on the day, do some writing, check and send emails, and do some reading about the area I’m in. I also use this time to decide what I might see and do the next day.
Each person and situation is different. In Krakow, Poland I just happened to be in town for the annual music festival. The streets around my hotel were well lit and the night concerts were around the square where there was heavy foot traffic.
If you want to go out for dinner or an event there are always taxis. Ask the people at your hotel to help you set that up.
Woman are intuitive. Listen to your instincts. I taught my grade school students about “stranger danger” and to respect their “uh,oh” feelings when things didn’t seem right. This is good advice for all of us.
Sometimes the most confusing part of a trip is getting from the airport to a hotel. The first thing I do at the airport after I go through customs is go to an ATM machine and get cash in the currency of the country I’m in. I then go down to the transportation area and observe. I look for a established bus service for hotels or a line of taxis that are well marked and part of a company. During my second trip to Poland, someone walked up behind me and asked me if I needed transportation. I declined and went out to the sidewalk and saw the reputable taxis all in a row waiting for customers. That’s how I safely arrived at my lodging.
I also make a habit of asking the taxi driver or the people at the hotel if there is any place locally that I shouldn’t go.
I have never had trouble traveling alone. I use common sense, my intuition, and follow my daughter’s orders.
We live in a culture where violence is considered entertainment. I won’t watch dark TV shows or movies anymore. If I did, I’d see the world as a hostile place and probably would not travel alone. I would lose my trust in the goodness of humanity,believing everyone had the potential to hurt me. In 2001, I took a 70 day, 7000 mile solo camping trip across the US and Canada and was amazed by the consistent kindness of strangers. I am so glad I left my comfort zone and witnessed the beauty of the world and the people in it.
Joseph Campbell wrote about the power of myths, the long held stories of brave knights on quests and maidens needing to be rescued. Old folktales and horrifying fantasies create fear that can take away our freedom and our mobility. They destroy our independence and our desire to go on our own quests for happiness. To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, everyone has the right to follow their bliss!
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell