You probably used this word back in about the third grade to make fun of kids.
Maybe a kid you just didn't like, or the class nerd, or someone who was always whining. Or how about that kid who was abnormally afraid of things that no self-respecting third-grader should be scared of? Yeah, that kid was a weenie.
I often feel like I'm a weenie when it comes to solo travel.
I know all the great things solo travel has to offer:
- Having no one to compromise with or answer to.
- The ability to travel at your own pace.
- Self-discovery and reinvention.
- Opportunities to reach out and meet new people.
- The chance to truly immerse yourself in a place, culture or feeling.
But, honestly, just as I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a serious round-the-world backpacker, I'm not sure that I'm made for hardcore solo travel, either.
I read the blogs of some amazing men and women who are out doing their own things in all corners of the globe. Some days, I am incredibly jealous. Other days, I'm not sure what emotion I should be feeling. Do I even WANT that solo lifestyle?
It's exhausting being a weenie.
I'm not necessarily scared of the “solo” part. I'm a pretty independent person, and I have no trouble being on my own or fending for myself. I'm not scared of getting lost or robbed or taken advantage of as a solo female traveler (though these are, of course, valid things to worry about). Instead, I'm more concerned about adding the “travel” to the “solo” part.
I feel like many of the travelers whom I follow and envy can travel anywhere alone, and yet emerge with a whole horde of newfound friends. They enter a city as loners, and leave with amazing new friendships and connections. It's really THIS aspect of travel that I become envious of.
And it's the part that terrifies me.
You see, even though you may not be able to tell from reading my blog posts, I can be kind of shy before I get to know you. When I'm in my little “alone” bubble, I often feel awkward striking up conversation with a stranger, or making an effort to be social. Most of the time, I just come away feeling awkward.
I do much better in groups where I already know people and feel comfortable. Then I have no problem letting loose in Beijing techno clubs or on New Zealand dance floors, because I know I'm with people who will have my back (and who will be able to help tell the story of me getting dance-raped the next morning).
Is this shyness something I could overcome traveling on my own? Probably.
But I have some flaws that could turn away would-be travel friends on the road, too.
For example, when I get it in my head that I'm going to do something, it's very hard to convince me otherwise. If I say I'm going on a road trip next summer across the U.S., you had better believe that it's going to happen.
This isn't to say that I can't compromise, or change my travel plans at the last minute; I can absolutely do these things. I can also just be incredibly stubborn.
Another “flaw” of mine (and be prepared, this might come as a shock) is that I don't really drink. All those amazing buckets of alcohol that bloggers wax nostalgic about from Thailand? Yeah, those are of no interest to me. I've never been much of a party girl (though I'll gladly GO to parties), and I hate the taste of alcohol. (Does this make me a weenie, too?)
I'm afraid that my quiet, stubborn personality coupled with my lack of interest in getting drunk means that I won't get along with other travelers.
Or, more to the point, I worry that they just won't like me. I worry that they'll label me as uptight or boring before bothering to get to know me.
I guess I'm a pretty self-conscious weenie.
As it turns out, I want people to like me. I can pretend to be independent and harbor a “I don't care what you think” attitude, but, at the end of the day, I'm afraid of rejection. I DO care what you think.
I'm not afraid to bungy jump or visit a country where I don't speak the language. I'm not even afraid to move halfway around the world completely on my own.
But the thought of traveling solo for an extended period of time, relying on strangers to befriend me along the way? That scares me a little.
I worry that the solo experience won't live up to my expectations.
I worry that I won't live up to my expectations.
So, really, when it comes down to it, I'm just a big weenie when it comes to solo travel.
There is some consolation, though. Because those kids we labeled “weenies” in third grade often turned out to be pretty cool later on in life.
But I don't want to wait for “later on in life” and hope things turn around. When it comes down to it, there's only one surefire way to stop being such a weenie about solo travel:
To stop worrying and get out there and try it, of course.
Have you ever had fears or reservations about solo travel? Have you ever felt like a weenie? If so, how did you cope with these feelings?