“You are so brave”.
These are words I am told on a fairly regular basis. They are usually accompanied by a somewhat awed look and brings about the end of that particular conversation. This is the conversation in which I have explained how I have been travelling and living abroad on-and-off for the past five years.
“What, so you went travelling alone?”
“Yes”, I reply.
“And you didn’t know what you’d do or where you’d go until you get there? You just made it up as you went along”?
“Yep, that’s pretty much it”.
The eyebrows arch up and the tone of voice becomes revered and somewhat finite. “Oh wow. You’re so brave. I could never do that”.
So, I’ve Been Thinking: Am I brave?
I wring my hands when I get anxious. I avoid confrontation. I get stressed on a commute, but only when it looks as if I’ll be late to my destination.
I’m many, many things, and yet brave is not something I’ve ever considered myself to be.
Mulling Over Big Decisions Affects My Sleep
I can be totally fine during the day, yet as soon as my head hits the pillow, I can’t shut down the barrage of thoughts jumbling around my brain. I lie in my bed and pick at the skin around my nails, until I realise I’m doing it and shove my hands under the pillow.
Oh man, can I worry.
I’ve lain awake at night in England, Australia, Cambodia, Bali and pretty much all the other countries I’ve visited simply worrying about various things: Will my visa be granted? Will the journey I am taking tomorrow go smoothly? Will the weather allow me to visit the tourist attraction I wish to see? Will I be continually hassled by people trying to offer me tuk-tuk rides, or sell me drugs, or entice me into their shop?
And I’ve Cried
I’ve cried in airports. I’ve cried on planes. I’ve cried on buses and on boats. I’ve turned my face to walls in public places to try and hide my tears and sat in toilet cubicles until my eyes dried.
And the tears did dry. And then the moment was gone and I got on with my day.
I’ve Let The Fear Get The Better Of Me
And on more occasions than I’d care to admit.
Instead of trying to remove that giant bug, I’ve simply shut the door on it and pretended it has gone away. I’ve slept with my bag containing my valuables strapped around my body in hotels, hostels, planes, beaches and airports. I have turned down trips and excursions, food and drink, nights out and new friends because it didn’t feel right.
But that’s ok, surely? After all, self preservation is a powerful instinct that keeps you on the right track and for every thing I didn’t do I believe there will be another opportunity along in its place.
I’ve Been Lonely, Too
I’ve skipped dinners when I didn’t want to eat alone. I’ve sat by myself in bars, by the pool, in hostel common rooms and in airport lounges, not talking to anyone and feeling like the saddest person in the world.
I’ve definitely been that girl, standing by herself, who’s asked you to take a photo for her by a famous monument or landmark.
It was my choice to feel the occasional sting of loneliness, because I wanted to be there: I wanted to travel and see that city or that country and just because I was by myself didn’t mean I was not going to do it.
Plus, the next time I walked into my hostel room I was surrounded by a friendly group of amazing girls and spent the next few days dancing the nights away on the beach.
Plus, I’m too proud to own a selfie stick.
So, Am I Braver Than You?
Am I braver than you; someone who does not believe you could act on turning a dream into reality by booking a ticket, boarding a plane and embarking on a journey?
I don’t think so.
Because that’s all it ever was for me, and what it continues to be: a desire. Travelling is a desire I wished to act upon until it became tangible and I could hold the experience of it in my hands.
Your desires may differ to mine and you may never want to hoick a backpack onto your shoulder and hit the road.
It doesn’t mean one of us is any more or less brave.
There is a whole spectrum of bravery after all, spanning many different categories. After all, aren’t you brave when you: give that difficult presentation at work, try out a new recipe, end a relationship, begin a new relationship?
Have a dream. Believe in that dream and make it a reality. Take the rough with the smooth and enjoy it.
Be proud of yourself, because you’re brave.
Over to you! What are your thoughts on whether solo travel means that you’re a brave person? Do you feel brave when you travel, or does the notion of bravery even cross your mind? Let me know how you feel in the comments.
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