It started by accident. I was 19 and travelling with a friend by train all across France. We had planned to do this for 4 weeks but only a week into our little adventure my friend got homesick and wanted to go back. But I wanted to continue this trip. So we parted and I continued my discoveries of beautiful France and of a different way to travel.
I remember this moment when I waved her good-bye as her train left the Gare du Nord station in Paris. It was already evening and I had no idea where I would spend the night. It was the time when you travelled with a guide book, a list of hostels, and the faith that you would find an empty bed somewhere. Even in the midst of high season.
As I was standing there, I felt this sense of freedom and the excitement for more adventures to come. And it all worked out so wonderfully, that I really started having fun with this unexpected change of this trip. I enjoyed the flexibility to go as I please, to stay how long I wanted to stay, to follow my desires, and to meet so many people on my way.
It was so easy to connect with other solo travelers on trains, buses or in hostels. I still have vivid memories of large and busy hostel kitchens, where you got a chance to smell the different continents because everyone is cooking their own meal. So, it was like meeting the whole world on my first trip. I really got hooked!
Some people found my way of travelling awkward and risky, especially for a young woman. The mother of a friend gifted me a card with a hatpin on it. It read the word: protection! Oh, I found that sweet, but of course never took it with me when I travelled. Why should I, when I feel safe anyway?
The more I travelled alone, the more I got the hang of it. Waking up on a new morning, a new day to spend as you like is one of the greatest joys. All the possibilities on your doorstep and all the time to explore them!
I had so many wonderful encounters along my way, unexpected conversations and invitations into other people´s homes. Like that one, when I travelled to Wales and got off the train in the middle of the day and the middle of nowhere. I had hours before the hostel somewhere down the road would open. As I looked around this tiny station, I got into an interesting conversation with a Welsh construction worker who was about to finish his work. “Would you like to join me for a cup of tea and a meal at home while you bridge your time?” he asked. Is this a daring offer, I wondered for a second? No, it wasn´t. He was just a kind and generous person and happy to have someone to talk to. He showed me around his amazing self-constructed eco house, cooked a nice meal, gave me a lift to the hostel and the next day, we met again at the station for a “hello” and “good-bye” and another cup of tea in between.
In my thirties and forties I travelled mainly with partners and my family. Every trip, every holiday was -and still is- very precious to me and there are countless beautiful memories of the time with loved ones.
Then, a few years back, due to my change of life, I re-discovered solo travelling again. Oh, words will never do it any justice. It´s been such a great joy so far. Travelling beyond the familiar and out of my comfort zone have given me such rich experiences I never want to miss.
There was for example that evening in Uruguay, when I returned to my hostel after a walk in the rain and I thought of having an early night. On my entrance they told me about a Tango workshop that would take place in 5 minutes and that I was welcomed to join. I slowly looked down on myself and my wet hiking-shoes and thought that this is probably not quite what a Tango outfit looks like in South-America and said “Why not? I can always dance barefoot” And so I did. While a thunderstorm raged in La Paloma, I had the most wonderful night in a hostel dining room with a very gifted Tango teacher. As I was to find out, he regularly gives workshops in Germany, as Germans apparently are such huge fans of Tango. (btw., his name is Diego Bardo, go check him out, if you´re one of the Tango dancers…)
There are so many awesome and kindhearted people in this world and I had a chance to meet a few of them by hitchhiking, sharing a meal or a life-story and by staying at other people´s homes with Airbnb. Sometimes it was really hard to say good-bye!
And yes, on two or three occasions I had this brief feeling of melancholy for being on my own. It happens. Just as much as you sometimes wish, you could be on your own, when you are not.
Saying, that I enjoy solo travelling doesn´t mean that I don´t enjoy being or travelling with others. But not having a partner or right friend to do this with, doesn´t stop me from doing what I love. Why should it?
I can´t think of a reason. You can feel terribly bored or lonely next to a person. And you can have a great time being on your own and let yourself surprise what beautiful encounters life throws your way.
When I look back, I had so many magical moments, I have travelled so many beautiful places, had so many breathtaking moments in nature, feeling the vibrancy, the connection to the elements and to life, that it still warms my heart when I think of it.
I know I am infinitely blessed for being able to do this and I am extremely grateful that life is gifting me the freedom and possibility to explore the beauty and the kindness on this planet.
And also, for the knowing that I always have a home inside of me. Wherever I am.