A few weeks ago, I was walking the streets of Edinburgh. It was a balmy night, the wind was full of history and intrigue, old violence and literature…as well as a fantastic whiff of garlic from the steak house.
It hit me. I wasn’t happy.
How could I not be furiously, incandescently happy? When I started traveling on my own, those first trips were wonderful weeks in one amazing city. I remember the excitement of picking the ideal home base and mapping full day walking adventures. Learning the city under my feet.
Something has happened.
After a week of driving through the Highlands, tackling one-lane roads filled with disdainful sheep, landing exhausted in a pub or B&B with new-found friends, the city felt like a noisy, lonely place. Sure, there were infinite choices for restaurants and shops but something was surprisingly off-key. Travel has changed me.
It also became clear that we each are on a very different progress. In this world of Facebook following, Instagram instant news and perpetual Periscope, you can easily mistake someone else’s pilgrimage for your own. Or their pace for your rhythms.
Whatever you do, start just inside your own comfort zone, enjoy the victories and the small steps, push the edges. But do it your way.
For me, when I began, being a competent traveler, a citizen of the world, overcoming reticence at trying new things and “learning how” was what I needed. Could I find the courage to do exactly what I wanted? (Frankly, learning how to buy a coffee in Venice is not a snap.) I became the grand master of public transport and proved the best lunches actually may be in the museum. From there, I tried feeling the freedom of train-hopping in France, never spending more than two nights anywhere, unhooked but learning the systems of movement.
Only lately was I craving that one-on-one experience with the grand and great theatre of nature, challenging my fear, hitting the road, alone and in the dark through Iceland in the winter.
Each trip feels like nudging a door open that could lead somewhere phenomenal.
For others, for you, the order would be different, wouldn’t it?
I was standing in a street full of the past, in a city I could have reveled in five years ago, but my syllabus has taken me elsewhere now.
If you are planning to set off, whatever you do, do it as you feel it and want to experience it. In the end, figuring out what you want to do and when and how, is the big gift.
My advice is don’t take my advice!
What I Have Learned
- Think about something you want to experience, the one thing – a view, a challenge, a day.
- Is there uncertainty that is holding you back in everyday life? Can you push that when you are out in the great anonymity of “out of town”?
- Don’t be charmed by any one else’s journey. Yours will be better.