The (he)art of traveling alone –you can do it
When I first told my friends that I would be traveling alone abroad, the initial reactions I got were “Wow, I can’t do that,” “Aren’t you scared?” and “That’s going to be lonely.”
Their remarks didn’t bother me, as there was really something that made me want to try it—I just didn’t know what it was yet.
Since this trip was about spontaneous solo travel, I didn’t have enough time to fix my itinerary and must-see places; I didn’t even know what to expect in Korea. All I did was to ask for help a day before my flight from my friend, Mika, who recently went to Korea, to send me a copy of her itinerary.
I was already in the airport, waiting to board, when I first opened the file, the first and the last time I did—not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted to create my own adventure. From then on, I decided to be spontaneous and just go where the road would take me.
I arrived and started my first day in the land of K-dramas and endless skin care with literally no idea in mind and no plan at hand, so I just started exploring the empty streets near my hotel.
As I went deeper into the alleys and narrow streets, fear crept in. I was afraid of getting lost, afraid that people would judge me for being lost. The voices of my doubtful friends entered my mind.
But as I was traversing Seoul, I came across a simple artwork—a large mask in front of smaller masks, stacked on top of each other. I stopped and analyzed this piece of art just to realize it was no different from me. That I was wearing these masks—a mask of being scared to be judged, a mask of being shy, a mask of facing rejection when I tried to ask.
Remove the masks
I realized this was an opportunity for me to take a step back and remove the masks I was wearing, get to know my real self without worrying about judgment or criticism, and just discover my strengths, weaknesses and everything about myself that I haven’t figured out yet.
Now aware of my goal, I started to enjoy and appreciate the little things that came my way. For example, the time I joined a tour to Nami Island and got to meet new friends who were also traveling alone, and who also shared the sentiments about self-discovery. Or when I asked random strangers to take my photo, people more than willing to help me get that perfect shot.
They say when one travels alone, they get to focus on the beauty of their surroundings, but for me, I saw the beauty in humanity. I saw teenagers help elders cross the street. I saw strangers helping carry the luggage of tourists coming up from the subway, and I even experienced humanity’s kindness when a woman offered her umbrella to me as it began to rain.
In a country where group culture is so evident, I must admit that there were times I felt lonely and alone. In fact, I was approached twice by locals to ask if I was okay.
Honestly, I wasn’t. But I did not allow that feeling to stay with me for the rest of my journey. I would always remind myself that I was doing this to take a break from reality and spend quality time with myself.
To be honest, I did not expect that I would enjoy my journey as much as I did, and I am glad I experienced it. If a friend asks me if I would travel alone again, without any hesitations, my answer would be a resounding “yes.” —CONTRIBUTED
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