After 8 months of traveling with Nick, I am taking my first solo trip: 24 days in Costa Rica. This decision was only made 11 days ago, when I was in Auckland contemplating what to do in April after a bachelorette party in Palm Springs (Nick is staying in New Zealand for the month of April). My options were either to bum around Southern California (which I despise more than the idea of moving from Manhattan to Queens), or travel to anywhere that’s not Southern CA. I think this was a no-brainer. This is the first time I’m doing something by myself, and I don’t just mean something big and life changing. For a 29-year old, I’ve never dined alone at a restaurant, drank alone at a bar, gone to the movies by myself, taken a road trip or weekend getaway by myself, or lived by myself. I’ve always flirted with the idea of “me time”, but now that I really think about it, I’ve never really spent any time with just me, myself, and I. Since leaving home for college 11 years ago, I’ve been in long-term serious relationships for 9.5 out of those 11 years. And when I made my big move from San Francisco to New York City, I moved with a good friend who ended up being my roommate for 2 years in NYC.
So the time has finally come, I’m just 90 minutes away from boarding my first solo trip, my first experience of truly being on my own. I am excited, anxious, nervous, and curious. To be honest, I’m a little terrified; what if I hate spending time with myself? What if I find myself boring?
As I’m sitting here at LAX, eating my mediocre and overpriced bowl of yogurt and granola, my mind is spinning with questions and concerns. Even though I just spent 8 months in Asia and Oceania, I’m feeling as if this is my first international trip and the previous 8 months of travel experience is non-existent. Will people speak English and understand me? How easy will I find transportation from the airport to my hostel? Should I have made bus reservations in advance? What if I get lost? How convenient is local transportation? Is street food safe to eat? Will I make any friends? What if I get lonely or bored? How will I decide which sights to see? What if I get scammed? What if I get sick of injured, will I be able to find medical care? What if I hate where I am going?
Those are just a few of the questions floating through my head right now. I know some of them sound silly (because they are silly questions), and even though deep down I know the answers to all my concerns, I still can’t help but flood my head with thoughts as if I’m novice traveler. First off, I’m going to Costa Rica! It’s by no means a remote, off the beaten path country. It’s essentially the Thailand of Central America since it’s so popular amongst backpackers, flashpackers, honeymooners, and everyone else in between. If locals in Myanmar and Cambodia spoke English, why should I be concerned Costa Ricans will not. My 3-year high school Spanish knowledge is now limited to la cerveza, no comprendo, pollo/carne/camarones, and el baño. Even though I won’t get very far, but at least I won’t completely starve or go thirsty. And during my 6 months in Asia, I’ve never experienced any difficult finding or booking local transportation, whether it was train, bus, ferry, taxi, horse carriage, or private car. I ate street food in every country I went to in Asia, some were highly questionable, but nonetheless I survived. I traveled 5 weeks with a horrible stomach bacteria from India that resulted in me being bed bound for 28 out of 32 days and eventually a hospital visit and cancellation of traveling to the Philippines so I could recover. I’ve gotten lost in almost every country, and that often lead to stumbling upon the coolest and most surreal views, beaches, and villages. But none of this seems relevant now that I am going on a solo trip. None of the travel tips, hacks, and experience I’ve gained in Asia, India, Austalia, New Zealand is making me feel prepared for the trip I’m going to embark on in less than 45 mins.
So as I’m slowly finishing this bowl of yogurt that’s been staring at me for 40 mins now, the granola has gone soggy, I’m trying to stay calm and not completely freak out that I’m flying solo. Sure I’ll probably be nervous (and excited) every day of the trip, or every time I go to a new town, but the nerves gives me an adrenaline rush which is why I love to travel in the first place. Perhaps I’m more nervous because I’ve never been to Central America and know very little about the culture and lifestyle there. Or maybe because I’ve been away from developing countries for over 2 months now and I’ll need to make a mental adjustment. Or maybe I’m just terrified to be on my own, to face myself and my thoughts for the first time in 29 years with nowhere and no one to run to. Why is it the things we need to experience the most in life always the most difficult and petrifying? Either way, I’m finishing this damn bowl of mushy granola and boarding my flight in 20 mins. Ready or not, here I go!