Out of My Comfort Zone… (from a first time solo traveler)
by Janette Freeman
(Fresno, CA USA)
Me in front of a temple
I’ve been traveling now for 3.5 months as a first-time solo female traveler. Up until now, I’d lived in the same place for thirty years, was married, raised three kids, and my career was a minister. To run off and do something as extreme as selling my house, my car, most of my stuff, and quitting my job to travel internationally was no easy decision.
Of course, most people thought I needed to have my hormones checked. I was either going to follow my heart and take care of my soul or lose it by satisfying the endless needs of others.
I chose me.
I’ve learned that I actually really like my own company, and have allowed my travels to be what they are, to take the color of ‘me’ whatever that turned out to be. This is my journey, and provides the opportunity to discover another layer of my own authentic expression.
I’ve always loved traveling, which normally consisted of going to some tourist destination, taking a taxi to the hotel/resort and asking the concierge for suggestions on outings and enjoying nice restaurants, pools and cocktails, or going on a cruise. It was always with my husband or family or friends. This would prove to be a very different kind of traveling.
I’ve noticed my comfort level being stretched and every time I realized that I get braver. I’ve discovered I’m always frightened when I move to a new place and have also noticed that within a couple of days of figuring things out, i.e., transportation, lay of the land, etc., I feel confident and successful. So far I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, then off to Guatemala and now I’m in Thailand.
I knew it was now time to start to take more risks and venture out beyond my comfort zone even more. I needed to do a Visa Run to Penang, Malaysia. I booked my flight and another female solo traveler that I met wanted to go with me.
I had booked a guest house (another first) which had a visa service, and after landing we decided on the bus rather than taxi in order to see more. After finally figuring out which bus to take, we got on and enjoyed the local experience. We got off not knowing where we were or where we were going, but of course, managed to figure it out. We ventured out in the very "local, colorful neighborhood" after dark, filled with budget hotels, hostels and guest houses and street food vendors until we found our place and checked into the very simple room.
By now, we are feeling very confident, like a couple of young backpackers, not afraid of anything. We found the “Little India” section of town and had the most amazing Indian food at what appeared at first glance, the sleaziest, dirtiest of places. Was I wrong - it was awesome!
The next day, we took buses, traveled to temples, did sightseeing, ate in street markets and had the time of our lives. We walked comfortably through the crazy neighborhoods after dark, eating street food and enjoying ourselves immensely. We kept commenting to each other how much braver we felt with two of us, as it helped us move through the comfort zone a little more smoothly.
I really learned something from that experience and that was that I could travel differently, I could have a great time staying in guest houses/hostels and the little villages that I would find those in would be filled with travelers like me. It was a turning point, I believe and an important one, as I begin the next leg of my journey, traveling up by trains from Bangkok to Chang Mai, and Northern Thailand.
Traveling for the first time as a female solo traveler is a growth experience on many levels, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this “adventure of a lifetime.” I’m so glad I said “Yes” to the calling of my heart.
And the journey continues….