Does your heart skip a beat when you think about speaking to a stranger?
Do you feel hesitant but also curious toward connecting with someone you have never met?
Vulnerability is a subject that people often overlook or never speak about.
And no, I don’t mean being vulnerable towards getting hurt or experiencing harm.
Being vulnerable means opening yourself up to others.
At the end of the day, aren’t we all just beings that are united and interconnected, that crave human connection?
Over the years I have become more open with myself and with others. The subject of vulnerability has gone from a touchy subject surrounded by stigma, to a subject I openly embrace and make a part of my brand and who I am.
I have no shame in opening up to the people I meet, and I truly love connecting and collaborating with others.
Don’t you agree that it’s a beautiful thing to allow others to get to know the real you?
I know that it might sound and seem intimidating at first. But you are the one who is creating the intimidation for yourself. It’s all about mindset.
When you begin to travel solo, you have no other choice but to break down those walls and barriers that you have constructed for yourself. Because being alone can sometimes make you feel lonely. But only if you decide to close yourself off to others.
Traveling taught me to let go of my fear of speaking to strangers. It’s like the opposite of what you learn as a kid growing up. My mom always said, “don’t speak to strangers!” But I have taken that advice and done the complete opposite.
I guess you can call me the rebel, the black sheep, the risk-taker. I am who I am – I embrace who that is and I love sharing my story with others. But I am not the only one. All solo travelers learn to do this. And it is the beauty of this nomadic lifestyle. Being vulnerable becomes acceptable.
I’ll never forget the first time I traveled on a solo backpacking trip to Thailand. Yes, I was already living in Australia, but I went away for school, and immediately had new friends around me who were all in the same boat – foreign exchange students from Canada who united and didn’t feel alone. So truly, I didn’t feel vulnerable for long.
But the moment I decided to actually get on a plane to Phuket all by myself after my first semester of teachers college finished was when I truly experimented with vulnerability. I was on my way to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language nor did I know anyone that would be there. That was the scariest and most vulnerable moment for me.
I remember landing in Phuket, getting off the plane & feeling disoriented right away. I got on a shuttle that was heading to Phuket City, where I would have to check into my hostel. My palms were sweating, the sweat was dripping down my back because of the oversized backpack I packed with a bunch of unnecessary things and the added 40 Degree humidity. Rookie backpacker error. My hands shook as I got out of the shuttle, and stepped into the busiest street that I had ever been too: Bangla Road.
I was immediately swarmed by local Thai people who were asking me to go to a ping pong show, eat at their restaurant, or go to their fancy night club. Not in that order particularly.
I didn’t necessarily look nightclub ready with the huge 60L backpack on my back and a map that I was looking through frantically trying to find my orientation.
At that moment I felt completely lost, confused, and was wondering why on earth I decided to come here all by myself. When I checked into the hostel, I was immediately greeted with a warm welcome by the staff and shown to my dorm room.
As soon as I walked into the dorm, there was a friendly guy and girl who shook my hand and asked me if I wanted to have dinner and drinks with them later.
I had just met them… I thought to myself. Why on earth were they being so friendly?
Well soon I would find out that this was the culture at hostels. People stayed at hostels because oftentimes they were traveling solo, and because everyone was in the same boat. Backpackers and solo travels had to embrace being open and friendly in order to make new friends.
Throughout the next month that I spent in Thailand, I connected with countless solo backpackers – some of them I would know for just that one day or moment, and others who would become friends. Either way, it became an exciting way to live each day. It taught me to become more open to change and to be more spontaneous.
It soon became clear to me that this would become my lifestyle choice and motto. I was always a bit shy and introverted growing up. But there was an extroverted part in me, who loved to make new friends. So I harnessed this within myself and I decided I would embrace opening myself up to strangers more.
Are you introverted yourself?
Maybe you’re an extroverted introvert like me?
Are you scared to open up to others because you might think they won’t like you, or you simply won’t have anything worthy to say?
