“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
― Tennessee Williams, Camino Real
I had always considered myself a “traveller.” I had a valid passport, could pack in 20 minutes and seemingly my bucket list of places to visit was never ending. But in truth, it has been a long time since I truly travelled. I went on vacation, visited friends, went back often to familiar cities, and enjoyed the requisite beach, books and booze trips. I hadn’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone, gone someplace where I didn’t speak a word of the language, or didn’t know a soul for years.
I decided in January to get back on the horse, so to speak. When I told my friends and family that I had booked a plane ticket to Thailand alone, it was met with mixed emotions. I heard, “don’t you have anyone to travel with?, “why?”, or “are you sure?” These comments were generally followed by “be safe” or a horror story of a lone female traveller who met with disaster. I was excited about the trip, so I put on a brave face and said I was fine, looking forward to it, I knew what I was doing, etc…
Honestly though over the next two months, I started to hear those voices in my head. I had doubts. Could I still travel alone? Did I still want to? Was this really who I was? Am I a traveller?
Then of course there is that pesky age thing. It’s ok in your 20’s to disconnect, to take risks, and besides there are always lots of 20 somethings with a bad case of wanderlust roaming the world’s “must see” destinations, but what about in your 40’s. Most of my friends are raising families, so the idea of setting off alone for three weeks, isn’t possible. Travel for most, seems to go from backpacks, to disneyland vacations, to tour busses. I’m not sure what solo travel in my 40’s looks like.
So with a very light backpack, a healthy dose of doubt and trepidation, I set off for Thailand.
I arrived late last night. When I awoke this morning in a hotel in Bangkok. It hit me. I’m really doing this. Over breakfast, I poured over my guidebooks, maps and travel blogs one last time. I knew eventually I had to step outside the front door of the hotel.
Was this first day everything I had imagined. Yes and no. I leaped off a moving river taxi onto a rickety pier, I got lost in old Bangkok trying to find a noodle stand I had read about (never did find it and ended up eating a granola bar for lunch), was befriended by a monk and got an impromptu guided tour of the Buddhist university, saw the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, forgot to drink enough water (its 95 degrees) and had to give myself a timeout in the only shade I could find under a scraggly tree on a street corner, wandered the amulet market, and took myself out to dinner.
I’m hoping as the days go by, I will find the answers to my questions, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the adventure of getting up each day in unfamiliar territory.