Like most respondents to my survey, I'm not fearless. There are places where I wouldn't dare to go alone (without travel companions or host support). The reasons can vary: from cultural and religious backgrounds of a country to purely hygienic aspects. However, I do know other women (gender is important in this case) that are not afraid. They go on their own to the villages of Nigeria, set off on a bike trip through Russia, put on a hijab and visit the strictest Islamic states.
I always wondered what distinguished people who are capable of such daring travels? How do they manage not only to survive and stay well, but also to enjoy these journeys? I have not had the opportunity to conduct a large-scale study on the subject. But I tried to analyze my own story of becoming a traveler together with profiles of other "adventurers" I’m acquainted with (of different nationalities), and find common features.
These are some interesting points I discovered:
- They cope easily with being alone. They do not require constant replenishment from contacts with other people. They have no intense attachment to family/partner ("I can’t live without," "terribly miss," etc.)
- They have experience of long-term exposure to other cultures (studied or worked abroad, mixed marriage, emigration)
- They were (or are) successful in their profession
- They have extensive travel experience in general (not necessarily exotic: business trips, tours, etc.)
- They know one or more foreign language, have higher education, stay in good physical shape, have passion for arts (music, painting, photography, literature, etc.)
Points 1, 2 and 5 indicate that these people possess rich inner worlds (point 1, "don’t get bored on their own"). A quality, which was partly facilitated by their experience of adapting to foreign cultural and social environment (point 2), as well as by the way they were brought up and educated (point 5). Point 3 indicates a presence of reasonable confidence. Point 4 - that travelling, as well as any other activity, requires practice.
Like a turtle wears its shell, we always carry our world with us - a house built of knowledge and culture, values, norms and principles we absorbed from family, school, community and country. Like a turtle’s shell, our world can grow with us, change and renew itself. It becomes our protection against difficulties, unforeseen circumstances and unexplained events. The higher our acceptance of self is, the more comfortable we are in our own company, the better our "shell sits", the less we depend on the environment and other people, and the more energy we have to explore the world around us. In other words, an integrated, balanced and versatile personality would find it easier to cope with all sorts of stress and retain ability to act.
Imagine that you are in an unfamiliar city without a map, phone, money, passport and return ticket. Yay! The adventure begins! However, if you do feel a bit of stress, you can always hide and “hole up” a little in your world to find there your home, family, warm socks and a cozy armchair. And with new strength and self-confidence begin addressing the vital questions (eg, search for the embassy).
Like any other skill, the ability to quickly find your feet, mobilize and not fall into depression and discouragement comes with experience. The best source for this is adventure travel!