I was broken, and dealing with burn-out, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
I hardly knew the unhappy person I’d become, and certainly didn’t want to continue walking through life with a grey thundercloud storming overhead. I had to make a change—a huge lifestyle change.
So I did. I quit my job, moved home with my parents, worked with a therapist on my emotional trauma, and prepared to travel abroad for three months on an adventure I’d always wanted to give myself but denied until that point.
It was the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
I learned new things every single day, about myself and the world around me. I hiked mountains in the Alps to test my strength, restored my energy laying on the rocky coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, biked cities end-to-end to capture all the sights, talked with strangers, laughed with strangers, laughed at myself, and ate (a lot) of delicious food.
I challenged myself to slow down, stop planning every moment, and be present.
Without the distractions of daily life, cell phones, email, social media, you name it, I could truly connect to myself, as well as the new environments around me. After almost 100 days on the road, 12 countries, and countless adventures, I flew home with a whole new perspective on the world:
Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
When I told people that I was travelling solo, the majority responded with sentiments along the lines of, “Oh, I could never do that!” I imagine these responses were mostly driven by the fear of simply being alone. And don’t get me wrong, I certainly was afraid that I would be alone with my thoughts for three months and go a little crazy. But now I understand the difference between alone and lonely. I learned how to be my own best friend, so that even when I had nobody for company, I never felt alone.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t be in a successful relationship with another person until you’re okay with just you. Being alone allows you to call every shot and live each moment according to your own desires—it’s incredibly liberating not to have the responsibility of appeasing other people. (This is coming from a total #peoplepleaser.)
Try it! The next time you’re alone with nothing to do, instead of focusing your energy on who or what you wish was there for entertainment, feel what you want to do with your time and go do it! Be your own best friend.
You are stronger than you think.
Many times along my journey, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to see how much I could handle, and guess what? Once I waved adios to fear, I was able to do more than I could imagine, and not just do, but fully enjoy.
For years, I’ve dreamt of hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps, but when I started planning my trek, I couldn’t find anyone to join me. So, I did something that scared the hell out of me—I hiked over 100 miles on my own for seven days (with zero training I might add, which I don’t recommend).
I walked for hours on end with just myself and my thoughts—and let me tell you, a person has a lot of thoughts in one day! At first, I had no idea if my body would hold up, and then I thought I might go crazy with the whirlwind of thoughts swirling in my head. About halfway through my hike, I felt the strength of what I was doing in every ounce of my body. I recognized the courage that existed within me in order to do this on my own. With each step up the mountains, I became more comfortable in my own skin. When I look back, that hike stands out as one of the most transformational experiences of my life—because I didn’t let the fear of being alone or the sheer difficulty of the trail stop me from living out a dream.
Change can be comforting.
You know that saying, “Do something that scares you every day?”
Well, I challenged myself to live that saying every single day of my trip. Each new day brought unfamiliar experiences, places, people, and moments that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Something as little as eating alone at a restaurant or saying hello to a stranger at my hostel, to as big as accepting a scooter tour from a local or jumping off a cliff into the Mediterranean Sea.
It doesn’t have to be a grandiose motion to take you out of the cozy box you’re living in. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d become to constant change until I returned home to my old environment and soon fell into a familiar routine—but I quickly learned that I can still bring change into my “regular” life by challenging myself to learn and evolve into the person I want to be, whether my surroundings are familiar or not.
Nature is essential.
In every single city I visited, I reached a point in touring when I had to find green space—to escape that concrete jungle of the day, the crowds of tourists, and the buzz of urban life.
I felt a calm wash over me as soon as the green of the trees filled my vision, and I slipped into my happiest self with grass between my toes and sun soaking into my skin. In every single city I visited, I watched other people flock to parks just as I had, and noticed as people enjoyed lazy lunches under the canopy of trees, sat in circles catching up with friends (usually with a bottle of wine), and ran after kids oozing with glee from playtime.
It’s not just me who needs this nature escape—we all do. I realized that with technology and urbanization advances, we are all becoming more connected to our devices and hiding behind our “busy” alter egos, which only seems to disconnect us from the world around us and the people we care about. Do yourself a favor—go outside today!
We are all connected.
My greatest takeaway from the trip was that on some level, we really are all the same.
It doesn’t matter the culture, location, race, economic class—at the end of the day, it seems that we want the same things out of life. We want to truly connect with those around us—to feel loved, to be seen and heard as our authentic selves, without the masks of prejudice, judgment, or the curated selves we present on the internet.
I felt this universal desire many times throughout my trip as I connected with people from around the world. I saw it in the parks as I watched people gather together and enjoy their surroundings. I realized that home isn’t necessarily a place, it’s the feeling of comfort in genuinely connecting with people and sharing your true self with the world.
Author: Colvin Hedgepeth
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron