“Welcome to Hong Kong! I hope you can rest well!” exclaimed the receptionist as she handed me my key card. I rushed to the elevator and grinned all the way to the seventeenth floor. I hastily looked for my room along the corridor, unlocked it, and shut the door behind me. “Everyone should do this – everyone should travel alone!” I blurted out.
The trip to Hong Kong wasn’t my first time traveling alone, but it was my first one on foreign soil – in a country where I couldn’t even speak and understand the main language! I was only 12 hours into the trip, but I was already enjoying my time engaging with the locals, nervously asking for directions from people on the streets, getting into stimulating conversations about life, career and happiness with strangers on public transport, and ordering food on menus written in Chinese.
It’s been a while since I got to spend this much time on my own with absolutely no one in the whole foreign land I actually knew. I have never felt this happy to be a stranger in unfamiliar territory. Traveling alone gives you that time to have conversations with yourself – to know how you’ve been doing, to find out how much you’ve grown, to find out how stupid you’ve become, and to just take care of yourself and check on the matters of your heart.
When I got home after the trip, a lot of my friends – single ones, college students, married ones – all asked me how I felt traveling abroad on my own. I had nothing but beautiful words about my solo sojourn. I gushed about how essential it is to travel alone. Some friends were thrilled and inspired to do the same thing in time. Most of them shared with me how much they would hate being alone on trips. The thought of going somewhere with no one else but themselves horrified them. It was unimaginable, impractical and crippling for them.
This got me wondering. These friends of mine are successful in their careers, established in their families, and have stable relationships with their friends and partners. Why was the idea of traveling alone so repulsive, threatening or unappealing to them? I thought about it for a while, and finally I arrived at an answer I was at peace with.
Ah, to each, his own. Each and every one of us paint happiness in different forms. Some see it most tangible when they’re at home reading a book while listening to classical music, others find joy in busying themselves in the kitchen cooking and whipping things up, others find solace in carrying a conversation with someone for hours and hours on end! Some find joy in building a family. Some find joy in living life alone. Some find happiness in a person, some in a foreign destination, and some in the very same soil they grew up in.
Yes, for a time, I was convinced that everyone should travel alone at some point in their lives. But now, well, perhaps it’s not for everyone.