Why Traveling Solo Doesn’t Mean Traveling Alone
When people find out I’m going to be traveling alone, the first thing they say is “Won’t you be lonely?” I am here to tell you that I have never felt so connected than when I have been traveling alone. A lot of people think that the more people there are around you, the less lonely you will feel. But there is something to be said about the raw openness of a solo traveler. Their days are blank slates for them to fill with whatever adventures they choose, and their hearts are open to new experiences and people.
I truly realized this in Israel. Is Israel beautiful? Yes. Is Israel deeply cultured? Without doubt. But the biggest impression that Israel left upon me is that of its people. I have never felt more connected to the world and to the humanity of humans than I did in Israel. It was there where I realized that while a goal of traveling is to see other cultures and the differences around the world, it is just as important to see just how similar we all are. No matter the duration of an interaction, with each moment my smile grew bigger and bigger, and filled my heart with that connection.
Here are just a few of the beautiful people I met in small moments in Israel, and the types of small connections that you can have abroad that can teach you more about traveling and yourself.
My first interaction with an Israeli was before I even touched the ground. I was seated next to an elderly woman named Chana on the plane. Most people give a terse smile and then go about their business for the next nine hours. Not Chana. Chana taught me and a friend from my group Hebrew. Chana told us about her family. Chana was the quintessential grandma, taking a plastic bag from her purse to have us wrap up our leftover food.
Yaffa from Jaffa
In a market in the Old City of Jaffa, I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful necklace. As I was looking, an elderly woman’s face appeared behind the display. She started speaking softly and grabbed the necklace and my hand, pulling me into the shop to try it on in front of the mirror. She told me her name was Yaffa, and that she would give me a lower price (like all great salespeople in markets do). She was the type of person you want to spend more time around, and reminded me of my grandmother. As I was getting my money out, I dropped it and bent down to pick it up to give her. Before I could, Yaffa bent down, scooped it up, kissed it, placed it on my forehead as I was still bent, before I could stand up. It was simple, but I will always remember that one beautiful moment with Yaffa from Jaffa.
In my hostel in Tel Aviv there was an old man named Golan. I was confused as to why he would stay in a youth hostel. When I took the time to speak with him, I learned he comes to Tel Aviv to be there when his daughter comes home from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. He doesn’t know the exact dates so he leaves his home and stays here for a few weeks every few months, hoping their paths will cross.
On my last night in Israel, I was watching the sun set over the Mediterranean on my own, eating more rugelach than I would like to admit, and feeling afraid to come home to reality, a familiar feeling at the end of a wonderful trip. Samuel, an older man with twinkly blue eyes, silver hair, and a cigarette in his mouth blocked the sunset as he stood right in front of me. At first I thought, “Oh great, how do I get rid of this guy, he’s ruining my sunset”. But then he started to speak.
It was as if he could see my soul, and knew I needed to hear this one phrase, “Don’t let the good that has happened break you, let the good build you.” Mind blown. Samuel kept on speaking like he knew my deepest hopes and dreams for a half hour. It was then that it sunk in that my “trip” wasn’t just a tour of Israel. No, it was a journey. A journey through people’s hearts, and through the soul of the country.
Wherever you travel, whoever you meet, know that they are more like you than you know. If you open your heart and eyes, you can find some beautiful people. And know that you are not alone.