Ah, Eat, Pray, Love. Is there any book that has been so simultaneously embraced and reviled by women everywhere?
To those of you unfamiliar with the book, Eat, Pray, Love is the memoir of a woman in her early thirties who was left broken after a terrible divorce. She decided to spend a year around the world: four months in Italy, where she would rediscover pleasure (EAT); four months in India, where she would meditate in an ashram (PRAY); and four months in Bali, where she would learn how to fuse the two (LOVE).
And without giving too much away, she rebuilt her soul in a beautiful way.
I read the book back in 2009 when I was just 23 and right after ending an engagement and soon later finding myself in a very passionate and chaotic relationship with an older man who 4 years later would become the father of my child. At the time the book resonated with me in ways that no other book, movie or story has ever done.
I knew I wanted to go on a solo trip myself. Some type of journey to find myself just like Liz from Eat Pray Love. But at that age I lacked the money, the strength and the clarity to take the plunge.
I started dating when I was 15. He was 23 and very abusive. After I turned 20 and gained the maturity and strength to leave him I found myself jumping from relationship to relationship with sometimes not even a week between them. I was codependent, terrified of being alone, completely addicted to the idea of love and repeatedly filling my life with drama and chaos in order to fill the void.
During these 15 years of broken hearts, failed relationships, and horrific life choices that always pushed me in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be in life, the one thing I always remember wanting to do was travel the world. I wanted to see everything. But I just never gained the courage to do so. A lot of times I did travel. But always with a man. Always because thats what HE wanted to do.
Fast forward to mid 2014 when my son’s father (the guy I dated after my broken engagement) kicked me and our 6 month old son out of his house. I was homeless, jobless, and completely emotionally shattered. It took me roughly a year to get back on my feet. I spent many nights on friends couches with my newborn, I depended on food stamps and relied heavily on my mom for support.
When 2015 came around I was in a much better place, I had rented the loft of my dreams in downtown LA, I was succeeding at my career, my writing was starting to be recognized and featured in major sites and money was starting to flow once again.
But something was still missing.
It wasn’t the desire to be in another relationship again. It wasn’t men. It was my desire to travel.
For years I had put that desire away due to boys and self created dramas and entanglements with the law. Then later came my big break up (that one that changes everything about us) and all the stress and responsibilities that came with single motherhood. But once my life started to fall back on track and I was finally emotionally stable, I knew that it was time to do what I always wanted to do. Slowly I started to take short trips. I went to 7 different states last year and 2 different countries. One of them was Costa Rica. I spent 10 days there in a solo adventure that empowered me in many ways. I stayed in hostels, I hitchhiked, I made great friends who since then have come to visit me here in LA.
But I wanted more. I wanted a longer trip to a farther destination. A place I did not speak the language. I speak Spanish so Costa Rica wasn’t much of a challenge. And thats what I ultimately wanted: a challenge for my soul.
But I also knew that I couldn’t take 6 months off work or away from my son. Time was limited so I had to plan accordingly. I then reached out to one of my girlfriends and asked her if she wanted to spent two weeks in Thailand with me. To my surprise she did and we immediately booked tickets and I booked all (non refundable) hotels. When traveling alone, I highly recommend hostels and airbnb so you can meet other people who can show you the local hidden gems of your destination. But because hostels charge per person and it was two of us traveling, we came to the conclusion that hotels would be a better option. In Thailand you can book 4 star hotel rooms for $50-60 if you go off season like we were going.
We picked the best options I could find. I paid for them and we would later figure out the details of who owed who. I sent my child to Brazil with my mom for 2 months and things were all set to go.
Then 3 weeks before our trip my friend backed out due to reasons that I rather not discuss because everyone has different morals and opinions on whats right. But I was angry, disappointed and terrified at the same time. I had spent all this money on hotels (that she obviously would no longer pay for her part), I had spent money on my kids ticket to Brazil, I had requested the days off work and I was then faced with two options: Cancel my trip as well and lose all the money I had already invested in it or suck it up and find an alternative.
If this had happened when I was younger I am positive that I would have not had the courage to venture out to southeast Asia alone. But now, at almost 31 ( and with my birthday planned to be spent in a spectacular resort in Phi Phi island), I just couldn’t back out.
I studied carefully my options, safety statistics of Bangkok, Phuket and Phi Phi and I jumped right into what I call my own Eat Pray Love Adventure. I went even further and extended my trip two more weeks to Indonesia (Bali) and Singapore.
If we are going to take a leap of faith might as well jump from the highest cliff.
So in 5 days, my month long Southeast Asia journey begins and I have to admit I am equaly excited and terrified.
Adventuring alone is exciting, but it’s also scary. But until I realized that I had places I wanted to go and no one to go with, I struck out on my own because my desire to continue traveling was greater than my fear of traveling alone.
Don’t wait as long as I did. When you are in your 20s time is your most valuable asset. Not money, not your job, but your time. Use it wisely.
If you have some place in mind and can’t find anyone to go with, take the plunge yourself. Once you make the decision to go it alone, you can get started planning your awesome solo adventure. The nicest thing about a solo trip is that you get to pick exactly everything you want. One of the best things about solo travel is that you don’t have to compromise with others on what they want from the experience. You can eat wherever you want, do whatever activities you enjoy and spend as much (or little) money you want. Everything is about YOU.
People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.
Of course, single travel has its perils too — such as safety concerns, loneliness and the dreaded single supplement. But a little preparation and common sense can save you money and get you through the rough spots. I learned this when I went to Costa Rica.
While you shouldn’t let safety concerns totally dampen your wanderlust, you should take it into consideration when choosing your destination. Do research before booking your trip to make sure the place you’re going is okay for you to travel alone.
Also, make sure you know your basic self defense moves, familiarize yourself with scams common to your destination, be aware of your surroundings, let friends and family know our itinerary and keep them updated throughout the trip so they always know where you are. Make sure you also have the necessities on you at all times in case you need to make a quick escape. This includes enough cash for a cab, a phone card, your ID, and the contact info for your accommodations. Know a few helpful phrases in the local language, such as “help”, “hurt”, “doctor”, and “hospital”. If you’re in a foreign country, know where the embassy is and roughly how to get there from areas you’ll be spending most of your time. And lastly, time your arrival and departures for daylight (especially if you’ll be lugging a big suitcase with you) so that you can try to avoid anyone wanting to steal your stuff. This was not possible for my SE Asia trip. All my flights are overnight and I don’t arrive in Bangkok, Singapore and Bali until around 2-3am. So in this case I am choosing to wait at the airport until sunrise to get a cab. This will also save me a couple nights in accommodations.
Solo adventures offer you a sense of freedom in many ways, but the most important thing is to keep yourself safe.
Lastly, document your experience. You’ll be able to give recommendations when people ask in the future. One of my favorite things to talk about with other people is where they plan to go, and to share my suggestions. Making someone else’s trip a little bit more awesome with insider information always feels great!
Traveling alone isn’t for everyone—but you should at least give a try. You’ll have a chance to completely embrace your interests and engage in some self-reflection. Remember, it’s okay to go alone.
And don’t forget to check back here and on Instagram/brisaoutloud for (almost) daily updates of my Eat Pray Love Adventure starting March 11th!