The life of a solo traveler is liberating; it’s incredibly rewarding, and you learn a lot about yourself. But being a solo traveler does make you un-dateable. You are seen as a flight risk, a gypsy who’s not going to stick around, and someone who marches to the beat of their own drums. You are one of the ones who make hopping countries, hitting the reset button look so easy; and admittedly, it is easy to hit the reset button and leave everything I’ve ever known behind to start over. I’ve hit the reset button on life more times than I care to admit. The life of a solo traveler is one filled with adventures; it is one where you learn lessons in life, love, and this world we share. It is a constant emotional roller coaster where you go from feeling as high as the peaks of the Himalayas, to the moments as low as the depths of an old abandoned well. You will experience kindness that words cannot begin to describe, and you will also feel the lowest of lows on some days that make you wonder why you’re sitting in a rural coffee shop all alone. Yet, I will not trade any of the experiences I’ve had for anything in the world. The life of a solo traveler is exciting, unpredictable, fun and even has a mysterious allure to it. It is sexy, in a very gritty and dirty way. You will be sorely disappointed for thinking that it’s all rainbows and sunshine. And I hate to break it to you, but your love life is pretty much non-existent as a solo traveler.

The year of many changes

I get especially nostalgic as 2018 comes rushing to an end with Christmas eagerly ushering it out the door. This year has been especially trying; I had the biggest transition of my life, got my world turned upside down, embraced the PNW life, hit the reset button on life, and dove headfirst back into solo traveling.

I had started writing this post about a month ago when I first came back from Thailand and procrastinated sharing my story about how my journey began earlier this year and how things drastically changed during the summer months. Being raw and vulnerable was quite scary. But I was reminded of an article that Will (of The Broke Backpacker) wrote a few years back, and I could not help but notice the similarity in our circumstances.

Truth be told, I never quite intended the reboot of my walkabout to be a solo adventure. Traveling was going to be a shared experience of soaking up all the cultures and wonder that this world had to offer, and be able to reminisce about it together. It was going to be a dream come true. I’m not bitching about life and how things turned out; there is a silver lining, a sort of phoenix rising from the ashes experience. The first few weeks were rough, being in a new city alone trying to find my bearings, when everything looks absolutely foreign and cold. But as time went on and the wounds healed enough, I was reminded that tomorrow is not promised. I had discovered myself enough to know where I wanted to be. I needed to get off my butt, live my dream, and stay curious. Borrowing the words of Tim McGraw, I decided to live like I was dying, and love (everyone I encounter) like I’ve never loved before. 

What started as an emotional rollercoaster from hell resulted in a profound journey of self-discovery, my brief ordination as a Thai novice monk, and the ultimate return to Jesus. I feel like the prodigal son who was done running. For the first time in a very long time, I am fully in charge of my own destiny, my life. I found myself alone in a new city, trying to rebuild my social circle, and recover from heartbreak; I had hit my rock bottom. When I finally made my way back home to God, I had the most epic ugly cry in a very long time; it was so cathartic. I don’t say any of this to play a “woe is me” tape, but perhaps someone else out there can be positively lifted by my story. I hope this helps someone.

While beginning this journey alone is challenging, especially when that wasn’t how I had envisioned things, letting go and moving on is important. So dream big, cast a vision, and embrace the adventure of a lifetime about to come your way. And never forget to stay curious.

Community, friends, daily affirmations, and goals

Regardless of how emotionally strong you are, one of the things that a broken relationship tends to shake your emotional health a little. I fell into a rut, causing my projects and passions to be put on hold. Some days I’d feel like doing absolutely nothing. Memories got painful to recall. But thanks to the support of friends, my community, and daily affirmations, each day gets easier and my fervor for adventure is back in full force. In fact, I’m feeling quite anxious with my passport being sent away for updating. I’m ready to go, now!

So surround yourself with close friend(s) who you trust enough, and who care enough to tell you things you don’t like hearing, Have a community of people surrounding you to share in life’s ups and downs. And above all, believe in yourself and your dream. Without hope, the people perish.

I’m a very mission oriented person, and so it’s important for me to set achievable goals for the coming year. This year has been largely focused on self-discovery; the journey of finding and discovering my identity has been a grueling one, but the light and passion that is birthed at the other side is so worth it. Next year, my focus is going to be on continued growth. What does this look like for me?

  • Practice the Five Agreements
  • Travel far, wide, and often
  • Make a personal connection once a week
  • Practice and spread positivity

Practicing the five agreements

For those unfamiliar with the five agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, they are simply principles that have the strong potential to positively improve your life and the people you interact with. I’ve always been a firm believer of impeccable with my words, saying what I mean. However the areas that I need to improve on are that my words should not be used to speak against myself, or to gossip to others. As Ruiz put it, use the power of my words in the direction of truth and love.

Secondly I need to not take anything personally. This one is tough because I’m extremely introspective, and have a natural tendency to also internalize a lot of things. Learning to surrender that, and realize that what others do and say is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. Why torture myself with what’s out of my control?

The next agreement of not making assumptions is so powerful. Being a highly communicative person, I see great value of asking questions, clarifying things, and trying to understand how decisions are derived. When we communicate, misunderstandings, sadness, and drama can be avoided.

