What I Learned About Love While Traveling Solo in Peru
I have witnessed love, dreamed of love, searched for love and run from love on my adventures traveling solo as a woman. Through my ins and outs and ups and downs on the road, I’ve garnered some insight on that crazy, sometimes stupid thing we call love. Travel can itself be testament of love. If you’re a couple on a lengthy trip, surviving the ordeal speaks volumes of your commitment to one another. If you’re traveling solo, vagabond adventures are a testament to your relationship with yourself.
I have developed an understanding of how love fits into my life only as my knowledge of my place in the world has evolved. My route through Peru last summer was a particularly significant time for me in reaching this understanding. Before I took off for Peru, I was so in love with the idea of love I thought my being nowhere close to marriage was some sign of failure. I was repeatedly reminded of this ‘failure’ by my friends’ wedding rings compared to my own,naked finger.
Little me with my big dreams and bigger, needier heart. Silly me who used to think that without love, there is something missing.
A hike through the Andes forced me to be alone with my confused heart. Bundled up warmly in many layers of clothing, walking under the twinkling skies past the Salkantay Glacier, I analyzed my timeline. I played connect the dots with the stars, and I saw that every today is a straight line and every tomorrow a forked path. But I didn’t sleep soundly that night. Bright and early, I awoke with the other hikers, three couples from different corners of the globe. Huffing and puffing with the increasing altitude, we spoke of passions and careers, love and travel, dreamed of causa rellena and hot showers.
At times, I was separated by meters and minutes from everyone else. Just me and the mountains, with the occasional passing horse. Little me with my big dreams and bigger, needier heart. Silly me who used to think that without love, there is something missing. Alone, I realized that I should only ever feel complemented by a man, not completed by him.
Looking over the ruins of Machu Picchu, I realized that I am just a mote of bones and flesh in a cosmic vacuum. I am only significant if I choose not to be insignificant. My value will not be defined by a relationship. Instead, who I am will be based on who I want to be. And who is that, exactly? I want to be an author, an actor, a runner, a risk-taker, a comedian, a cook, a traveler, a motivator, a dreamer, a doer, a daughter, a sister, a friend.
Eventually, I want to be a wife and mother. Because I do want to share my happily-ever-after with someone else. But traveling solo has taught me that my happiness now and in the future cannot be controlled by another person. Spending quality time with myself is always a wake-up call. I gain life lessons even when I’m not actively seeking them. That’s what I love most about solo travel, that it enables me to grow.
By traveling solo around Peru, I realized that in order to give myself fully to someone else, I can never lose sight of who I am. I need to always love me, and always be me. Otherwise, love will always be just out of reach.