I had many fears as I readied myself for my big adventure: roadside breakdowns, dropping my bike on the ferry, getting lost, and so much more. All those things happened. Every one of them. I guess in a way they were valid, however no amount of worrying about them changed the outcome.
Perhaps I was naïve, but one fear I can honestly say I didn’t have, was the fear of travelling alone. It never crossed my mind to be afraid. I travel alone for leisure, for work, through different countries, and to places where I can’t speak the language, so it hadn’t been a consideration to suddenly become frightened now.
Not everyone shared my nonchalant attitude. I have to admit I have been taken aback by the constant questioning I have received from friends to complete strangers on the subject. The conversations start in the usual fashion, questions about my trip, where I am going and alike. Without fail the final question will always be: “Just one?”
Yes, just one.
In the first few months I found myself trying to justify my being out on the road alone. How it is easier, no one to disagree with, all choices are my own, etc, but none of those were the catalyst for my solo adventure. Like many I should imagine, I quite simply didn’t have anyone to go with.
I had been dreaming of riding my motorcycle around the world for many years, and when the cards fell into place from a work perspective to have the time off, there wasn’t anyone else lining up next to me to do it. If I am honest I had always imagined I would travel with a companion on such a big trip. Not because I feared going it alone, it just never crossed my mind to.
Suddenly I was faced with a decision: wait and hope that another opportunity to fulfill my dream would present itself when someone else was also ready to join me, or just get on with it and make the most of it on my own.
Obviously, I chose the latter and I can say without hesitation it has been the best decision I have ever made. Not only to finally live my dream, but to not let the fear of solo travel hold me back. Having made the decision, I was met with loads of support and encouragement from friends and loved ones. What was interesting though was the almost identical initial reaction of most people. They were excited yes, but terrified.
I am not even sure if it was me they were specifically scared for or if it was more the mere thought of doing it themselves that sent the ice-cold shiver down their spines. You could see and hear genuine fear in people when I discussed it with them, “Oh wow you are brave. I could never do that.”
Wanting to keep myself positive, I put their fears aside as exactly that, their fears. They weren’t mine. I didn’t see myself as anymore brave than when I hopped on a plane and flew to NYC for Christmas alone a few years back. I am a level-headed person and these seemingly irrational fears were somewhat amusing to me.
My personal favourite questions are about how I will get fuel, where will I sleep, what will I eat? Really? Are those things something people are truly scared of, and if I were with someone else does that make those everyday tasks easier or safer? The answers to all those questions are simple; the same way as I would at home. Sure, there are slight differences around the world when it comes to finding the necessities but, in reality even in the most remote places, there is always a way to come by what you need to survive.
They were so repetitive however, it made me begin to question myself. Am I missing something? Should I be afraid, and if so, of what? Being murdered, getting hurt on the road, starving to death? They just didn’t seem logical fears to carry around on my shoulders on top of everything else I was about to undertake.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is most certainly increased potential to be a target of unwanted attention when you are obviously a traveller. I have had stressful situations in less fortunate countries in the past, however I don’t believe that is related to riding a motorcycle. We all know someone who has been scammed, pick pocketed or worse whilst on holidays. As with all those situations, it is sometimes about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there are others who with some more precaution, may have been left alone.
Being a seasoned traveller and having had my fair share of ‘bad luck’ to learn from, I was confident it came down to making sensible choices, being comfortable, and always thinking ahead. Apart from that, any other risks that I would face I would deal with, just as I would if something were to happen to me at home.
Whilst it wasn’t my first choice to be alone for such an extended period of time, I am so pleased it has worked out that way. The resilience and self confidence it has taught me is truly invaluable. Knowing you can rely solely on your own judgement in challenging situations is an enviable position to be in, not something I could have laid claim to six months ago.
The experiences I have shared with total strangers, many of whom are now lifelong friends, is also a defining component of my journey and one I wouldn’t change for anything. The ability to meet and connect with people from all over the world as a solo traveller is a gift. Depending on your personality, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and enlightens you to see the world from many perspectives. What is so scary about that?
If I am honest, my real fear had been growing old and not getting out there and doing it. To not live your dreams, push beyond your current capabilities, and grow as a person — now that is something we should all fear.