I’m going to plagiarize from Deadpool and say that I try to do everything with maximum effort. We should always do our best in every given situation. The definition of “best” changes based on circumstances, but the merely putting the best effort I can into everything I do helps me avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret. I’d rather have tried my best, than to have given only a half-assed effort.

Perhaps the most challenging agreement for me out of the five, is being skeptical, but learning to listen. I’ve flip-flopped my stance on this throughout the years, starting with an almost pure naivety to extreme distrust. Finding the happy medium of remaining skeptical, and yet being open to listen to people’s intent behind their words, in order to understand the message.

For more information on this, and to check out Ruiz’s books … here are a couple of affiliate links (which are at no cost to you, but they do help contribute a little to the site, like tipping):

Traveling far, wide, and often

After spending twelve years not leaving the States, I started feeling stir crazy and trapped; like there was so much I should be doing with my life instead. I was living the American dream, but something was never quite right. Although I enjoy spontaneous road trips and enjoying the beauty that’s within America, I find that I’m the most fulfilled, excited, and exhilarated when I’m stepping off the plane in a foreign city, and taking in the air. So my goals for the year is to travel to the far corners of the world, to widen my scope, and to do that often.

Make a personal connection every week

While I’m quite an extrovert, I tend to not be quick at building genuine connections. I have a great time and enjoy meeting new people, and learning about them, but often it’s in a passing manner which does not leave much room for anything deeply personal to occur. In order to build a bigger social circle and network, I need to allow for more time with people to get to know them. This becomes more important as I try to grow the Walkabout.

Practice and spread positivity

We live in a broken world. I personally live in a broken city, filled with rampant homelessness, sad people, and broken people. I often think of that, and also what if the people I come across during my travels have a sad story to share? Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could share some of my positivity with them, and in turn fill my “cup”. Perhaps the world would be a nicer place.

Casting a vision

What seldom gets talked about is the process of preparing and planning for trips; it’s simply not as sexy as going on trips and posting Instagram-worthy photographs. As much as I’d love to live off a sailboat and write about sipping cocktails at some paradise that I’m docked at, that’s simply not where life has me at right now. It’s so easy to be trapped in the daily grind of work and life, living in mediocrity, without direction. I find that I thrive when there is direction in my life.

As 2019 inches closer, I took advantage of my whiteboard walls (freaking awesome by the way) and started drawing out my vision for the coming year, for where there is no vision, the people perish. I was inspired by my amazing friend Olyvia (of AlignMii) who shared her vision board with me a couple months back. While the board is still work in progress, seeing it everyday in a tangible fashion gets me excited for the new year.

My goal for the new year is to travel out of the country at least twice, and spend the state-side months hitting up the beautiful areas surrounding Portland. In addition to the two personal trips abroad, I would also potentially partner up with Hear The Cry to travel to, and volunteer at the areas in need. When considering the types of trips I wanted to do in 2019, I took into consideration the fact that I’m still working a full time job. Working a full time job limits me to the number of days I’d spend off-grid, though who am I trying to kid, I’m never truly off the grid.

Regions and one-hit “wanders”

My solution is then to come up with a slightly longer trip in a geographical region, and a targeted “country” trip I dubbed “one hit wanders” that confines me to just one country (and maybe it’s neighbor if time permits).

Before leaving for my recent trip to Thailand, I had expected the trip to quell some of the wanderlust bottled up inside. Thailand was amazing, and I kept wishing I had more time to explore. When I landed at the airport in Portland, I remember thinking that I could just book another flight and leave again. After spending most of my younger years in (Austral)Asia, I feel a strong pull to return to my stomping grounds and give it all another heart-felt look. The culture and history within Asia as a continent is so rich and ripe for exploration; from the ancient ruins of the Angkor Wat, to the hustle and bustle of Shenzhen.

What’s nice about traveling around Asia is that flying between countries is relatively cheap. The most expensive part of the entire trip would be to fly from the States to an Asian country. That’s assuming you don’t go nuts and stay at every Shangri-La hotel. And with Australia and New Zealand being a stones throw away, I could hop on a plane and go on yet another walkabout, or perhaps do the LOTR experience by riding through the beautiful valleys and meadows. The possibilities are endless. India looks quite appealing as well, something about the organized chaos, the way that society functions despite all the mess that surrounds everyday life there; or is it the smell of the various spices.

Embarking on a regional trip to Asia would require a slightly more extended hiatus from life in the States, that might be better saved for later in the year. So that leaves my one-hit “wanders”. Simply put, these one hit “wanders” are places that I’m interested in going to and spending more time at. These would be places where merely spending one or two days at would not do any justice to the country. Immediately, Iceland come to mind. Iceland is somewhere that I’ve long romanticized and dreamt about going. I’m even seriously considering bringing my work there for the duration of the trip, working remotely from a van that I’d camp at.

Where to now?

As the new year peeks around the corner, I’m narrowing down on the places I’d like to explore for 2019. One thing’s for sure: there will be lots of adventures. I will travel at least twice abroad; one to a region, one to a specific country.

Wherever you go, stay curious.

What’s next for this solo traveler
Matt

Matt

Traveler, blogger, photographer and all-out badass. I'm absolutely passionate about travel, coffee, and definitely food. I spend most of my time parking at coffee shops working on projects, planning future adventures, and writing. Sometimes I write music too.

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