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August 22, 2021

The Secret World of an Introvert Traveler.

*ahoy, slightly salty language ahead.

~

“We didn’t come all the way to Guatemala for you to sit in our hotel room and read,” a week ago he yelled.

Maybe I did. Maybe I did come all the way to Guatemala to read.

I have traveled the world solo for two years. After a shitty marriage and even shittier divorce, I stole my ex-husband’s backpack, bought a ticket, and left. It started with Paris, then New York, then Thailand and Costa Rica, followed by Belize. And now I was in a hotel room in Antigua, arguing with a boyfriend.

He meant well. The conversations he started with strangers, the offer of taking pictures for a cute couple, the small talk with the café owners. He held my hand constantly as we walked. At first I found it endearing, now I was annoyed.

We were in a small hotel room, and my introversion was in full-on panic mode. I desperately needed alone time. No one hovering. No one I had to talk to. I could feel my skin crawling. He wanted connection, constantly. I wanted space.

Like Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love,” I lay down on the floor in full breakdown mode. Dramatic yes—I wasn’t having an introvert hangover, I was having an introvert freak-the-fuck out.

Antigua is a beautiful city. But the Spanish Colonial buildings felt too constrained, too controlled. In the background, volcanos seemed to call to me. I needed my wild.

The next morning we broke up, and I hopped on a bus to San Marcos La Laguna. As we pulled out of Antigua, I saw my reflection in the window.

“There she is.”

The woman who lived on wine and cheese in Le Marais. The woman who slept in a leaky treehouse with a stray cat in Caye Caulker. The one who happily put on a backpack and simply lived. The free one. The one I was born to be.

And I settled down into a very long (and bumpy) ride over the Guatemalan highlands.

Easing from being in a traveling couple back to solo female traveler came so naturally to me. I felt lighter as I stepped onto a boat taking me to the village.

This is how we travel, we introverts.

I buy guidebooks, but they are more like makeshift scrapbooks with train tickets and pressed flowers, if anything.

Instead, I simply Be. Inhale. Exhale.

I take in every sight, smell, every smile, every flower, every bird, all of it. And then I come back to my internal space and integrate it.

This is how we become explorers of the world.

I read, I rest, I stare out the window, I wander the garden with no place to go. I walk around town. Meet medicine men. Drink tea and watch volcanoes. Stare at old Buddhas, smile at monks, swim in the sea, befriend street cats.

I remember old loves, old letters.

I think of my daughter playing in the sea and hope she sees fireflies.

I see the sky and think of the same stars over the Colorado mountains.

Rest is my birthright. Softness and stillness are my light.

And then, I go out. I am open to whatever comes my way. Experience as teacher. I am fully alive and present.
I see baskets of fruit, Mayan women with babies, flowers overhead, a juicy avocado, the pink, the green, the lavender, the stones, the sky, the lake, the jungle. Everything intermingled and twisted into perfect form. I feel it all, sense it all. Heart open. Presence overcomes me. I am alive.

This isn’t vacation, it’s an experience.

I am the sweet innocent child full of wonder dancing across the globe, and the wise old woman who sits in gratitude and grace sipping tea and reading.

My internal world composes a sweet song. It becomes me.

I am not doing, I am being.

No apologies.

Will I ever travel with a partner again? I don’t know. I came home single. Maybe someday I’ll find someone I can be left alone with. Maybe I’ll finally find someone who gets me.

Maybe someday someone will come with me, all the way to Guatemala, just to read.

~

Hearted by

 

 

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