The Path Less Traveled

                “What’s it like over there?” Or, “How was it traveling overseas for that long by yourself?” “What made you go over there?” “I don’t know how you did it; I wouldn’t know where to begin!” “You weren’t scared?” These are just a few of the legitimate questions and statements I hear a lot when people find out about some of my travels. To be honest, even though I was damn near born flying in planes, considering my father worked for a major airline in Houston, Texas my whole life until his passing, I probably would be asking the same questions to somebody who was telling me about it. But the plain and simple truth is, all of my years of family vacations and travel could not have prepared me for it any better than the next man and HELL YES I was scared. Because the fact of the matter is, solo travel is unlike any other form of travel you can experience, yet so relatable for anybody who is walking a path in life on their own whether it’s a travel journey, business endeavor or a passion. It requires you to tap into another level of yourself, especially mentally, that you probably would never have imagined and to go into unknown spaces and uncomfortable situations you typically would not be in. I have been, for my whole life up until recent travels, the kind of person to never even go sit down at a restaurant by myself and eat unless someone was with me. So, to branch out and go 10,000 plus miles solo for the first time and eventually for two months was a jump out the airplane, sky diving type of feeling when I first touched down and a personal achievement unlike any other in my life. I would never regret that decision and would highly recommend it for someone who was striving to elevate their mind to the real world and truly step out of their comfort zone for the betterment and understanding of themselves on higher level.

                Like stated above, I have always flown in planes, my first family vacation was before I was even one year old when we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I don’t remember a thing about it, but I can just about guarantee at some point in my infant body I was bitten by the travel bug and it hasn’t let me go. Years and years have passed since, and the travels continued on all over the world. But still, none of that could have prepped me up for the massive leap of faith it takes to go out to another country where no one knows or cares about you, or in some instances may have never even seen a person of your race or ethnic background in real life, which can be daunting if you look at it from a closed minded and fearful perspective. But on the flip side, it could also be an amazingly life changing adventure that will leave you wanting more.

                I took my first solo vacation to Buenos Aires, Argentina and it was a truly awesome experience. It was a super last minute trip planned for 3 or 4 nights. I wasn’t even supposed to go by myself but with last minute plans came last minute plan changes. And I found myself boarding that 777 airplane to Argentina at 9:45 PM. SOLO. DOLO. Weirdly excited and confident about the unknown, I was off on my first ever solo trip. The roughly 10 hour flight went fairly well and I guess it still hadn’t hit me that I wasn’t in Houston or on the flight with friends and family like I had been umpteen times before. So as the flight went on I did my usual routines; snacking on food I brought, listening to music and watching movies until the famous, “flight attendants prepare for landing” announcement came on over the speakers and shut off the in seat tv screens. It was after only a few minutes of taxiing and waiting to be released from the plane when my stomach damn near dropped to the floor from the realization of actually being solo abroad. At that moment everything really hit me like a fastball and it was too late to turn around and go home, so I had no other decision to make but to face my fear of being alone and get out there and explore uncharted territories by myself. So, as I got off the plane and got my bags I did what most people I think would do and that’s find someone who seems relatable and ask away. The first person I met was a guy from California who played basketball in Argentina. He was a pretty cool dude and we talked for a few minutes as he answered a couple of questions about what goes down in the city that would be interesting to do. Next, I grabbed my bags and I called my Uber and was off to my hostel where I met two guys; one from Great Britain and one from South Africa who were also alone and traveling for various reasons. I met my friend from Great Britain the first day when I was in the lobby and decided to step out and ask if I could shoot a game of pool with him since there was no one else there. He had been on the go for about 2-3 months already and actually had a travel horror story experience but was still interestingly optimistic for the rest of his journey to continue once his new passport came in. In conversation, he also introduced me to the next big unknown adventure I was to take a year later called backpacking, which was really going to take my fear of being alone to the next level and my intrigue in various cultures and living abroad with it. I met my friend from South Africa later that evening in the same lobby/bar area that I had met my prior friend for the nightly party, which was after a fun filled day of stumbling into a marijuana rally parade at Argentina’s version of the White House and hanging out with some Argentinian locals who did not speak English and vice versa, but we made it work. I went to the nightly party where I was admittedly hesitant to go because of my fear of being alone, yet ended up making a friend who felt like a best friend from home that I still keep in touch with to this day. That really kind of helped me get started as far as being open to meeting new people and trying new things. It was a lightning rod to set up my next solo travel adventure a year later in which I decided to pack up, quit my job and run off to Southeast Asia for two months. 

