I never thought of buying a one-way ticket and traveling solo until it happened and became one of the pivotal points in my thirty-year-old life. And it all started a week before St. Valentine’s Day in 2013.
My phone buzzed, notifying me of a new message. It was 10 AM, a perfect time to wake up on a day off. In a slow-mo mode, but in a good mood and smiling, I got out of bed, went to the kitchen, made a coffee, and returned to the room to let some daylight in.
I opened the soft-yellow curtains, and my smile immediately disappeared. I saw a heavy snowfall outside. “I hate this weather!” I said. But no matter my strong negative emotions, it was my reality and of millions of other people who lived in this historically-artistic city. I kept staring outside the window, wrapped in a puffy white bathrobe and trying to warm up my hands, holding a cup of coffee. I wanted to spend this day outside, but what I could do when walking or driving seemed impossible.
The view from my window made it obvious – roads, trees, and cars parked nearby the house were covered with snow. One good thing about this weather is it makes everything look bright. And so I left the curtains opened, sat down at the table, and opened my old-fashioned, grey Sony laptop.
Do you know that feeling when you have nothing to do, and almost automatically, you think about checking your social media? Well, that’s what I did. I had an account on the Badoo dating application, and I checked my incoming messages. After going on several dates, I felt skeptical about the possibility of meeting someone nice there, but I decided to give it one more try.
There was one message from a young man. According to his profile information, he lived in Spain and was a year older than me. His name was Gabriel. We started chatting, and to my surprise, most of our conversation was about traveling. He shared with me stories about places he had been, fun moments of being a traveler, and the most peculiar traditions he had ever encountered. It became the most engaging conversation I ever had on that dating app. And more was yet to come.
As an adult, I had never traveled abroad, so chatting with someone who had done that many times was very inspiring. “What a coincidence!” I mumbled, remembering that I felt a distinct, rising desire to travel a month before our conversation. So, an online conversation with my Spanish friend made me stop and wonder if traveling solo would become the next chapter of my life. I love to think of little coincidences as signs from the Universe, that is, energy, invisible and incomprehensible by a human mind. That powerful energy doesn’t speak English, Spanish, or any other human language, but it has its own way of communication. And I believe that one of them is creating a situation where you meet a person that has something to tell you, some private message that only you will understand. And that day, I got my message – traveling solo.
I started chatting with Gabriel regularly. I knew that he was born in Leon, Spain, and went to a University in Madrid, where he studied business administration. In 2010 he moved to Mexico City, where he worked for a financial corporation. So, the day we met online, he was in Mexico and planning to visit his home in the summer.
I have a theory called “White Rabbitt” inspired by the famous book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Caroll. The main idea is that at certain moments of life, we meet people that show us a land of opportunities that already exist within us and around us. And we just need a guide who can lead us there without even realizing their role. I call those people – “White Rabbits.” I will discuss this in detail in one of the next articles, so subscribe to get updates.
Traveling solo for the first time.
I will never forget 2013 when I felt a significant shift in my perception of my life. The most important was that I was getting more comfortable with the idea of traveling solo every day. It was something entirely new for me. Never before I dared to imagine myself traveling solo. I always perceived it as something that requires a special talent, determination, adventurous spirit, visas, and money. Though the two last requirements are more about the technical side of traveling, the first three depend solely on a person’s intrinsic motivation. And I was very motivated.
My desire to travel didn’t appear all of a sudden. It was already planted in my mind by past events and people I knew. It took time for that idea to grow in me. In the same way, as a flower needs soil, water, and sun to flourish, we – humans need other humans and ideas to help us grow and evolve. Nothing can exist in isolation.
In 2012 one of my good friends, Alex, sold all her belongings and moved to Thailand, and six months later to Spain, where she still lives. Two years before, one of my ex-colleagues Julia from Holiday Inn hotel, also moved to Thailand, where she lived and worked in a travel company for several years. So, my communication with Gabriel revolved around traveling, he had a lot to share, and I was an enthusiastic listener. So, traveling abroad was already in my system (physical, mental and spiritual), and I no longer looked for inspiration; I needed to act.
