Discover more from The Grappler's Diary
5 Tough Lessons From Traveling By Myself
Loneliness on the road can be untamable.
I just finished 2 and a half weeks of travel through Europe.
I spent a week in Poland, where I geared up for and competed in a tournament, and then I went on an “adventure” through Italy and London.
During the week of my tournament, I was traveling with my friends, but they went home and on to other trips after the event, so I was all by myself in Italy, and I spent most days by myself in England, apart from meeting some old friends for dinner and some new ones at a Jiu-Jitsu gym in town.
Here 5 challenging lessons that I learned through my first experience with solo internation travel.
Learn to ask for help, even if you don’t know how to say it.
I was so nervous when I got to Poland that I didn’t even want to go to a convenience store by myself to buy something. I took my friend who spoke Polish with me everywhere.
I felt like a lost kid.
But when he left, I was stuck by myself. I had to figure out how to get around without knowing how to actually ask for help with words.
I had to learn to speak up for myself.
This is something that’s hard for me, but I’m trying to be better at it. I think this trip helped me with this a lot because I had no choice but to deal with my lack of communication skills upfront.
Do first, think later.
Order the dish on the menu that you can’t pronounce.
Say “Hi” to that stranger, even if you don’t know what to say and you have the social skills of a blind Labrador.
Just go to that beautiful small town on the Amalfi Coast by yourself, even if you’re worried about getting lost. Even if you do get lost, you’ll probably be okay.
Just go to that new gym, even if everyone there is a stranger and you just competed against their coach in one of the biggest tournaments of the year.
Just go do it. You’re overthinking it.
I mean really, most of our actions have very minor worst-case scenarios. It’s our minds that make these experiences uncomfortable.
Overthinking is the single most negatively isolating human experience that you can force upon yourself. Get out of your head and go do a thing that’s scary. I don’t care if it makes you nervous.
Weird is only bad because you decided that it is.
The only difference between “weird” and “quirky” is that the quirky person has embraced their weirdness and doesn’t really give a fuck what you think about them.
The weird person is in their head. The quirky person is in reality, but they both have the same mannerisms.
When you internalize the idea that something you are doing is weird (like going out to a nice restaurant by yourself, like I did) and that weird means bad, then it feels bad.
Overthinking is the enemy of the solo traveler.
Stop trying to be Gautama, and start being you.
Weird is only bad because you think it is. Weird is only bad because you think too much.
Recognize how fucked up your environment is.
This is probably the most “political” thing I’ve ever written, but I’ll say it anyway.
In the US last weekend, there was a mass shooting in a grocery store.
I was finishing dinner with friends in London when I heard about this, and they freaked out about the event. They were really worried about what happened, they felt unsafe (even though they were all the way across the ocean), and they were embarrassed for humanity that this horrible thing had happened.
I hate saying this, but all I could think about that mass shooting was “oh fuck, not again”.
I realized through seeing these people react “normally” to this event that I’ve been incredibly desensitized to violence because of the frequency of mass shootings in the US. I hate that, but I guess I’m lucky that I noticed this sensation when interacting with my English friends.
Every time I leave America and go back, I realize that I’ve bought into this idea that “America is the greatest country in the world” when in reality, it’s probably not.
Americans don’t like hearing that though.
I can already hear the groans…
“If you don’t like America, leave!” or “People died for this flag, you can show a little respect” or whatever other bullshit people like to say to avoid having real discussions about real problems.
Every place is messed up in its own way. It’s up to the people living there to change the fucked up aspects of their society and make it better.
Travel makes you think. If it doesn’t you’re not doing it right.
When you get lonely in a foreign place, there’s sometimes nothing you can do.
I don’t drink often, but one night in Rome, I decided to get wine drunk.
I went on a food tour, paid a hundred dollars, and was served bottomless wine, pizza, and pasta. I had also just finished a treacherous weight cut the week before, so I made sure to get my money’s worth and then some.
I got smashed, and I had a great time.
However, my depression always follows me around, waiting for a vulnerable moment. One example of a “vulnerable moment” is if I get too drunk.
In the past, I’d get overwhelmingly depressed from drinking at parties and have to leave. Nowadays, my depression is much more manageable, but I still struggle with it when I drink a lot.
The second day I was in Rome, I got really lonely and really depressed. I felt ungrateful for being in a magnificent city and feeling sad, but I still felt sad.
I also couldn’t really do anything about it except wait for the feelings of loneliness to pass.
Sure, I could message random people on Tinder or go on another group tour with strangers, but none of these would have actually helped with the growing hole in my heart. What I really needed was time.
Acute loneliness is a sensation, much like anxiety. People experience it on varying levels, but it comes and goes. When you travel alone, you run a greater risk of feeling alone.
However, at the same time, solo travel is perhaps the best way to learn to deal with this sensation. I think that learning to be comfortable with your own mind is one of the most important keys to happiness.
Turn off your phone. Stop responding to texts. Stop browsing the internet. Deal with the fact that you are by yourself in a foreign place.
Deal. With. It.
Traveling is a privilege, not a right.
However, through travel, you can learn a lot about the world because able to leave your environment and enter different ones. You’re able to acquire new perspectives and learn about them.
You accept things you like and discard those you don’t. It’s just like learning martial arts, in a way.
For example, the Italian food is a little bit too much bread for me. I feel sleepy all the time after all that bread. But I loved other aspects of the Italian culture (and even Italian cuisine), like the laid-back nature of the people I met and the passion that was put into the cuisine.
I think many Americans can learn a lot from this perspective.
Maybe I’m just being idealistic, but maybe we can all learn from each other.
Other Articles From the Last 7 Days
The beauty of it. (Premium)
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter!