It feels good to be back.
Every time I get back from travelling, I have a sense that time had passed more than it did. It’s been more than 10 years since I started travelling by myself. When I went outside of Japan for the first time, I met a old woman in Northern Thailand who said something which really got me thinking:
If I am comfortable with my life, why do I want to travel (leave the place)?
Given that human beings have instincts to make a life easier and safer, what she said totally makes sense. But at least from my experience, there are 3 main reasons to get out of your comfort zone to travel alone over with someone else: learning life skills, having a flexibility and meeting new people.
This time, I took 11 days vacations to travel to Bolivia and Brazil, mainly because I wanted to visit a place called Bonito (meaning “cute” or “beautiful”) in Western Brasil, the place I dreamed of 7 years ago when I saw the following photo:
[Blue Cave (photo from Bonito Tourist website)]
The places I visited this time are shown in red letters in the following map.
I started from Bolivia to obtain Brazilian visa in a faster and easier way (if you take normal procedure in other country, it takes around 2 weeks and you need to show a flight ticket to leave Brazil).
Well, let me apply 3 reasons within the context of this trip.
1. Learning life skills
As Japanese proverb says that “The more you love your kids, the more you let them travel”, you learn a lot from traveling. If you are on your own, especially, you have to make your ways, which needs a lot of skills. These include skills on language, communication, negotiation, math (budget making), geography (locating yourself and destination), protecting yourself, planing and organizing your plan, etc.
For example, in order to obtain Brazilian visa, I had to communicate in Spanish with people of the Brazilian consulate in Bolivia who only spoke Portuguese. And I kind of understood the basic pattern to switch from Spanish, which helped me to communicate a lot along the journey In Brazil.
Also, you have to constantly update your planing because things never go perfectly as you planned. Unfortunately, the blue cave (photo above) was currently closed because of the renovation, but I saw other amazing things there, so I am pretty satisfied.
2. Having a flexibility
The more I travel, the more I realize that I don’t know about the world, because there are so many wonderful places about which the guidebook sometimes doesn’t even address, and you find them out along the way. What I like about travelling alone is that you can change and/or add your plan (if I am with some one, I care about where others want to go or what they want to do, which don’t necessarily fit with mine)
For example, the only place I decided to go definitely this time was Bonito in Brazil; and, based on the schedule and reputation, I decided to visit Pantanal (humid jungle), Santiago de Chiquito (missionary place with great nature) and Okinawa (the town made by Japanese immigrant after the World War II).
3. Meeting new people
Along the way, you get to meet a lot of new people, both local people or other travelers, which is the virtue of travelling alone. Of course you can meet new people when traveling in a group, but I would say that the more people you are with, the harder to meet new people (people tend to talk with each other in a group).
In this trip, I met a lot of interesting people with whom I like to stay in touch. One good example is that when I was walking on a mountain in Santiago de Chiquito (Bolivia), I met a nice family (from Canada/U.S. living in Bolivia), who kindly gave me a ride down to the local town, later to Santa Cruz (300km away), and they even let me stay at their house for 2 days. Had I not traveled by myself, there would have been no space in a car.
The only shortcoming of being by yourself is that there is no one to talk to when you are eating. But if you want, you can talk to anyone around your table (which I tend to do).
Let me close this entry with some of my favorite photos of this trip. Although I admit that there is another joy in traveling with someone, I think travelling alone enables you to get you out of your comfort zone and open up your world.
[Purple sun rise@ Pantanal, Brazil]
[Transparent Prata River@ Bonito, Brazil]
[Boca da Onça @ Bonito, Brazil]
[A wild anteater @ Bonito, Brazil]
[El mirador @ Santiago de Chiquito, Bolivia]
[El arco (stone bridge) and HUMAN bridge @ Santiago de Chiquito, Bolivia]
[Japanese town in Bolivia @Okinawa, Bolivia]
[Japanese Immigrants who came all the way from Okinawa @Okinawa, Bolivia]