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She Goes Solo -- She Finds Courage


Motorcycles, hot coals and tender tootsies...

But oh, what fun risks! I drove a motorcycle. Myself. For the first time ever. On hairpinning, red, dirt roads, over washed-out bridges, along teetering cliffs. Had a little accident while waving at some children. Got back on. And then, on Christmas night, in an adrenaline-powered trance, I walked over hot coals during a Chinese Buddhist ritual. I survived, feet intact, if a little tender. Felt wonderful. Each risk boosted my confidence just that much more.

Despite new fears (and the old, tested, and re-approved ones), those that might have prevented me from thriving dissolved completely. Practical ones, like the fear of flying, are gone. Flying all the way around the world on dodgy airlines, making unannounced, unscheduled landings in, for example, the United Arab Emirates have seen to that. Fear of pickpockets, kidnapping, wrongful arrest: gone. I'd seen the movies, read the papers. Can't trust cabdrivers. Can't trust the night. Can't trust the food. So I got sick. So I got ripped off. No lasting harm done.

Karen survives, she thrives...

But the most overwhelming fears, the ones I thought were inextricably part of me, were social. Fear of getting out there, making myself conspicuous, giving offense, being misunderstood, these were the sources of the most anxiety and panic before I left. I was terrified I'd be absolutely unable to meet people -- never very good at cocktail parties. I was doomed, I thought, to be alone. Thankfully, blessedly, I was wrong.

I lead a quiet life in Canada. My circle rarely grows larger. But now, after only a few months of travel, that circle has widened into a vast mandala. And I've learned that as fears disappear, room opens up for other, soul-nourishing things. I am now a mass of impressions from other worlds, imprinted with the memories of kind and loving people, fun and heartache, compassion and laughter and understanding. Was my biggest fear that I wouldn't get it? Would come home unchanged, unaffected? Maybe. That fear, too, has been challenged head on and sent to the grave.

I like my new fears--and seeing the back of the old ones. Like my little scars and empty box of Band-aids, my fears, new and discarded, are badges of honour, signs of life and of action, of me traveling the world with my heart on my sleeve, yet, somehow, safe from harm.

Her top 15 backpack stuffers...

Aside from the all-important travel documents, a couple of changes of clothing, solid walking shoes, and various good-luck charms, here are the key "can't-do-without" items you'd find if you took a peek into Karen's backpack. Don't worry. Her knife was checked through luggage. She didn't try to carry it on board.

1. Swiss Army Knife (always number one!)
Laundry soap
Picture postcard of Toronto (to showoff my hometown)
4. Alarm clock
5. Toilet paper/Handy wipes
Phrase book
Short wave radio (for sounds of home)
String (for laundry line, among many other things)
Small plastic "Zip-loc" bags (again, many uses), various sizes
Mosquito net and repellant
Travel journal
15. A Global Calling card

Ed. Note: At Journeywoman, we love juicy travel details. Click here to read excerpts from Karen's personal travel journal -- her successes, failures, fears, tears and tummy aches.

More solo travel motivation...

If you need further motivation to try solo travel, here are a few more links you might like to follow...


Keeping yourself safe and happy...

Back to She Travels Solo




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