The Art of Traveling Alone

I've sat down to write this post upwards of 20 times. And each time I walk away, not wanting to rush the post. The unfortunate halo effect of this has been that I have a number of posts edited and written that I haven't published either because I've been wanting to get this post out to the door. Why couldn't I publish those while waiting for the words for this post to come to me? I don't have a good answer for that. 

I fielded a great number of questions and comments from confused friends and family before embarking on this trip. "You're going alone?" "You're not meeting anyone?" "What will you do there?" "I could never do that. You're brave." 

I was taking a solo weekend trip to Chicago. Not Africa. But these questions and comments did get to me. As I stood in line waiting to board my flight that Friday my heart started to beat fast and the anxiety hit. What would I do if I got bored and found out I didn't like myself? What if I got lost? What if I found myself in a scary situation? What if this anxiety got so bad that I didn't want to leave my hotel room?

All of these what ifs and I almost missed the most important one: what if this trip would refresh me in the best way and give me new tools and a great mindset for the following days, weeks and months?  

I wanted this trip to explore. I wanted to go to try out a bunch of fun fitness classes. I wanted to play tourist and pack my weekend full of new and exciting activities. I've been looking for the words to sum up this entire trip and I read something the other day that finally summed it up for me: 

Many of us show up at a place in our lives with a particular agenda. We think we are there to get the job done, build a relationship, accomplish a task Then, life takes a twist, one we didn't quite expect or plan on. 
We discover we're at a certain place for a reason different from what we thought. The reason we're there is to cleanse the past and heal our broken heart. Healing our heart is a worthwhile mission, more purposeful perhaps than the one we intended. Healing our heart is worthwhile and crucial, something that often needs to be done first, so that we can accomplish what we intended. 
- a passage from Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie

I thought this post would be longer a few weeks ago. I thought I'd chronicle my adventures. But nothing is quite as powerful as the lesson I learned while I was in Chicago. 

The universe will always give you what you need even if you don't think it's what you need. And you must trust what is happening in front of you and go with the flow. Accept the things you can not change and keep moving forward. 

For me, for this trip, that came in the form of a broken phone and being forced to truly immerse myself into a foreign city and take the opportunities as they came. I gave up any pre-existing expectations of what my weekend would be and forgot about the list of restaurants and bars that I wanted to stop by. I simply walked around, I sat on a bench, I took an architectural boat tour, I sat at a winery on the river and drank wine while watching people pass by. With nothing else to occupy my thoughts this weekend became one big long meditation that healed my soul. I guess that's the best way I can describe traveling alone. It can be scary and nerve racking but if you can open your eyes to your own heart and soul and maybe even start a conversation with the stranger next to you, you will be surprised at how great you feel. 

If I can leave you with one message: 

Let go of the fears you have. Take the world as it comes to you. Take a left turn down a random street that will haunt you with it's beauty months later, as you remember the peace you felt in that moment by listening to the birds chirp and waving to the doorman across the street. I thought I was traveling to explore but what I really needed was time to myself. Time to heal. I needed time to heal a soul that I didn't even know was hurting. But how could I know when I spend my days filling my time from sunrise to sundown and beyond? I have found that I keep busy to keep my mind off how I feel. Even on the best of days, I don't let myself live in the present moment. I'm always working towards the next to-do. Always looking for the next thing to fill my time or driving to my next meeting, appointment, yoga class. All of these things take away from being present with my soul, my heart. Maybe you are reading this and find yourself in that same place. Find a way to take time for yourself. Turn off your phone and truly unplug from technology. More importantly, unplug from your expectations and your to-do list. Realizing the pain that I'd burried in my soul led to healing which led to being the happiest I've ever been. We must weather the storm to see the rainbow. 

How gorgeous is Chicago, though? I'm about ready to pick up my life and move up there. I should start saving money for all of the cold weather clothes I will need. 

Let me know if you've ever traveled alone and how it felt. I'm curious to know how others feel about this subject. For me, it was life-changing. I've promised myself that I will always take one solo trip a year. Something I truly want to carry into every year of my life even if I end up married with kids one day.