When I booked a one-way flight to Peru, on my own, many people thought I was half mad. The truth of it is, there was no burning desire to go out alone, it was more an outcome of circumstance. All my friends were either still in university or not wanting to travel, my sister is too young, and my boyfriend is completing his masters, so unwilling to miss an opportunity of a lifetime, I headed out alone.
I’ve been here for six weeks, and having studied a TEFL course, travelled Peru, and moved to Arequipa, have met some incredible people. Travelling alone most definitely has it perks, mostly that you can do what you like when you like. There are of course times you get lonely, but people feel lonely all the time, regardless of if they are actually alone. Being alone and feeling lonely are very different things, this month has taught me that much.
Travelling alone makes you self-reliant, self-aware, and you definitely learn a lot about yourself. It shows you the simplicity of starting a conversation with a stranger and having faith in everyone (within reason!). I met one of my now close friends in the queue for the toilet on an aeroplane, and met the lady who kindly gave me pro-biotics which I’m pretty sure cured a nasty stomach bug on the street waiting for a bus on which we ended up sitting next to each other and learning about each others (very different) lives for 22 hours. By simply saying ‘hi’, two strangers often end up helping each other in the strangest of ways. They might have been where you are going and vice versa. They may have advice, anecdotes, and solutions to any problems. It’s scary at first, but after a few times it really does become second nature. After all, the worst case scenario is they ignore you in which case they look rude and you appear to have tried. Win win really.
For example, tonight I took myself off for a walk around the town, the sun was setting and golden hour was so beautiful. When I realised it was going to be a special sunset, I jumped in a moto taxi to make it back to the beach in time for sunset. When I got there, sure enough the sky was turning a brilliant shade of orange. It lasted a good 10 minutes before the sun disappeared behind a low level cloud above the sea. However, 15 minutes later as I was sat watching the waves, it re-appeared just above the horizon, the sun itself the most breathtaking shade of red I have ever seen. The sky turned pink and lit up the waves. It was incredible. A couples silhouette danced on the shoreline, and another backpacker sat meditating with calming music on behind me. Each of us in our own little world, all brought together by the sheer beauty of an everyday occurrence. You see, I don’t think life is always about going out and finding what is beautiful, but more opening your eyes to the simple beauty around you. When you realise moments like this can connect you to total strangers whom you may not even talk to, you soon realize you are not travelling alone at all.