I'm lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit in my life thus far, but up until recently, I always had family, friends, or my partner to travel with. At the end of September, I decided to travel alone to Costa Rica and live there for one month.
I expected to learn about the country, its places, and culture--which I did--but the more meaningful lessons that ensued were more self-oriented and absolutely life-altering:
I learned how to be self-reliant.
For all of my other traveling experiences, I always had someone else to depend on, even if it was just one other person. My trip to Costa Rica was my first time having to arrange all of my own accommodations and navigate foreign airports, cities, and public transportation with nothing but my sense of direction and some intermediate Spanish.
There was no one in Costa Rica cooking me meals or reminding me to take care of myself--I lived on a farm where I was completely responsible for myself. I quickly kicked my Grubhub habit I adopted in the city and learned how to cook myself three meals a day. Only when I was forced to rely completely on myself, did I realize I was more than capable to do so.
I learned how to be confident.
There were times when I needed to decide left or right in a moment's notice. There were times when I needed to exercise judgement and awareness to keep myself safe. There were definitely also times when I was lost, confused, and scared. But there's something about self-reliance that builds self-trust, and in turn, self-confidence.
I learned how to be comfortable alone.
In Western society, we aren't taught how to be alone. In the few and far between moments of alone time, we pick up our phones, open our laptops, or turn on the T.V. Although I met many beautiful souls on my one-month journey, there were more times than not where I'd find myself completely alone and without the distractions of modern society.
Maybe the reason we keep ourselves so busy is because if we slowed down and actually listened to our thoughts and emotions, we would have to face some harsh realities (e.g. we hate our jobs, our relationship is falling apart, etc.); For me, without all the city noise and frenzy, I was able to hear fragments of my depression that I long presumed dead, still softly breathing in the deepest corners of my body. I cried for two days after coming to the realization that there's still a huge part of me who dislikes myself.
Traveling alone is a powerful indicator of the quality of your relationship with yourself. Although I struggled with alone time in the beginning of my excursion, this was a necessary experience I was meant to have. I had to sit with these sour emotions and let go of the urgent impulse to reject and deny my demons. Traveling alone ultimately taught me how to accept myself exactly as I am--flawed and unsteady--and helped me learn how to enjoy my own company.