I was like this too. I always feared judgement in terms of what others thought about me. But I realized that if I continued to live in this fear, then I would just be stuck with this negative mindset forever. I wouldn’t grow and have the opportunity to connect with people on my solo traveling journey.
Of course you might meet people on your path that you won’t always connect with and see eye to eye. But that is completely normal.
In fact, it would be abnormal if you liked every single person you met, and they liked you back. That’s just human nature – we’re all diverse and different.
But if you don’t explore being vulnerable with others, then you might just miss that amazing opportunity to make a new life long friend or even just a friendly and fun companion to come spend the day chasing waterfalls with you in Thailand.
Traveling alone doesn’t need to be lonely. I always said that my motto was: “Alone, but never lonely!”
I loved being by myself and being on my own terms while I traveled. But I also found connection when I wanted to. Therefore I was never really lonely. All humans crave connection, and that’s why so many of us choose to travel by ourselves and find out who we truly are by opening up ourselves to complete strangers.
It’s a funny concept isn’t it?
You have to leave your hometown – which is filled with your closest friends and family who apparently know you best. But when you do embark on this unknown journey, you begin to make new friends and connections with people who you would have never connected with otherwise, if you didn’t take that first initial step.
Getting over the fear of being vulnerable with others, is like getting over your first kiss. Yes, it’s damn scary and nerve-wracking. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. In fact, you forget how scary it ever was in the first place.
That’s what solo traveling and being vulnerable with others became for me – easier and less intimidating.
Traveling solo became my expertise.
I became flawless at being open and vulnerable with others.
I was excellent at finding cheap flights, finding the best deals at hostels, the best and cheapest places to eat, and the most exciting off the beaten path adventures to go on. I was an expert at doing this all by myself, as well as being my own travel agent and companion. But I also became excellent at meeting new people and connecting with others when I felt like I wanted to.
Some of my best stories of meeting people all come from my solo travel adventures. I’ll never forget that time I sat next to a gentleman from Namibia on a plane en route to Cape Town. At first, I thought about putting my headphones in and not speaking to a stranger next to me. Because, who likes to talk to strangers on planes? But instead, I saw his warm smile so I smiled back at him.
He introduced himself and asked me what I was going to do in Cape Town. My old self who would have never been open to speaking to strangers on a plane. The old me would have just avoided eye contact and put my headphones in. Instead, I got excited about sharing my story. I told him I was going to do some courses that would prepare me to get a job in the yachting industry and go kiteboarding/exploring around Cape Town, the Garden Route and eventually volunteer at a Safari.
He was so eager to hear about the exciting adventures that lay ahead, and told me about his life and struggle growing up in Namibia, and how we had become a successful entrepreneur who now constantly travels for his business.
I thought that for the next 8 hours, I would just chug back a glass of red, pop a sleeping pill, or put on 5 movies to watch. But instead, I had a conversation that went on for hours with this man. He was friendly and warm and I learned a lot from what he had to say about his experiences in life so far. I don’t necessarily remember all the details, but I do remember that feeling it gave me that as humans we are all truly interconnected. We are all united.
From that moment, I got even more obsessed with this notion of being vulnerable. I loved meeting new people and sparking up conversations. I would go out of my way to compliment a random stranger in line at the coffee shop or see if I could find something of similar interest with someone in order to strike up a conversation. I learned that being vulnerable with other human beings was like learning a new language or a new subject.
Traveling solo and opening myself to vulnerable conversations with people became my new way of life. For me, traveling solo became my education. I felt like I was finally getting my Masters in Psychology. Solo travel became my field of practical experience – getting out in the world and exploring new places & new cultures.
I’m now that person that has no problem sitting next to you and starting up a random conversation.
Are you ready to let go of the fears holding you back from opening yourself up to others?
Are you ready to see how vulnerability can truly change your life and open you up to new experiences, opportunities, and new friendships?
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Thank you for reading,
June 1, 2020