When I decided to travel alone to India for one year, many people told me why I shouldn’t. They express concerns about the cultural barrier, my safety (as a woman), and even the difficulty of dealing with a completely different language and culture alone. And I get it; they are reasonable worries. Nonetheless, all of them are fear-based. And please don’t get me wrong, as a female solo traveler, you have to be extra careful. But still, you must follow your internal intuition; mine was screaming for this experience! I genuinely believe that you can’t be stopped from pursuing what you want (in this case, a fantastic life-changing trip) just because you are too afraid something “bad” will happen.
In this personal blog post, I share a bit about my 14-month solo trip to India and why traveling by myself helped me break free from the conditioned mind I was carrying, making me grow as a whole new person. My aim is that if you have an internal call to travel alone in a strange place but are still unsure, you might feel inspired to pursue your calling by reading this article.
When you grow up in a Western country, like Costa Rica, where I am from, there is a good chance that you were raised by a society that cherishes specific achievements and luxury as a person’s success.
To give you an idea of what it was where I grew up, success by the age of late ’30s looks something like this: being married (hopefully with children), owning a house, a nice car, having a career raisin or already on the top, and please, look really good (for not saying fit) while you do it all.
Does this sound familiar to where you were raised? The pressure is real! But I am not naive. I know this scenario is not for everyone, and I understand that every society (and family) has particular pressures. Some are around one specific career, others around family, and others around money, recognition, or status. But growing up in a medium-high class of the Western World’s influence is similar to running a rat race for your whole life! And with this kind of pressure, we are creating unhappy societies.
Let’s take a look at some statistics about depression and anxiety just in the USA:
- The median age of depression onset is 32.5 years old.
- The prevalence of adults with major depressive episodes is the highest among individuals 18 to 25 years old.
- Nearly 50% of all people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
- It is estimated that a quarter of society will experience depression.
Pretty intense, ha?
Societies (and families) pressures can ruin your life if you are unaware of them.
These results make me wonder if a person can have a beautiful life if pressure and anxiety rule their life?.
Now, I wonder if you have suffered some depression before? Or if you know how difficult it is to be willing to choose a healthy and happy life if you feel sad all the time?. Actually, I have suffered some depression and many anxiety episodes in my life before. And they really, indeed, suck! So if you have, I can relate to you in that sense.
Imagine that thanks to this pressure I took for myself, I ended up developing eating disorders for 8 years (not feeding myself or puking after every meal, trying to be as lean as possible), exercising 2-3 hours daily (and feeling very guilty the days I had to skip it for some reason), I married super young because I thought that was my next step in life (I ended having a divorce 6 years later) and overall just taking life decisions according to what I thought was better to fit in the society, instead of what I truly wanted.
Seeking a new reality.
- Needed to remind myself that there is much more in this world than just trying to “fit in” and pursuing the “ideal life.”
- Wanted to break free from my conditioned mind of the society I grew up in.
- Wished for a fundamental transformation. I knew that I:
And for that, I needed to change the surroundings I was living in. I needed to be in a place with many different ways of thinking and living.
Asia, it is! … India! I thought.
And so it turned into my goal target.
How did I do it?.
I bought my freedom by taking my life savings, paying for two loans I was carrying, and closing the company I had had for the last four years. I sold everything I didn’t need, traveled to a foreign country to live in a mountain commune, and worked very long hours for six months on a role, having no expenses more than the essentials. When I collected the money for my trip, I asked for a long-term Indian visa, bought a one-way airplane ticket, and left my beautiful country and “life” behind.
14 months in India
I planned to stay for more or less six months, but once I was in India, I understood this country and its richness.
There is so much freedom in this place, diversity, cultures, social-economic status, caste system, diversity in religion, ways of thinking, and ways of living. To experience it was a beautiful constant threat to my constructed and judgmental ego. That is why I stayed 14 months, just observing, opening my heart and mind, and letting life teach me the lessons I needed to learn.
It was challenging. My conditioned mind was judging everything I saw: the injustice, the pollution, the chaos, the sickness, and the death. But the months passed, and I learned to let everything coexist without my selection or judicial intervention. I started to understand that I didn’t need to classify things as good or bad. I didn’t need to put everything inside a box because it’s not even my place to do that. So I opened my heart to the experience. For every master, I meet on the way: babas, spiritual seekers, travelers, locals, and even the solitude of a lonely traveler.
The more time I spent there, the more interested I was in breaking free from my conditioned mind and searching for value. I met so many people living such a bizarre life for me. For example, people decided to leave all possessions and family behind to live in devotion to the land and the gods. Some didn’t even want to wear clothes that society accepted. Families that decided to be nomads and traveling would become the kids’ education. I met many like-minded people from the West seeking to break free from the same thinking pattern. I had so many people that helped me in my awakening and journey, and I will be forever grateful for each one.
But why travel alone?.
Because if I had a familiar companion, I would not be as open as I was to experience all of this. When we travel with somebody, we spend most of our time with this person. Also, when you have to resolve issues, you do it together. But by traveling alone, you need to go through the (often times uncomfortable) situation of having to talk, meet and connect with strangers to have conversations. And there is where the magic relies on!. Also, being alone makes you more creative in resolving all the issues you face while traveling.
Coming back to the Western.
One year and a half after my return to the Western World, I can see how easy it is to enter the rat race again. I am, after all, (like you, too) the product of my surroundings. Nonetheless, thanks to my experience in India today, I confront much more freedom in my daily choices.
Today I understand that there is no correct or incorrect path in life. Today I can see as clearly as water that I am my master and responsible for choosing whatever lifestyle I want to follow. And also that I can change paths whenever and as many times as I want. Today I am evident that my value as a human does not lie in my career or how I look. It doesn’t have to do with my accomplishments and possessions, not the money I make. And even more importantly, today, I am constantly asking myself what is of the definition success to me and only me.
And this, my dear friend, is what I call freedom!. So if you asked why to travel alone, this is it!
Of course, my dear friend, this radical experience is not the only way to wake up. But, if you are struggling with any pressure that society (or your family or friends) puts on you (and you allow it), please step out of your little world and have an honest conversation with yourself while asking:
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS FOR YOU?.
(and not for anybody else).
I honestly would love to hear you! What is the definition of success for you?. Or have you done a crazy experience breaking free from your conditioned mind?. Please comment below, and let’s chat!
I love you, you crazy beautiful weirdo <3
Watch the ‘why travel alone’ video.
- Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017.
- Mental Health America. 2017 State of Mental Health in America – Report Overview Historical Data.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. Updated February 2019.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide. Updated April 2019.