I was about to turn 40 and I wanted to give myself a very special present, such as travelling somewhere far away on one of those trips which stay forever in one’s mind and soul. I chose Argentina since I’ve always wanted to travel long hours through kilometres and kilometres of nothing, traversing the deserted steppes of Patagonia. This thought brought to my mind romantic ideas of idyllic views flowing one after the other on the opposite side of the coach’s window, as a perfect match to my wandering thoughts. Violet fields with brown mountains as a background and ice blue lakes, all of this salt-peppered with scattered cattle, and those strange animals; guanacos.
I booked my flight and began my personal research on which places I absolutely didn’t want to miss, having in mind that three weeks were not going to be enough to see it all.
I was really looking forward to do this trip alone. It had been ages since the last time I took my backpack and left everything behind for a little while. I enjoy traveling with my partner or friends very much but traveling alone is a totally different experience, I am not sure if I like it more, I just need to do it now and then.
There are many reasons for choosing this way of traveling, first when you travel alone you pay more attention to what is happening around you, you are more aware of the environment and will more likely meet new people. Solo travellers tend to hang out much more with each other at backpacker’s hostels than couples or groups of friends, and if you are lucky enough to speak the language you are more willing to initiate conversations with locals at a bus stop (if only not to get bored waiting for a bus!) which will provide you a better knowledge of the history, culture and social particularities of the area.
Second it gives you more freedom to choose the itinerary and to change plans at the last minute if you feel like it.
Third, when traveling alone you have time to reflect on yourself, your life, your choices.
The best ideas and plans can naturally form themselves in your head; putting a distance between ourselves and our routines can allow us to see things more clearly from a different perspective and eventually to be able to define what really matters to us.
Sometimes, after one week of pure reality being back home, we forget very quickly the plans we made during those trips, others, the experiences of those trips will definitely change deeply the direction of our lives.
When I communicated my plans to friends, colleagues and family, I could perceive a certain amazement from some of them when I told them I was going to travel alone. Some people commented that I was very brave for doing so, others (those who know me only superficially) thought, even if they didn’t say it clearly, that I must be very lonely for travelling unaccompanied. This time I perceived certain concern from some of my close friends and family, even if they know me very well and are aware that this is not the first time I have done it. I noticed a bigger unease from them than previous times, when I was younger and perhaps more vulnerable.
I can understand this apprehension. We live in a society where the access to information is just overwhelming with the pros and cons that this implies. In just a few seconds we have access to any required info we may need for our daily life, how many kilometres there are from one place to another, which restaurants are the best ones in a city, which frequency of buses there are between this village and this other one. It’s just great. But the negative side of things is that sometimes we know too much. Incidents happening in India a few years ago would never reach our eyes and ears here in Europe, not even events happening in nearby cities. Nowadays everything is on the news, we have a constant current of depressing and scary news happening in every corner of the Earth, rapes, violence, abuses, murders, trafficking of organs, terrorist attacks, kidnappings. No wonder we are scared. At the same time, I am not sure whether these terrible things happened in the past in higher or lower numbers, maybe they happened the same or more or less frequently, but the difference is that before we were not aware of them.
We are without a doubt living a particularly black period regarding violence towards women. Again, I don’t know if this is due to the fact that we have more cases now or because we didn’t talk about it so much in the past, my point is that I understand why people are scared. I understand when my family prefers me to travel with a male friend even if he would not be able to do much if somebody decides to attack me. It is a psychological relief but a relief nonetheless.
In a way I felt a bit guilty for making my loved ones worried about me due to my decision to travel alone, but I decided not to stop enjoying life just because there is always a risk that somebody could do harm to others. My numerous trips around the world have shown me there are more good people than evil in this world and that at the same time we have to be ready for drama because you never know where it can be hidden, sometimes it can occur in the most ordinary day, just coming back from work.
Whilst I was traveling in South America I came across this new trendy topic on the web #I Travel Alone. Women from all around the world are posting their stories to incentivise other women to travel unaccompanied, in order to continue living their lives doing what they enjoy most without fear or without always expecting the worst. During this trip I met several young women traveling solo, many were doing so for a long period, 6-9 months around Latin-America. All of them were having a fantastic time and shared fascinating stories about places and people they’ve met, I listened attentively while I smiled at their own shining enthusiastic eyes. I am not sure if I can describe these women being particularly brave, I don’t doubt they all have their own fears and limitations, but what all of them definitely had in common is the urge to live fully.
If you want to live an exceptional experience in Buenos Aires and around contact Séverine Baud at www.tourf.com.ar. They organise alternative tours to escape mass tourism.
Photos: Elena de Francisco CC BY-SA 4.0