I had been thinking about Central America for a while. I had also been thinking of doing a solo trip for a while. Thing is, for my first solo trip, I had in mind more of a short weekend trip to a European city, not 3 weeks in Central America. A section of the world neither I or any of my family or close friends have been to, and speaking a language I have had shockingly little experience in. Oh, and I’m leaving tomorrow, by the way.
So why Central America? And why on Earth would I do it solo?
If you read my goals of 2015 post, you’d have seen that I wanted to experience somewhere completely culturally different. I love Europe, always will, and I think you can hardly find a better place to live in the world with so much to offer, but I felt the need to branch out, to just plop myself into something I had never seen before. I’m very sure I could still find that within Europe, obviously, but I became fixated on Central America’s laidback vibe, incredibly diverse wildlife, the beaches. A certain exoticism about it lured me in.
Honestly, I would have loved someone to come with me. As I thought about this trip for months while waiting for my Canadian working holiday visa to come through, I asked friends whether they could come, and my initial plan had my boyfriend joining for part of the trip. But sometimes things don’t work out like that, and while my friends would have loved to come, it wasn’t the right time for them. My trip had to be within the minimal time I had before leaving to move to Canada, so there wasn’t much flexibility. And due to our move, my boyfriend couldn’t get away with the time off work inbetween organising his transfer.
Overall, I wasn’t too distraught. For a while I had a feeling that a solo trip might be good for me; bring me out of my shell, improve my confidence and prove to myself that I am independent and I am capable. I always think people are so much more capable than they think. It was moving to study in Australia in 2012 that truly changed me – the thing that when I look back, I feel so proud that I just went out and did it. I had no friends out there, I planned it by myself (with help mostly from my sister) and guess what? I thrived.
One difference with that experience, however, is that I sort of didn’t feel like I had anything to be scared about until a week beforehand when I thought, “Wow, ok… what have I got myself into?!”. This solo trip, on the other hand, has had me terrified from the beginning – I know it’s only for 3 weeks, not half a year like my Australia stint, but the “solo” element in an entirely foreign place had me paralysed.
I would talk to my boyfriend Alan on Skype about the dreams I had about Central America. I would send him pictures and enthusiastically tell him about things you could do, from candlelit cave-exploring in Guatemala to surfing in the Caribbean Sea in Puerto Viejo to the excitement about sloths and warm weather. Yet I would always end my mesmerised state by saying, “It probably won’t happen, though”.
“Why not?”, Alan would say.
He told me that if I want to do it, I should. He told me that if I research it well, I’ll be perfectly safe. He told me I shouldn’t care about what anyone else thinks of it. He told me that if I didn’t go, I’ll always wish I did and he’d have to put up with my regretful whining. He made legitimate points.
And I knew he was right. Deep down, I knew it all. But day to day life gets in the way of what you want to do without you even realising. What are the reasons I’m scared? A lot of it is to do with the media’s scaremongering; the world is dangerous, look at all the terrible things happening everywhere, females aren’t safe going alone. This perception has intercepted the most individual minds, even my strong-willed family, who have their doubts and concerns. Understandably, as they’re worried for me and none of us know Central America. And what people don’t know, people tend to be scared of.
My main worry is transport. Getting from one place to another without fucking it up, finding my way around and not getting horrendously lost on my way to catch a bus. I’m worried that if something goes wrong, I won’t be the unflappable girl I want to be. I don’t want to get overwhelmed and cry. I’m a crier, unfortunately. It’s like some sort of reflex these days and to be honest, it bewilders me as much as the poor souls who get caught up in the crossfire.
I’m worried about making my connecting flight.
I’m scared of potential harrassment and my ability to cope with it.
I’m scared that I’ll feel lonely and work out I don’t like solo travel within the first few days.
I’m slightly worried I won’t meet anyone I like, but it’s a minor thing: I’m sure there will be lots of people to meet.
But with each of these, I tend to have an answer: it will work out in the end, and at least I would have done it.
Surely doing this kind of stuff is exactly what helps you figure out who you are, what you do or don’t like. Surely putting myself into these situations will make me encounter some negative things, but I can learn from them. How do we learn if we don’t take risks, if we don’t go through the experiences?
What I don’t want from life is to think “Oh, I could have done this but I didn’t”. I’m already mad at myself for not travelling as much as I could have during university. Even if it all goes wrong, at least I tried. At least I put myself out there, and to me, that’s so much better than just not doing anything.
So yeah, I’m scared. I have moments where I’m absolutely terrified and go through all the scenarios where something goes wrong. But then I find there’s not much point thinking about them, and I’m just happy that I even have something to plan, something to feel nervous and jittery over, because most of 2014 was filled with a stagnant sort of boredom. This, however, is exciting. This is something that makes me feel alive, and that’s worth everything.