It's been a few days now since I returned home from my latest trip to Berlin and Poznan. Naturally, everyone asks "how was your trip", and there is plenty to talk about, but there's one question I keep getting, and it surprises me every time: people often ask, almost in disbelief, "You travel alone?"
But the answer is, I travel. I never say, "yes, I'm okay with traveling alone," because that's not the point. Alone is an excuse. The point is simply that I travel. I don't allow excuses do get in my way. I've done that before, and I'm not going to do it ever again.
For most of my life, I knew I wanted to see the world, but I allowed every imaginable excuse to stop me. There are so many excuses! Which of these sound familiar to you?
- It's too expensive
- I don't have vacation time
- What if something happens to me?
- I don't speak the language
- I don't want to do it alone
- My spouse can't go
They all sound different, but really they're all the same excuse: I'm scared.
The truth is, there are easy solutions for all of these excuses. If you don't want to spend money on hotels, there are low-cost hostels in most European cities. There are also endless free couches to be found on Couchsurfing.com, which will also solve your problem of not knowing anyone in your destination city. Languages can be learned. A job that doesn't give you vacation time should be quit. And a spouse who can't, or won't, travel with you is not a reason why you shouldn't do it.
What will you remember in five years?
When I look back five years, I barely remember the car I used to have. I can't quite recall which pants were my favorite, or which shoes I wore most. With the exception of the model number, my phone was the same then as it is now, and that's just about the extent of my memory of five years ago. I can't remember which restaurants I ate at. I don't really recall the pubs I visited. The biggest expenses, the most difficult decisions, the things we make into such a big deal... they just aren't.
But I can remember every detail of my flight to Tashkent. I recall names of streets and subway stops, and every single item I packed for my trip to Barcelona. I remember every hotel and every restaurant from my month in Italy, every moment of my visits to Poland, and I guarantee that five years from now I'll still be able to describe everything I did last week in Berlin, or the week before in Poznan.
And travel might be enough on its own, but it's all the more special when you're meeting friends everywhere you go. Meeting new friends, or reconnecting with old ones, it's hard to think of a better use of your time, your money, your resources.
Seeing the world reminds us how small we are, no matter how big our problems or our lives may seem. It reminds us that there's still so much we don't know... and gives us a chance to know some of those things.
Don't be one of those hobbyist language learners who collects languages from the comfort of their own home. Get out and use those skills for what they were meant for — meet new people, see new places, experience new cultures. Live a little, before it's too late.