In 2018, my overarching resolution was to be more brave. Rather than write out a list of often unyielding resolutions year after year, I instead choose an intention that’s malleable enough to account for life’s ever-changing nature. In my mind, being more brave could manifest in a variety of ways: speaking up at work, setting boundaries within my relationships with family members, and simply being more comfortable with the idea of taking up space in the world. Professionally, I consciously strive to present myself as a confident leader, but at my most natural core, I am slightly fearful of the unknown, and prefer the comfort of routine and my partner by my side.
However, I’ve been through it enough times to know that true growth is really ignited when we step outside our comfort zones, and so, I made one of my more concrete goals on my list of bravery to travel alone for my first time.
I had started seeing a lot online about female solo travel and felt inspired by these incredible images I’d see and stories I’d read from strangers on social media.
Thus, I dreamt big. I proposed to my husband that maybe we take a trip to Japan, and he could do this workshop he was interested in while I traveled around by myself. I’d take pictures, meet strangers, meditate, drink juice, exercise, journal, and fully embrace the solo travel lifestyle. And while my husband found it a little humorous that I’d never even eaten dinner at a restaurant by myself let alone venture into a foreign country on my own, I had his full support.
The year went on and life filled up as it often does, leaving very little room for my very big dreams. As Fall turned to Winter, I surprised even myself by making the bravest choice I could by quitting my job of 5 years, with loose plans to freelance as a social media strategist while simultaneously pursuing photography more seriously. It was a huge leap of faith that occupied most of my time and energy, and so, needless to say, solo travel was pushed further and further to the bottom of my to-do’s and I didn’t quite make it to Japan.
As this year started, I still couldn’t shake the urge to see what all the solo travel hype was about. With much more time, though much less income, I planned a trip to visit a friend in Santa Cruz, regularly only a half day’s drive from where I live in Los Angeles. I decided against the boring straight shot drive and chose instead to take the long way; I arranged to stop one night on the coast in Cambria, and then take the iconic Highway 1 winding up the coast through Big Sur and Monterey the next day. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my podcasts. Yikes.
Admittedly, I knew it was a vastly far cry from the wild, weeks-long Bali adventures I had seen many women take online. But still, the night before I was meant to leave, suddenly my mini road trip felt mega daunting. Why take the long way? Why go alone? Why not just cancel altogether? It felt absurd to get in my car all by myself for absolutely no reason and just start driving. The more thought I gave it, I realized a lot of my concerns were fear-based, and most of my fear came from an expectation I put on myself based on the overwhelming message about female solo travel I was absorbing on the internet.
The message was clear: independent, audacious, successful women enjoy solo travel. Not only do they enjoy it, they seek it out because it fuels their creative fire. I wanted to be all of those things too – independent, audacious, and successful – but what if I don’t like it? What does that say about me?
I came up with a little mantra to relieve some of the pressure. “You don’t have to like it for it to be important.” Grammatically, I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk, but to me it meant that regardless of whether or not I enjoy it, it can still hold significance, and it’s important that I at least try. I would try it with an open mind, but I could forgive myself if I didn’t like it. In fact, I told myself that I didn’t even have to feel happy while doing it. I could simultaneously hate solo travel and be independent, audacious, and successful. My identity is not defined by comparing myself to what other women do, don’t do, like, or dislike. And so, I got in my car, and I drove. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my mantra.
Spoiler alert: I ended up loving it.
A mentor once taught me to see the significance in small battles. Each little victory would build upon the last, softening the steep path on the mountain to success. Isolated, little victories can feel inconsequential, but compounded consistently over time, they can be highly impactful. So while I didn’t go to Bali, and I didn’t meditate, journal, exercise or drink juice, I did get a little more comfortable being alone. I asked locals for tips on photography, chatted with the front desk at my motel for dinner recs, and even ate at a restaurant alone.
My newfound confidence has started rolling over into other areas of life as well – such as writing and sharing this story publicly. And so even though “BRAVE” may have been my word of 2018, I’m proud to say it’s here to stay.