One of my favourite things to do on my own while visiting other cities or countries is to sit down in a café or bar sometimes, order food and beverages, and just watch. As I enjoy my meal, I keep observing people, wondering who they are (no worries, I am not that creepy, I actually talk to strangers occasionally). Usually, I try to go to places that are popular with locals, so to most of them, that place is home; they spend their lifetime here, build memories, have favourite restaurants and their secrets and stories important to them. To me, on the other hand, this place is a means to go somewhere else. It still amazes me how something so replaceable for me is of such high importance for all the other people living here.
Still, after hearing a lot of crazy travel-stories, I felt a slight pressure to do more dangerous things. But why? I am highly satisfied with my life, I deeply enjoy my food-watches, but still, it seems a little dull to a lot of people. Do I need to prove them wrong? Do I need to prove myself wrong? This deep urge to do something exciting alarmed me. What if I am not satisfied? I just had to say yes to adventure – or did I?
In the gap between what we wish to achieve on our adventures and where we stand at present, must come anxiety, humility and, most importantly, patience and waiting time. Sometimes, on our big journeys, we have to suffer before we reach our goals and fulfillment. As Nieztsche wrote in Will To Power, fulfillment does not come easy – and those things in life worth suffering for make up for our patience and torment. Ones choice to leave home and explore a foreign country is a prosperous analogy of solitude, yet is somehow associated with self-discovery.
Countless hours of waiting in airports, in said cafés, or at bus stops have given me the opportunity to reflect on being alone, although in those public places there are people present does not mean you are not alone. But are we ever really alone? Or is this world already too interconnected? On our solo adventures we find out what it truly means to live alone and what happens to us and our minds if we are not intimately employed with other humans. How does our behaviour change if we have to speak in a different language and have to overcome a natural barrier to interact? Does technology help, or would we rather hide behind our black mirrors? Basically you can be lonely anywhere in the world. Loneliness does not require actual solitude, but rather a cut from communication, interaction, and a venture into intimacy. And intimacy is key, as Viktor Frankl powerfully phrases: “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.”
The real adventure is not a jump from a plane or the hike up a mountain, it is the journey in your mind. It is the calm in all the weltschmerz-frenzy out there. The intimacy in all of the world’s disclosure. French philosopher Voltaire pointed out: “We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.” There is a constant suspense between expectation and eagerness which we accept as normal. Voltaire’s critique should open our eyes though, because what he truly means is, we need to put more emphasis on delay in a culture that is sick with pressure, speed, efficiency and productivity. And we best face these challenges alone. „Thinking about [that] is a profound and fundamental part of being human, […] the amount of time we take to reflect on decisions will define who we are. […] It is a gift, a tool we can use to examine our lives. Life might be a race against time, but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires pause. The converse of Socrates’s famous admonition is that the examined life just might be worth living.“ (- Frank Partnoy, In Wait: The Art and Science of Delay)
So indeed, I said yes to adventure; to an adventure into my mind, body and soul. Indeed, the only human being I needed to prove wrong was myself. To those fellow travelers who face being alone I wish, as malicious as that sounds, torment, suffering, and self-doubt on your way to achieving your goals – because enduring it proves to yourself that you are worth it. Your goals are worth it. You are worth it. And: you are never alone.