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It’s one of those things people dream. For years. Yet so few ever make it a reality. But you’re different. You’ve made up your mind to let go of the fear. Let go of the expectations. To break out of the box that family, friends, and society have used to contain you since childhood. You’re ready for a change. You’re ready to travel the world.

beautiful Santorini with purple sky
Santorini will do just fine

Leaving Fear Behind and the Myth of “Out There”

It’s a strange thing to leave everything behind. Thrusting oneself into the unknown seems crazy to most people. And in some ways it is. But then again, it’s really not. There’s nothing crazy about wanting to experience new things in exotic places. Close your eyes and imagine the ancient rice terraces of Banaue. Or the colossal stone statues of Easter Island. The colorful spice markets of Morocco.

amazing UNESCO Heritage rice terraces of Batad, Philippines
I asked an old man in Batad about the age of the rice terraces – he said “they’ve always been here”

So what is it about traveling that scares people? It’s the lack of control. Or rather, letting go of the perceived control that people think they have. Most people assume that familiarity equals safety. It’s safe at home and it’s dangerous out there. Right? Well, not quite.

There is no “out there.” But the idea is planted in our minds at a young age. As we grow, that seed evolves to a point where it begins to skew our perceptions as adults. It’s not necessarily any more or less dangerous away from home. We just think that it’s dangerous. But let’s remember that what we’re led to believe isn’t necessarily the only truth.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

child in Shan State, Myanmar sitting on the traintracks
Are we really so different from one another?

Is it Dangerous to Travel Alone?

I faced this question during a recent trip to Myanmar, one of the most economically disadvantaged countries in the world. It may seem daring to those who haven’t been there before. After all, Myanmar is infamous for its oppressive government, ethnic tensions, and human rights violations. And yes, bad things can happen there. But bad things can happen anywhere.

In the first 6 months of 2014, there were 18 reported robberies in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and largest city with a population of 5 million. Yes, 18 in a 6-month period. Meanwhile, Washington DC (population 650,000) averages about 10 robberies… per day!

On the other hand, people aren’t dying of dengue fever in Washington DC. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Yangon. But therein lies the lesson. It’s all about perspective. Two people can look at the same situation and see something completely different. Open yourself to the world and the world will open itself to you.

cliff house near Banaue on the road to Batad, Philippines
Stand on the edge and open your mind

Putting Everything into Perspective

So are we crazy for wanting to explore the world? Maybe a little bit. You have to be to walk this road. Friends back home see the selfies in front of famous landmarks. But what about the terrifying roads and head-on collisions along the way? They see the $5 dinners by the beach. But did they see the kids sleeping naked on the sidewalk a few blocks away? How about the nights spent sleeping at the airport? Everybody hears about the latest terrorist attack. They know it happened “somewhere in that part of the world.” But they never hear about the people who invite you into their home. The ones who have nothing to spare, but insist that you eat the best of what they’ve prepared.

Friends only see the destination on Instagram…

Petra tourist attraction in Jordan
Petra, Jordan

But they don’t see the roads you travel…

death-defying Stelvio Pass in Italy
Stelvio Pass, Italy

Or the people you meet…

African children in black and white

Or the places you stay…

provincial neighborhood in Visayas, Philippines
Provincial life in the Philippines

How many of them would sleep next to strangers?

sleeping on the floor of Topi Inn - Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia
Accommodations in Indonesia

Or deal with a bathroom like this?

old dirty bathroom
It could be worse

Or embrace this view?

view of Malate in Metro Manila
Not the ocean view they expected

Not many.

It takes a certain type of courage to travel the world. A crazy courage. But it has nothing to do with facing down danger. It has everything to do with facing yourself. What do you see when you look in the mirror from the other side of the world? Are you the same person you were before? Or is everything different now?

Travel is an extreme sport. It showcases the best and worst of humanity. It breaks you down. And then rebuilds you. It humbles you. Then fills you with pride. And it does it in ways that you couldn’t have imagined. And for many people, that’s just too much to handle.

But you’re different. You wouldn’t have it any other way.

hiking the Kalalau Trail of the Na Pali coast on Kauai, Hawaii

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2 thoughts on “Why Friends and Family Think You’re Crazy for Traveling Solo”

  1. Great read! I am so beyond tired of explaining my travel schedule and my love of traveling alone (or with someone who will give me LOTS of space). I love seeing new things and taking LOTS of pictures which most people don’t have the patience for. I recently watched a movie called “The Salt of the Earth”. It was very timely for me to see it as I’ve only wanted to visit safe, pretty, pleasant places for the last year. The movie inspired me to make a difference somewhere one day. Happy travels!

    1. Haha YES I totally understand! I’m a solo traveler at heart. Sometimes I’ll join up with one or two people for a few days, but after that it’s nice to go our separate ways. Ya know, I’ve heard numerous people talking about that movie recently. Hmm… I’ll have to check it out 😀 Well I’m curious to see where your travels will lead! I love following your Instagram 🙂 Safe travels to you as well! Maybe we’ll cross paths one of these days somewhere in the world.

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