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Solo Movement Musings

Standing at a busy local Sri Lankan bus station, caught unprepared given the looming position of the front facing sun, waiting for an already late bus to hopefully arrive, I wonder how much longer my body will physically allow me to wait in this heat. No shade available if I want to keep an eye on the bus stop, sweat starts to trickle down the backs of my knees. The locals all stand sheltered by the umbrellas they were prepared enough to bring out with them to the bus stop today. I begin to feel doubly hot from the embarrassment of judging this situation so casually. Maybe the bus won’t show at all, how long could I wait in this heat? Maybe I’d have to just give up on my plans for a trip to the coast.

A local lady around-about my age edges closer, at first just from the corner of my eye I see her. Without saying anything at all, she stands just close enough to me, and at the exact right angle, that her umbrella lends its shade to my hot little head. At first, I don’t want to look at her, acknowledge her act – is this what she really intends on doing? And why? She’s close enough now that the arm she’s holding the umbrella with is brushing mine on her inhales. This can’t be accidental; I look at her and mouth ‘thank-you’. At that moment I feel I could wait for two more days right there in the hot dust for that bus. Hers arrives, and one minute later, so does mine.

My point from this story? That naturally, inherently, people ARE kind. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair experiences with rude and unkindly behaved people (locals and tourists alike) But via travelling, and perhaps fearing the opposite to be true, I’ve been met mostly by humanKIND, so much so that sometimes it’s left me in actual amazement.

I have so many versions of the umbrella story that I’ve encountered flying solo…

Young rickshaw driver, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2008.

The smokey quartz tip of a Buddhist stupa, Digana, Sri Lanka, 2018.

A Hindu temple, Elkaduwa village, Sri Lanka, 2018.

A tea-picker, Elkaduwa Estate, Sri Lanka, 2018.

 

If I listened to every person who’s quite freely given their uninvited opinion on the safety of solo travel, do you know where I would have got? Nowhere.

Sometimes it AMAZES me how naturally people just spill out their fears onto you. Like a script that was written generations ago that just pops out of mouths on demand, almost unnoticed considering how oppressive it can be. I will tell you what is dangerous, and that’s people who freely rest their fears on you.

Where in the crowd of people who told me solo travelling was dangerous, was the one saying ‘But Kimberley, what about all the mind-blowingly golden souls that you’re going to cross paths with, that are going to lend you something when they’ve got nothing, do anything to show you a good time in their country, protect you, shelter you and study you like an open book of a land far away that they’ve never been to and probably never will, but want to just LEARN about.’ That little person in the crowd, where are you? Stand up, it’s time to be heard and begin to balance this out.

My second point is also this –

Your attitude and your thoughts DO effect and attract your upcoming experiences. And before anyone says it I’m not at all talking about or blaming victims here for the awful, very unlucky attacks that do happen while travelling – I myself haven’t gone without these. But what I am saying is that a calm, open-minded attitude will bring out the best in your outer environment. After all, what you see and experience is a reflection of what is inside of you. Mostly what we see is that which, we have, unknowingly, projected using all of our hundreds of little filters and ideas, culturally, genetically, learnt, conspired, spiritually, emotionally, decided.

I’ve had those days when travelling where I am in a really dark, frustrated place, and the whole of existence seems to be lending itself to making me feel worse. I go for a stroll and street dogs chase me barking, kids throw things at me, and when I get to the post office, it’s closed anyway. And in that naughty little projected moment, I honestly hate the whole of humanity and wonder why I am out here, doing this, alone.

Fast forward a few days and I try again, the same walk to the post office, the dogs are nowhere to be seen, children smile coyly as I pass, I grin and wave at people I see, and a local invites me in for some coffee. All is right again with the world. Why is that? When I walk around with an open heart and an open mind, I know that I am doing the best I can to be receptive to a positive solo travel experience.

The choice isn’t always readily available to us to have a great day (I’m working on that), but for now I can keep questioning my experiences, and consider the fact that my disposition – be it sweet, fearful, excited, full of love, could be affecting, even CREATING my solo travel reality.

Originally written for and published by Wandering for Wellness. See the original article here.

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