Nov 13, 2016
By Sari Latomaa
Interesting Strangers in transit through the USA
I used to dread traveling alone. I mean lets’ face it, sitting alone at an airport waiting for a flight, exhausted, trying to avoid talking to strangers you simply do not have the energy to communicate with is no one’s favorite pastime. At least not mine. I used to find it awkward, like all the other passengers were staring at me, judging me because I did not have a group of friends or family around me. Sometimes I was judging myself too, wondering what on earth was I doing, spending my time at yet another airport in the middle of nowhere, going to a city I had never been to before, only to wander around all by myself, since clearly I did not know anyone there. My family and friends, whom I gladly would have welcomed with me on my adventures but who unfortunately were not very keen on traveling with me, kept asking why I was going where I was going, with who, and every time I replied “alone”, they looked at me like I had gone nuts. Why would you travel somewhere you’ve never been to and know nothing about, completely alone, for no apparent reason? Yes, there were times when I myself questioned my sanity.
But there is a flipside to wandering around in a strange city all by yourself. It’s refreshing. Fascinating. Freeing. Empowering even. Watching the waves on the beach of Wilmington, admiring wonderful art and beautiful old buildings in Boston or sipping morning coffee at Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Thinking back, I don’t remember being lonely. I don’t remember feeling awkward or out of place. No, thinking back just makes me smile. What I remember is the warm wind and the salty smell of the ocean; the music, and the laughter; the smell of the coffee, the orchestra playing and how much I loved that little pink house with a porch full of colorful flowers. The interesting conversation with that silly old grandpa at the diner, or that kind stranger letting me crash on his couch when things went wrong in El Paso and I had nowhere to spend the night. I remember that time I randomly stumbled into a dive bar to see a band somewhere in Wisconsin, and ended up spending the next week hanging out with them, selling merchandise at a festival and sipping margaritas by the pool, having the time of my life. I remember all those fascinating, devastating and heart-warming life stories of strangers I met in passing, and all those moments I would not change for the world. And most of all I remember feeling stronger, more confident. I remember feeling free. All of a sudden none of those expectations, none of those horrifying tiny boxes people around me have always tried to fit me in did not matter anymore. On that plane or that strange city, surrounded by strangers, I was finally able to just be me. To be free.
The biggest realization traveling alone has given me, is that I can do this. I will get through and I will survive, whatever it is life throws at me. I will never be what other people expect me to be, so I might as well just follow my heart and do what I feel is right. The world is a magnificent, interesting and beautiful place, and I intend to see as much of it as I possibly can. Even if it means I’m seeing it alone.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence 2016 Travel Writing Award and tell your story.
About the Author
I'm a doctorate student trying to balance my life between two countries. I have always been passionate about writing, music and traveling the world. There's too much beauty in this world to not go out and explore it.