Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 203: Why I Travel Alone

I have a confession to make, I'm not traveling alone. Nearly my entire trip I've spent with someone who I've become very close with. Through spending a lot of time separated from other people our friendship has become strong and roots of understanding have grown deep. I wish I were hiding a beautiful Italian girl from all of you but this is not the case. I'm not hiding anyone, or at least not intentionally. I am referring to myself.

Is a traveler more than his possessions?

Everyone has a different method of traveling based on their personality and circumstances. Some plan every detail while others blow with the wind. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you might already have a sense of where I lie on this spectrum. While hitch hiking, CouchSurfing, and aimless wandering suit me, there is no superior method of travel. If I were only traveling for a week or two I would surely have a daily itinerary. Based on my personality and circumstances I have naturally discovered how I like to travel, but there is another shaping force, my reason for traveling.

Climbing a mountain near Vevey on Christmas Day.

I left the States under the mantra of "learning how to live." If I don't understand myself, how could I know how to live? Similar to how someone's method of travel is a reflection of their personality, someone's lifestyle is also a reflection of their personality. In order to "learn how to live" I needed to discover myself.

-4ºC is a facilitator of personal growth.

It's no secret that traveling provides an excellent means of discovering one's self. Every few days my environment completely changes. I separate from new friends who I've grown close to. I leave the place where I've been sleeping. I leave the town which I've just got my bearings in. In extreme cases I change countries, cultures, languages, and climates. Throughout all of this changing environment, I am the only constant. By these means, I come to realizations about myself more frequently than I would if I were not traveling alone. Sharing these experiences with someone might be more fun but traveling alone is more rewarding.

Conquering the Calanque of Marseille.

Towards the beginning of my trip I wrote an article about how traveling fuels personal growth. Personal growth only comes from discomfort. While in Lisboa, my host introduced me to an incredibly inspiring Yugoslavian performer, Marina Abramović who demonstrates this perfectly. Though my travels are no where close to the passionate magnitude of her performances, I find her inspiring because of her relentless pursuit of self. Similar to how the majority of Marina's works are solo, if I was traveling with a companion I would have someone to distract me from my feelings. Being an only child, I've always felt comfortable alone. On my trip I've made it through quite a few trying situations. If I were with a friend during these times these trials would have strengthened our friendship. By the same right, when I am with myself, I become stronger in the most homogeneously schizophrenic of ways.

My greatest period of inner exploration; meditating with Aras.

Most of my self discovery takes place when I'm alone and if I were traveling with someone, I don't think I would get enough time alone. CouchSurfing requires a large amount of my time and often I find it difficult to be alone because I'm spending time with my host or I'm sleeping in a living room or hallway. Traveling with someone would greatly reduce my alone time and not only cause me to miss more blog entries but decrease my time for meditation and reflection.

My four day hitch from Toledo to Cordoba gave me lots of 'me' time.

"One is always one too many around me... The third person is the cork that prevents the conversation from sinking into the depths" (p.50, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Neitzsche). Though I feel I'm absorbing only a minuscule fraction of Neitzsche's wisdom, I relate to his thoughts on solitude and friendship. Though making conversation with good company can often be inspiring and educational, not to mention fun. Many times in college when I was stuck brainstorming a few words from an outside source could open new doors. There is indisputably great benefit in quality conversation. However, the self is discreet and easily trampled by spoken word. Self discovery feeds on solitude. The benefits of meditation do not come till after the meditation.

Morocco was the most difficult and rewarding place I've traveled.

Continuously meeting new people, making my own decisions, sleeping when I want, leaving where I want, and going where I want are all benefits of traveling alone, but for me they are secondary. I am traveling alone because there is no other path. The way to myself must be pioneered before it becomes navigable to others. Traveling alone gives me the maximal ability to discover myself; plus, no one is judging me for how much I eat!

(I'm in Ireland)

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