My recent decision to move to Panama for four months sounded quite a bit like my decision to move to Costa Rica for six months, or to Chile for five. I made all the travel arrangements on my own, including a stopover in Costa Rica to see my boyfriend. But when it came time to say goodbye after spending three weeks with another human being at always by side, I felt a sudden unfamiliar anxiety about venturing off on my own to a new country.
Traveling alone comes with many ups and downs. In our daily lives we rely on friends, family and co-workers to get us through our days. We often overlook how interwoven our actions and accomplishments are, and how our surroundings define who we are.
As I was sitting alone at the bus terminal in San Jose during the two hours that the bus was delayed, I started having fears of crossing the border alone with my life packed away into two large pieces of luggage. I wondered how I would find my to-be-co-worker in an unfamiliar bus stop the next day; and how would I pass 16 hours on a bus alone? Longing to crawl back to the warm, protective arms of my boyfriend, I boarded that bus and watched as my decision to put 16 hours of time and space between us became a reality.
At the Albrook bus terminal in Panama City, Panama, I stared in awe at my surroundings, which stared right back at me. “What was this little American girl doing alone in such a big place?” they questioned. I was obviously not an intimidating sight, and found it quite simple to get help from others. A taxi driver dialed my friend’s phone number on a public phone for me, a guard watched my bags as I used the restroom, and a fellow passenger offered me a ride to my new home.
Luckily, I was able to decline that offer as my new boss rolled up, as if on cue, to where I was standing in his white ford explorer with a huge smile on his face despite the early morning hours. And I knew that everything was going to be okay.
Best friends or recent acquaintances, we are never on your own in this world unless we choose to be. Traveling “alone” may allow you to forge your own unique path, but there will always be someone nearby for you to fall back on. You just have to get used to accepting the varied forms in which these people come. You never know your own limits, until you take yourself out of the comfort zone, forge new paths and let yourself rely on a stranger.