I love to travel—the freedom, the sense of openness.
Meeting new people and colliding with new cultures; sampling new foods with no care of the risk to my health; experiencing cities that buzz differently than my own and wandering through nature that has evolved uniquely to the region I’m exploring. Oh, how I love to travel!
At 24, I decided to journey to Alaska, a place that had always captured my imagination. And it didn’t disappoint with its extraordinary, breathtaking beauty. No other place or experience in my early adulthood showed me to myself with as much honesty as Alaska.
I already knew some of the challenges of travel—the missed connections, stolen passports and lost luggage. But my Alaskan challenges were different. They were challenges of the heart and soul. They were also completely unexpected and confronting in every way.
Alaska forced me to see I had a problem with alcohol.
She opened my eyes to my self-destructive behaviours and beliefs, and asked me to go deep within to find the strength to travel a new path. Alaska set me on a path of positive change that I’m still feeling the effects of today, at age 43.
Traveling solo gives us the opportunity to expand our idea of self and find the beauty in our own humanity. Courage and resilience, joy and openness, connection and curiosity and a path to healing are the gifts that have been given to me by traveling alone.
Courage & Resilience
It was the absence of the opportunity to drink almost every day—like I had been doing for the past eight years—that opened me up to the possibility that I needed to stop this self-destructive habit. Each day I faced the reality of who I was against who I actually wanted to be. I was being given a glimpse of what life could be like without self-hate. Being alone allowed me to see a side of myself I truly liked, but had never glimpsed before. Alaska created a space for me to start trusting myself. Three months of backpacking culminated in an understanding of courage and resilience; being able to face my dark and ugly ideas about myself and deciding “No more.”
Joy & Openness
Up until this trip I had never experienced such a deep and profound joy just being in the world. It was addictive—I wanted more! Being in Alaska showed me a new way of living that I hadn’t thought was possible for me. I found myself truly present for the first time. I was bruised and scared, but I was alive and ready for more of this type of living.
Connection & Curiosity
I found the people of Alaska to be as interesting as their reputation suggested. They were open, kind and a bit quirky—which I happen to like in other people. The care and genuine interest shown towards me was overwhelming and soothing to my soul. I felt close to others in a way I had never experienced, which led to me being brave enough to share my own magic. Alaska—the landscape, the people, the culture—opened up my curiosity for life beyond fear and self-imposed restrictions.
A Path to Healing
It was not my intention to set out on a journey of self-discovery. I did not leave home in the hope of being saved from myself. I did not travel across the Pacific to be healed from my problem with alcohol. But Alaska did save me, in ways that I am now eternally grateful for. As I slowly traversed the state, the hope I felt growing day by day for my future was extraordinary. The grandeur of the Alaskan wilderness and the people of Alaska created so many unforgettable moments.
I changed or maybe it’s more accurate to say I opened up to life in all the right ways. Those changes set up a lifetime of access to a part of me I know I can always rely on in times of fear, sorrow or difficulty. By the time I returned home, I had stopped drinking. I started a spiritual journey that continues to this day. I read Buddhist texts, practice yoga and eat organic.
For me the true beauty of travel is the internal journey that stirs within us—it’s at the heart of travel’s allure. But a solo journey has the potential to expand us beyond our imagining.
So travel whenever you can—the learning and growing never end!
Author: Rachel Fry
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Hillary Boles/Flickr