One of my life goals was to travel alone. I thought it would be so cool. I’d get to explore a city on my own, do whatever I want, not have to be on anyone else’s time table. Just me.
Traveling alone was going to prove that I was capable, that I was strong, that I was Grown Ass Woman.
It was and did all those things. For a while.
But there comes a time when you’re traveling alone that you just want to be home. It doesn’t matter if it means going back to a town where you don’t fit in, or a roommate you don’t like, or a job that makes you die inside. You want those things because they’re familiar, because they’re easy; they don’t come out of a suitcase and they smell the way you remember.
My parents just spent a week in Shanghai with me. It seemed like perfect timing: I was eight weeks into my sojourn in China, I was starting to feel like I gelled with the country, and even though I was almost as new to Shanghai as they, I could act like a guide to some extent. We had a lot of fun.
Just a little while ago, we got in taxis. Me back to my dorm, them back to the US. And I started bawling. Seeing them leave made me realize how much I wanted to go back with them. It took all my self-restraint to not say “Take me with you! I’ll sleep on the floor in economy class, I don’t care!”
Somehow, I didn’t. I held my ground. I knew I needed to stay in China a while longer. Alone.
But I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried the whole cab ride back.
I say all this because it made me have an epiphany: The journey to becoming a Grown Ass Woman is like a really long trip you make alone in a foreign country. There are other girls out there on the same journey I am and our paths will cross occasionally, like my path occasionally crosses with other travelers through China, but this is something we most have to figure out on our own. All we have to guide us are some obscure tips written in the margins of a Lonely Planet guidebook from a generation ago.
Some days, the journey is thrilling: exciting people to meet, places to go, things to learn about yourself. Hopefully this is most days. Some days, it sucks: You have to pack or spend a day on the train or you just feel stuck and bored.
Then, there are the todays. The days where you’re frustrated with yourself and this journey and your internal monologue is screaming “Why couldn’t you have just been content at home? We were okay there. It was comfortable, it was easy, why did you have to leave? Why couldn’t you have just been happy where you were? Let’s go back. NOW.”
It’s a valid question. The answer? Because you just weren’t happy there and then. That’s all. There’s no way around that.
And so you pick yourself up and you keep going. You stand your ground. You willingly go through a bit of discomfort so you can experience some joy for once. Because even though today you just want to hide in your old life, tomorrow might be a wonderful day in your new life, and you can’t deny yourself that.
I threw out a lot of my old clothes in the past two weeks. I was always a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, a tomboy. I rarely wore pink.
Today, I’m wearing a light pink top that I wouldn’t have been caught dead in just this past May. I bought a girly hat that I would have never picked out for myself six months ago.
It’s not comfortable, but it’s not uncomfortable either. It’s just new, it’s different. Even though I will probably always pick mudding with the boys over shopping with the girls, becoming a Grown Ass Woman has included an evolution in the way I dress, and I’m learning to be okay with that. It’s new, it’s different, but frankly, it’s a little like China.
Not every day is easy or comfortable or happy. Some days, I’m going to want to put on a tshirt and jeans, just like some days I’m going to want to go home. But the important thing is that I don’t – that I stick with the journey, that I embrace the discomfort, that I allow myself this time to travel alone because what comes out of this trip is going to make me so much happier than what I had before I started out.