I’ve travelled by myself before. I left to go on exchange in Italy with two suitcases and the email message of a former classmate, indicating which train to take to Trento from the Verona station. I had directions to the school administration building and a list of things to do. Visit the bank, head to the police station, pick up a cell phone. I had very limited language skills and very nervous. I was not a solo traveller, nor had I had any aspirations to be one.
After the first weekend, I met the only other Canadian girl at the school and we quickly became friends. By quickly, I mean, we got wasted on amaretto and hit up our first night of Italian karaoke. I threw up on the side of the balcony and passed out in her bed. After that, we started travelling every weekend, hitting up cities in Spain, Czech Republic, Budapest, Malta, Florence and Sicily.
I visited my friend Patrick in Leuven, travelling around Belgium for five days before heading back to my dorm. My best friend from home came to visit me and we went to Paris, Stockholm, Berlin and Prague. I met my mother in Oslo before heading to Dublin, Barcelona and Venice. And finally, my godmother visited and I showed her my favorite spots in Northern Italy. Near the end of my stay, I met up with my friend’s boyfriend in Rome, before training around the coast of Italy and landing in Volterra, an ancient city high atop the Tuscan hills where I had one of the most romantic nights of my life. I visited London for the last four days of my semester before jumping on a plane to get home.
All those trips were planned. I met someone there or I was going with someone. When I decided to head to Nicaragua by myself, most people thought I was brave. My coworker called me a bad-ass. I wish I could have told them that I was terrified. I was tired of being disappointed with the people I travelled with and desperately wanted to explore another Central American country. After a hard year, I really just wanted to get lost. And to do it solo.
So, on the tenth anniversary of my grandmother’s death, I will be boarding a plane to Liberia before crossing over into Nicaragua. I don’t have anything planned (a shock to most people who knows me) and I have very little in my backpack. It seems fitting that I would be doing this on December 29th. There is no better way to honour my grandmother’s memory. She, who inspired my wanderlust, had travelled to a few dozen countries, on her own. Our styles might be a little different (I hang out in hostels, she in hotels) but I’m hoping that she can give me a little of her bravery and courage that I feel I am lacking. And while my return will be bittersweet, without the greeting of my beautiful dog that was put to sleep yesterday, I really hope I’m not disappointed with myself.