                Packing up and running to Southeast Asia was even more nerve-racking than going to Argentina, for the fact that I was not just going to be going for a couple of days. This time it was planned for two months, with multiple countries and cities I would visit where I literally knew no one in any city. But at the same time, the lure of new adventures in the unknown and trying new things snatched me by the belt loop into the travel abyss. I never knew anyone personally to take on a trip of this size, so I had my reservations initially when planning and some friends and family thought I was big crazy and risky for even thinking about going for that long and leaving a good paying job. However, the idea of taking a path less traveled stayed nipping at me, fueling my fire to go. This time, just like the previous time, my mind and stomach were telling me, “what are you doing?” as I was landing. But again, I was already 10,000 plus miles away in Thailand and really had no choice but to go all in. After touching down and getting settled in my hostel, I said one of my famed phrases to myself to make me get out the room and mingle, “Don’t be a B****!”  After those oh so lovely words of self-encouragement, I was out on the prowl on Khao San Road where I met a pretty cool guy from Canada who I ended up rolling with around Bangkok for the next few days for some crazy, Vegas type sleepless nights. While hanging out, my boy and I met two Thai girls on the same road a day or two later who were in town visiting. In conversation with them, I learned that the next city on my travels was the same city the girls were coming from and going back to on the same day as me. They told me not to buy a bus ticket there and offered to take me. Being the shy and hesitant guy I can be at times, I was slightly skeptical and unsure about it, but after a few seconds of quick thinking and measuring my risk, I asked myself why not and that I should go on this road trip because my whole point of this vacation is to enjoy life and step out of my comfort zone. So, with that being said, I was on the road to a whole different city with two entirely new people I just met two days prior. I spent the next three or four days with these girls as they ran me around all over the city to see buddhas engraved in hills, floating markets, shopping malls and of course we partied every night at Club 808. It was only the first week in on my trip and stepping out of my comfort zone had already paid off in a major way. From city to city, country to country the same kind of scenarios kept happening. Meet a random person and hang out the next few days until our travels called for other plans.

                I kept pushing east from Thailand into Cambodia and next Vietnam where I tested my limits again. I was only supposed to stay in Vietnam three days and fly into Hong Kong, but with all the fun I was having I decided to stay in Vietnam and go north for a few more days. I ended up staying at a ducked off, quiet little hostel in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. While staying there, I wanted to extend my three day stay without really having to pay for a room every extra night. So I stepped out of my comfort zone again and asked if I could work there because by that time, I had already made a few friendly/business connections with some of the staff working there and they gladly accepted my offer to work for a free room. It was a different experience because prior to, I had never worked the whole time I was out there and I had always had private rooms, but now since I was working they would let me stay in the dorm rooms for free. I wasn’t a big fan of the dorms because I like my privacy; but I was interested in giving it a try since that is typically the type of accommodation you get when at a hostel. It was very different from what I was used to, but I was glad I tried it because you will never know what you do and don’t like until you try it. But it ended up being a huge success in another way because I was able to stay in Vietnam an extra two weeks and party and bullshit with random people from all over the world while trying my hand at different things and running around the country.

                Stepping out and venturing the world on my own was a complete accident the way it happened initially, but like the well-known saying, “God works in mysterious ways” really applied and came true, because one domino fell into place and the rest of the stars aligned with it. From those two separate solo vacations I took, they gave me the mindset that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and I even came home and went solo again to Bogota, Colombia for a quick getaway. Us as a people love adventure, no doubt, but it’s the unknown in the adventure that makes us revert back to our old self and shy away from it. But just like the worst can come out of the unknown when trying something different, the unknown can also make us dig deep and bring out the best in ourselves and help to inspire others to get up and find the best version of themselves. Whether that it is going out alone on a vacation, buying that object of desire to chase a passion, or setting up that business,  we all have greatness in us, it’s just on us to believe, cancel out our fears and give ourselves the chance to fly.

Written by Kevo

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