6 Lessons I’ve Learned About Myself (and the World) During Solo Travel So Far

My first solo travel adventure turned destination quarantine in Thailand has led and is still leading to many adventures and lessons learned. Beyond the usual lessons of ‘what/what not to bring’, ‘how to prepare for long term solo travel’, and destination guides, there have been invaluable things I’ve learned about myself and, in turn, the world during these few months. I’m so grateful to be able to dive deeper in my understanding of how I perceive myself and the environment around me and the people that have assisted in my expansion.

1. Jump off that cliff and dive into the deep expanse of water:

For years, I have let my fear and self doubt convince myself that I can’t swim. Despite the memories of saving my brother in a Best Western pool, from doing aqua gymnastics in the pool at camp, from summers in the ocean with my friends, I still had this feeling that I could not tread water or be light and buoyant. Perhaps it was my memory of being three years old, hanging at the edge of a pool and exclaiming to my parents, “Look, I can swim!” and jumping in before realize that I actually had never swam before. I just convinced myself I could. That ended in my dad pulling me out of the water. The rest of the memory is muddy.

A night swim under the stars with divine feminine energies convinced me that I am far more capable than I let myself believe. Initial hesitancy at clambering through rocks at night and leading to the dark waters frightened me. My friends were leading the way and something within me pushed forward. I had to follow through. I jumped off the rocks and into the water with a splash, a few moments underwater and automation kicked in. A held breath, strokes of my arms and kicking of the legs I surfaced through the blue and met myself with a deep inhalation and exhalation. So I floated into the darkness, trusting in the universe, grateful for this life, letting go of fear of death and made my way into the emptiness of the sea. Here I was, swimming. From there, I laid on my back and stared into the sky towards the universe where the glittering stars stared back at me, feeling the cold water lapping against my skin, bioluminescent plankton lighting the way as I moved weightlessly.

Here I was, swimming. 

2. Drive others and they will be able to drive themselves:

Initial hesitancy at taking on a passenger on my motorbike had me observing the self, Why was I experiencing annoyance when giving someone a ride? At first, the projection went to the ones who were afraid to drive their own motorbike before I put my own feelings aside and let them subside. I realized some of it stemmed from a fear of not having driven with someone as a passenger before. Fear of falling. Fear of injuring or hurting myself or others. After I realized the root of my feelings, I offered compassion to myself and to them. Then, I convinced myself that I trusted in my capabilities. Taking each moment one at a time. They got on, I balanced and off we went. It was easy as could be and the feelings of annoyance were nothing but a memory.

A few weeks later, the same passengers on the back of my bike decided to faced their own fears and rented their own bikes, riding off into freedom and independence on their own. I did not encourage this. I did not say anything. Yet, something within themselves stirred an awakening to courage. To be the driver of their own lives. When you sit passenger seat, you observe the driver and their freedom, their authority, their self assurance. This alone is enough to spark a desire.

3. Observe your resistance on the yoga mat:

During the first few days of yoga teacher training, I noticed a deep impatience with myself – my mind, my physical body, my focus.

I observed that within the first few minutes of meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises) and asanas (physical postures), I was already looking forward to the end, wishing for the suffering and pain to be over. I was not enjoying the journey or the experience. I noticed my muscles aching, the salty sweat beading down my face, the folds and fat of my body and skin compared to the leaner members in the room. This went on for the entire duration of my yoga teacher training – four weeks where I pushed myself mentally, physically and emotionally. I felt like I was in a prison. Slowly, after the weeks passed and I ended my month long training, it was a few weeks before I got back onto the mat. After all that pushing, I wanted as little to do with yoga as I could.

Then, the first time I decided to do another practice, I noticed something had shifted drastically. The resistance subsided. I noticed a deeper connection with my physical body. I noticed a patience with my own self. My own mind. My connection to my breath. I noticed that I was enjoying each movement. Each experience as I twisted and molded into different shapes, creating space in my body and mind. I was learning to enjoy the ride. Maybe it was because it was my own personal choice to attend another practice. Or maybe it was a slight yet monumental shift in my perspective and mindset. I had learned to enjoy the challenges and embrace the things I considered suffering, thus transmuting the suffering into joy and appreciation.

4. Be wild and free in your wardrobe choices:

Tiedye patterns and wild colors I would never wear back in my ‘regular life’ seem to dominate my daily clothing choices here in Thailand. My 40 liter backpack was filled with solid items, classic and, dare I say, boring. After a week into the travels, most of the original items I brought with me stay unworn and unpacked. Instead, I picked and procured items that made me feel like a million bucks because it deeply represented physically how I felt inside. Each shopping trip I found something that seemed to scream to me. The colors and patterns brought joy to me. It made me embrace my own femininity without compromising how I prefer to be presented. I shared the parts I found beautiful in my body – embracing my shoulders, my legs, my clavicle, my tanned skin. I became wilder in my choices and freer in my expression.

5. Do not seek to change but to accept. The change will come naturally:

How often did I spend energy attempting to fix others and what I perceived to be their problems.

I would offer typically unsolicited advice, then feel rejection as my words were not heeded. I learned to bite my tongue and understand that their battles were their own unless they specially sought my attention. I learned to sit with the discomfort in what I considered their shortcomings and in turn, I became kinder to myself, for what I observed in others are qualities that I probably notice in myself. Whenever I find myself judging anything, this is an indication that I criticize myself for the same exact thing, whether I realize it or not. That voice inside your head goes on and on. It’s a chatterbox. Sometimes it’s harmless. Sometimes it’s helpful. But sometimes, it’s the one thing that will destroy any semblance of self confidence you have. It can become a parasite.

I learned that there is this inherent need to constantly improve, yet in accepting what is will naturally lead to a change through the path of least resistance. Leave it alone and the change will happen in its own time. This is the state of allowing. People and things will change when they want to. You can’t and shouldn’t be the impetus of change for them. Even for yourself. Forcing yourself to change may bring up resentment. The change needs to be as organic as can be.

When you are told to clean your room, the room remains in a disheveled state. Yet, somehow, when left alone, at some point, you will decide that the disarray is not appealing and naturally will return the room to your desired state. Same same.

6. When you are yourself, others will see the light in you (and thus, in themselves):

The world is a magnified reflection.

What you see in others is what you see in yourself. When you are authentically yourself, accepting, gentle, and loving, others will notice this glow. This shines a spotlight on the qualities that they see in themselves but perceived through you. For a long time, it was really difficult for me to show and, in return, accept love. Love in the form of compliments, physical affection, hugs, things of that nature. It was because it was difficult for me to see the reasons why people liked me because, honestly, I didn’t like myself. Probably for good reason. I wasn’t authentic to who I truly am. I was an amalgamation of qualities I thought would make me popular, more likeable, more able to fit in.

I spent many years trying to fit a square peg into a round hole before realizing that the peg and the hole would never change. I needed to fit in with who I really wanted to express myself to be. The first step is learning to accept and love myself for how I am. Remember lesson #5? I had to accept myself, then love myself (sometimes by doing a daily morning practice where I stared into the mirror, looked into my own eyes and said “I love you” to myself. Try it. At first, it’s harder than you think it is) and then you start to glow. It radiates from inside because when you love and appreciate yourself, every cell in your body is vibrating in love, happiness and joy. The highest frequencies it can vibrate (as opposed to lower frequencies like hate, anger, sadness).

So, accept compliments with gratitude and grace and know that you are allowing others to see the beauty in themselves. Say ‘thank you’ when you receive a compliment or something nice because you are deserving of it. You are deserving of everything you could ever want. Say ‘yes’ more, especially to you.

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