I love being alone. I love having time by myself to read, write, wander around and take photographs, or even just watch a movie. I feel my social battery recharging whenever I can steal a little time all for myself. It makes me a better conversationalist when I do have to go and socialize with the masses.
Traveling alone is a completely different story. As a chaperon for a high school trip to Costa Rica, I feel like I really am by myself, even though I am surrounded by students most of the time. I am at a host family by myself. That means no one to pick up the slack if I can't think of anymore small talk. That means no one to vent to about the 2 year-old child at my host family's house who keeps biting me (literally leaving teeth marks). It means being a little bit nervous to walk out anywhere by myself, and that I have to go out of my comfort zone to make new friends if I want to go out at night. And most of all, it makes me dependent upon my own Spanish speaking and comprehension skills.
When the tour guides give instructions that are crucial to our safety and well being, or when the school gives a time and place to meet, it is up to me to relay this information to my students successfully. A situation like this could either make someone shut down completely, or it could be an opportunity to grow as a person and as a Spanish speaker.
Since I am in the land of Pura Vida, it is difficult not to be optimistic about everything. The people are incredibly kind and accommodating, the weather is hot, hot hot, then scenery is humbling, and the culture is one of contentment. How could I not smile, throw my shoulders back, and give it my best shot?
I am by no means a native speaker. I make tons of mistakes. I still get frustrated when I can't convey a particular thought, or when I forget a vocabulary word that I already know.
But I can have a profound conversation with a native speaker. I can finally understand Spanish in a loud bar (not an easy feat...try understanding a second language shouted over speakers pumping out deafening beats). I can make jokes in Spanish. I can easily circumlocute when I don't know the word I'm looking for. Most of all, I feel confident when I speak, and not many things slip past me when I am listening to a native speaker. No longer do I just smile and nod as I pick up one word here or there. I am working my way up the ACTFL inverted pyramid!
I give serious props to those people who travel completely by themselves, especially females. It requires courage, self confidence, and a positive outlook on life.
I hope to try traveling completely on my own at some point in my life. It would be a great opportunity for personal growth.
What are your tips for traveling alone? Would you ever try it?
Pura vida! And keep dreaming, dreamers.