Friday, August 01, 2014

Viewer Question Answered: What Makes Me Travel Solo

The real question now is, what wouldn't make me travel alone....

NICK WRITES:

When did you start roaming alone, and out of curiosity, why? What has been your favorite destination?

HI NICK:

In 2006, I spent three weeks tromping through Italy, ostensibly to do some soul searching. At 27 years old, I'd already gotten off several lucrative and potentially long career paths and I didn't know what to do next. Each thing I'd done professionally ultimately bored me. Nothing satisfied my ego and my intellect at the same time. I came up with the idea to head to Europe on a lark; I'd never thought of purposely traveling alone, but none of my close friends or family could go, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't want any of them there, anyway. They would get in my mental way.

Off I went from Rome to Venice, through Tuscany, muddling through with what little Italian I'd learned from CDs. I realized quickly that I wasn't going to curl up and die because I didn't speak the language and every American who'd warned me about how dangerous it could be was completely ignorant -- most of them had only traveled on large tours, herded like cattle. I was freer to exist in the culture without friends there to keep me in a semi-detached bubble of comfort. And I made friends. I dated a waiter in Rome, made friends with a couple of ex-pats in Cortona, and when it was all said and done, the loneliest, hardest moments were the ones that taught me the most about myself.

And that's what travel is really about. It's a tool for self-discovery and introspection that little else rivals. Traveling is, I think, more about learning and experiencing yourself than learning about the destination. Being alone makes the focus sharper.

As for my favorite spot, I can't say. I can only tell you that I know there are places I'll go back to over and over, whether I'm filming. South Africa has a pull that will always tug me back. London is still my favorite city, I've been going since I was 17. Italy is certainly a country I'm terribly fond of. I'm long overdue for a trip to New Orleans, which I believe is a quintessential American city. Fiji is my favorite archipelago, hands down. But I have a lot to cover. I've been to only 19 or 20 countries in my life. I'm trying to catch up to a professor of mine that counts his in the 70s. Happy travels!

-Rachel