How being left travelling alone changes a life

If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I would ever consider travelling alone, I would have laughed at your face and called you crazy. I had my list of excuses all made up: I don’t speak the language of whichever place I want to go to, I’m not brave enough to make the first move towards strangers, I could loose my phone, my credit card, my belongings and end up completely off-course.

The truth is you never know how well you can do on your own until you’re left without a choice. I was literally left alone by my initial travel buddy in the middle of Nicaragua, because having caught the dengue fever in a Costan Rican National Park, he didn’t belong on the road anymore but in a bed. I could have gone home, back to my comfort zone until he felt better and we travelled back but I decided to stay and prove to myself that maybe, just maybe, I could be the strong and independent woman as I always pictured myself becoming.

I was in Granada, Nicaragua on my first couple of days alone and completely failing at being cool about it. I couldn’t enjoy sitting by myself at a terrace, felt odd wandering the streets alone, I couldn’t encounter with the locals or go to what felt like begging for new friends. I was on my dorm bed, on my computer, eating crisps and feeling sorry for myself (#pathetic, I know). Then I looked across the room, saw my reflection in the broken mirror and it hit me: you’re in Nicaragua, Central America, and yet you have the same dirty habits you’ve had at home for the past two decades. And that was it, I was cured. I got off the bed, went outside and saw two girls having a drink at the bar. I jumped on the last stool available, ordered myself a beer and engaged in random chit chat.

Brave new world

From there on, it was the best of both worlds. Somehow as soon as I faced my fear to go towards strangers, I didn’t mind being alone so much. I liked going for cocktails with new friends on a terrace of the main square on early evenings just as much as I enjoyed going back to that same spot by myself for iced tea and a good book the morning after. I liked seeing this place so vibrant and bursting with sounds, colours and laughters at 9pm or with vendors setting their stalls, grandmas going to church or birds chirping at 9am.

Yes, some stuff was still demanding and some tricky situations became real obstacles. But I was trying. I learnt Spanish as I went ‘Ahora yo hablo un poco espagnol‘ (basically means I’m fluent), I gave up my friend’s all-set itinerary and listened to tips from strangers met on the street and I took each day as it came, the good and the bad. I literally went from control-freak to strong member of the backpacking community. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see and still did loads of researches (no journalism student can escape that necessity to know more, I’m afraid) but at least I was open to opportunities. I didn’t mind a last minute chicken bus to “that place that sounded good” where these guys I met on top of Granada’s cathedral were taking off to.

The harder times were getting, the quicker I learned how to believe and rely on myself. I still don’t complete the ‘perfect backpacker’ check list but I believe I have built strengths that’ll help me tackle bumps on the road. I am going to be okay. Just below is me just over a month later when I started bartending in a popular hostel in Leon, north Nicaragua. Once again, I jumped on the last stool, ordered a beer, engaged in random chit chat and ended up finding a family on the road.

UK, USA, Australia, Finland & France: family of newborn bartenders on top of the Leon’s cathedral

 

 

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