It took me two weeks to get my first EU visa, and at the end of February, I made my first solo trip to Helsinki. Back then, I lived in Saint Petersburg, and Finland was the closest European country. After six hours of traveling by bus and I was downtown in a snowy, cold, and modern city. I didn’t notice the difference in weather (cold and snowing), but all the rest was so new for me. The language, the way people interact in the stores and coffee shops, the respectful way cars were driving, and the general vibes felt more flowing compared to what I was used to experiencing.
It was a one-day trip, so I had only seven hours to walk around the city, and despite the weather, I did it. I was surprised by not having any strong negative emotions about the weather as I had several weeks earlier. It was as cold as in the city I lived in and snowing, but somehow, I perceived it differently. I wasn’t even thinking about the weather. I was completely present in the moment of traveling and exploring a new city. In my mind, there was no place for complaints. I felt joy and childish curiosity about the new surroundings. I wanted to know what was behind every corner; I wanted to stop and look inside every cafe; I wanted to sit down on the bench in the middle of the city and observe locals living their lives. I wanted to understand how to live a different life behind the border of fear and frustration.
Traveling solo for the first time is memorable and life-changing. And in 21 century, that automatically means taking hundreds of photos, but that was not my case. You might ask: “You are a photographer. Shouldn’t you have your camera every time you travel?” And I usually do, but at that moment, I paused my artistic relationship with my camera, and it stayed at home. So I took some photos with my old Samsung phone. Those are the ones that remind me of my open-minding and enriching experience in Helsinki.
Did you know…?
Finnish language, which belongs to the Uralic language family, is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn because of its verb conjugation, case system, and consonant gradation.
Traveling solo to Helsinki, Finland, changed the trajectory of my life. I came back home the same person but with a different type of dream – a big one. And I was ready to be more proactive.
A week after my first trip, I applied for my second visa because my first one was only for a single trip. Waving a magic wand and making a dream come true is in fairy tales and “Harry Potter.” In real life, you have to act, which sometimes means going through the same process multiple times. And in May and June, I revisited Finland, also traveling by bus.
Change your thoughts change your life.
At the beginning of 2013, I felt like I had lost myself. Even the fact that I wasn’t enjoying photography seemed disturbing to me. Somewhere along the way, I wasted my enthusiasm for life. It could have been a result of my divorce, but I felt there was more to that. I needed a change, and to do that, I needed to change my thought patterns about certain aspects of my life.
My “Before” statements looked like blocks at the end of the road. The questions made my mind look for an answer that always results in an effective change and lifts all the blocks.
In every situation there are at least two choices – always!
I realized it takes more time and energy to moan and complain than to act and make a change. It took me two days to get all the documents necessary for a visa. And twelve days after I applied, I got it. In February, I didn’t have money to travel for an extended period, but I had enough to make a one-day trip to the closest European country. It was essential to start the change and thus let it have new thoughts and energy. I focused on the positive – experience of traveling, and I forgot about the negative – fear of limitations often transmitted through the words “What if…”
Change can be easy and enjoyable, and it’s unlearning some old habits and behaviors and learning new ones. Change is doing something differently.
What can help to change thoughts:
- learn a new language
- try new experiences
- talk to people from a different culture
- read about something new
- extend your circle of friends by joining a new community ( f.e. riding a bike, painting, reading club)
- going to work, choose a new route
- if you work from home, rearrange the schedule, wear different clothes every day
- add more colors to your interior design
Everything is constantly changing, as do our lives. And when the time comes to change your life, you will feel in the flow because that decision will come naturally as a gentle kiss from the Universe.
Click the following link to continue reading my story. I promise some juicy facts. “One-way: ticket a jump into the unknown.”