Sunday, May 5, 2013

Only One

Originally written May 3, 2013

As I’ve already mentioned many times, people in Myanmar are friendly in the extreme. It’s very difficult to walk around without someone initiating a conversation with you - one day I rented a bicycle, and even then a man on a motorbike started chatting to me while we were both still moving! They all seem very curious about me and almost always ask the same questions: where I come from, how old I am and if I am "only one". That's literally how everybody here says it. Not "are you on your own?", "are you by yourself?" but simply "only one?"

The way they phrase the question is very literal, and responding to it so many times got me thinking. As the Asia portion of my trip comes to a close, I've been reflecting a lot on the last seven months I've spent traveling by myself. Initially there were a couple of people I talked about traveling with, but now I can't imagine having done it any other way than on my own.

Traveling solo has made me realize so much, not only about the world around me but about myself as well. I've learned more about trivial things from kinds of food I like, to bigger things like what kind of people I enjoy traveling with and perhaps most importantly, knowing when I've had enough of something and being able to adapt to different situations.

I've also learned that I can handle quite a bit on my own. Getting Dengue Fever in Thailand? Figuring out the metro system in Tokyo, a city of 13 million people where practically nobody speaks English? Dealing with unwanted attention from the super creepy owner of my guesthouse in Malaysia? Check, check and check. It hasn't always been easy and I've shed more than a few tears shed along the way but I've handled it all, without having anybody from home there with me.

I’ve met countless people and made many friends while traveling, but the fact remains that I came to Asia the same way I’ll leave it: only one. I know people travel solo all the time, but I still can't help being just a little proud of myself.


Susan Zwick said...

Great blog Alex!- I've spent a lot of time thinking - no- actually dwelling - on the fact that you were going this alone. As you know - on many, many occasions - i wished you were with a friend - But I have to say- that you always seemed to find a friend when you really needed one. You are a people magnet- you always have been and just as you learned more about yourself on this trip- I learned more about me too- that much as I know I am inherently a worrier- I need to worry about you a whole lot less than I have. And this last sojourn of yours through Burma had me pretty anxious given i knew we would have less Internet to count on to stay in touch. The fact that you were "only one" was just fine fine- you clearly encountered a country full of people just waiting to meet you. I'm very glad you are proud of yourself- I'm proud of you too.

Wondering and Wandering said...

Thanks Mom :) xo