Something unusual has started happening to me. Suddenly I have become someone that people envy.
HA! Talk about things that have never happened before.
Recently the people I have met through Couchsurfing, BlaBlaCar, or simply in a bar or park have heard my story and proceeded to use words such as “envy”, “lucky”, “brave”, and “independent”.
To me, my trip is none of those things. It’s something I have to do; it’s a passion.
Let me explain why I am unsure people are using these words:
If my traveling is sparking envy and wanderlust in you, go travel. I am fully aware that there are certain societal, financial, physical, emotional, and even spiritual reasons why people cannot travel. However, I have some of those obstacles standing in my way as well. I found a way to overcome them, and if you are driven enough you can too. This brings me to the second adjective..
There are many things that I have been fortunate to experience/have: a roof over my head, delicious Japanese food, some of the best education money can buy, living in exotic places, and people who care about me. Those things have been given to me from third parties.
However, this trip did not just fall into my lap. I worked my ass off juggling three jobs, working 7 days a week to save up money so I could finance this myself. It wasn’t luck, it’s hard work paying off.
*I would like to add a sidenote that I am fully aware that my socioeconomic privilege (e.g. not needed to support my parents while single handedly paying for college) allowed me to save up enough to travel in the first place. Also, I did have a little surprise from a friend with plane tickets, but I like to think that is good HS karma coming back around.
“As a pretty solo female traveler aren’t you afraid something’s going to happen? You’re so brave to do this.”
This is hands down the most common thing I hear from friends and strangers alike.
There’s a couple of things I want to say about this. First, there’s danger in anything we do. We could get hit by a car, eaten by a shark, or slip on a banana peel and crack our head open. Is that going to stop you from driving, swimming, or walking? I highly doubt it.
Second, the fact that our society has become so distrusting of men is depressing. Statistically, most offenders are men. However that does not mean that all men are innately bad, uncontrollable, or evil. I have met many men on my trip who have simply taken me out without trying anything. Gut instinct is a real thing. Being confident enough to say no is an even bigger thing.
Lastly, nothing good ever came easy. Sure, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all my experiences have been good. I’ve been scared, lonely, and unsure of myself at one time or another in the past two months. Those were the moments that I really grew as a person. I learned to be assured in my decisions. To not be pressured into anything I don’t want to do- no matter my young age. To trust my instincts because they’re almost always right.
“Don’t you get lonely?”, “what about your family?”.
I grew up very independent. In a blog post from Thailand I realized how my parents’ parenting style was atypical, and although I haven’t always appreciated it, I see the benefits as I see myself grow.
Much of the independence comes from (the best city in the world) Yokohama/Tokyo. I could work at a bar at 14, come home at 7am, and buy alcohol at 15 and there was no worry that I was going to be abducted, raped, or sold. As a result, I was given freedom to make my own mistakes. I’ve carried that independence with me now.
International schools taught me a lot life lessons, one being that friends will always be there, no matter the distance. Sure, seeing Snaps of the crew at 180, Instas of boozy farmers market Popsicles, and FB posts of sushi/yakiniku/umeshu makes me homesick with a mild case of fomo, but I also know that these people will be there forever. Knowing that I’ll be marrying one to give him a Greencard, always being the first one they text after a breakup, and staying with another during alumni weekend allows me to travel without worrying about all the people I left behind. It gives me the strength to be independent (how else am I gonna come back with sick stories to share?!)