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Published: February 23rd 2019
Oh it’s been an uphill battle to get here. Much more difficult that I expected. Sure there are lthe ong flights and language barriers and such, but the biggest reason for the extra effort? I wanted to go alone. Not alone with a tour group. Not alone and then meet with friends. Alone. Solo. No one else.
Apparently, this is frowned upon in my family. Why would someone with loving friends and family choose to travel to a foreign country alone?
I figure we might as well get this discussion out of the way, so we can get on to much more interesting things, like say, the beauty of Kazakhstan!
Last year I decided I wanted the challenge, freedom and uniqueness of solo travel. I am not sure why, but it washed over me like a heat wave and no matter what I told myself and no matter how my family squawked, it never subsided. I tabled it. I toyed with it. I hinted at it. And I tried to forget it, but that was not to be.
Going by myself on a solo adventure danced around in my head whenever there was thinking space.
Trip planning popped up on my computer whenever there was a moment to scroll mindlessly. And itineraries formed in my head as did a confidence that I would not let anything stop me. I carefully chose a destination and I researched the hell out of it. I planned. I budgeted. And then I pushed it aside when family members clucked their tongues at my silly dreams.
Then the resentment set in. Why was this such a stupid plan? Because I was a woman? Because I not tough enough or smart enough? Because it wasn’t the way we were supposed to travel? Because of what people would say or assume?
Screw people and their assumptions. Screw conventional ways. Screw everyone who thought I shouldn’t do it.
I wanted an adventure. I wanted alone time. And I wanted to see Kazakhstan.
You can probably see how this was going to go. Fantasy turned to resentment which turned to anger which turned to confidence. I knew I could travel safely, comfortably and responsibly. I knew I could survive and I knew I would thrive. I just wish I knew how to convince my loved ones.
toughest part was communicating this relentless itch for a solo trip. I was worried my beloved travel partners would see it as a middle finger to them. That is certainly not the case. I love my travel companions and I cherish our shared experiences. We have memories that can never be replaced and they bond us in a way that others could never understand.
I have new camel friends that I love traveling with, I have a husband that seeks adventure and since I was in high school, my dad and I have traveled seamlessly. Traveling with my dad is like a dream. We are so in sync with each other we knew how long to spend at meals, we seek similar interests and locations and we never fight. Seriously, we have never even raised our voices at each other. I know to an outsider it sounds like I am sugar coating this relationship I have with dad, so I will stop even talking about it...
I have people to travel with, but I wanted to see what it was like to travel with just my self. How would I spend my days when there was
no consideration of others? How would I handle problems or obstacles? What would l learn about myself? What would l learn about travel?
In my mind, there was only one way to answer these questions. Pack my bags and go.
I think there is another factor in play here that I don’t want to admit and I certainly didn’t want to discuss with my family.
I had a friend who loved travel. Her means and lifestyle afforded her the opportunity to see the world and she encouraged me to join her.
We formed a loose itinerary for our future trip to Morocco. We had concrete plans to visit our friends Down Under. We toyed with when we would return to Mongolia to see the Wild Camel Breeding Center in the Gobi. She said we should get visas for Saudi Arabia. We had a list of camel adventures that involved being Stateside and being everywhere else. And we had decided we most certainly were going to Ethiopia.
We shared photos we found online. We contemplated solid timeframes. We brainstormed who we might invite along or who might help us plan our trips.
We talked about the movies we should watch beforehand and the books we must read for each destination.
We had plans to meet in Dallas for a camel training clinic and then two weeks later we were to be in India. Solid plans, like airline tickets, hotel rooms and money paid sort of plans.
Two weeks before we were to be in Dallas together she got sick. And two weeks later, when we were to be in India together, she was gone. Just like that. Gone. Forever.
She was gone. Her intoxicating spirit was gone. Her laugh was gone. And in a flash, our great plans to see the world together were gone.
She was young and beautiful and crazy as all get out. She was smart and well read. She was worldly. Her quirkinesses kept me in stitches.
She should still be here. And we should still be planning trips together. We should be discussing the many merits of camels and how we appreciate animals more than people. We should be traveling together.
I try to live without big regrets. Not in the cliche sort
of way that you drunkedly tattoo on you arm, but in the realistic sort of way that means you don’t look back on life with a big pile of what ifs and why didn’t I’s.
Last year my friend invited me on a trip to the Sinai to ride camels across the desert. I desperately wanted to go, but I didn’t. I worried about money and vacation leave and what my other travel buddies might think and I chose the responsible route. Every day since she died, I have regretted that responsible choice.
After she died and I faced the loss and the reality and the shock, I picked myself up off the ground and promised myself no more travel regrets with friends, with adventures and certainly not with myself. In that moment, I pulled out the research I had done last summer for my desired solo trip, I took a deep breath and I put it on my calendar.
I know my family and many of my friends still don’t have a clear undestanding of why I am sitting in Kazakhstan by myself with a smile on my face and an air of contentment,
but I know my friend would understand and I know I owe her for giving me the strength to chase my travel dreams, even if they take me to Kazakhstan. Alone.
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