“Do you want this bottle of wine? I can’t drink two bottles of wine.”
I looked up from the Seattle, Washington map that I was studying.
A petite girl with long dark hair was directing this question to the guy next to me and not to me. Good thing she was not asking me because my idea of alcohol to get me tipsy was a wine cooler. The guy next to me looked up at her and said, “No, I do not drink alcohol because my father was an alcoholic.”
The girl’s eyes and mine met. Clearly, our eye gaze read the same thought: We were both bewildered that this guy was so open about sharing his personal business about his father. The girl then asked me and I played the game as the guy next to me of revealing all to complete strangers, “No, I do not really drink alcohol. I do not like the taste of it and, plus, I have had two kidney transplants and just want to keep healthy.”
That is when the girl and the guy next to me both stared at me. That is when I realized that this is how you get with strangers. You just start sharing your stories with strangers because you will probably never see each other again so you have nothing to lose. In a hot, stuffy, and sweltering common room in a hostel in the heart of Seattle, Washington with the fan blowing on high blast but not doing anything, these strangers and I ended up chatting about our lives. The guy who shared about his alcoholic father was from Ohio; He went on to tell us his marital woes with his wife who left him after finishing up her chemotherapy treatment. The girl was actually with her boyfriend, and they were from northern California and were here for the Pearl Jam concert. As for me, I was there in Seattle, Washington all by myself in a bare necessities hostel and in a dormitory room with three female strangers that would save me over $200 in the heart of Pike Place Market to fulfill a two-for-the-price-of-one Live List item that crept up on me about six months ago when I was making travel arrangements to go to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Transplant Games of America: Live on less and little to realize how much I truly have in my life.
Six months ago, I tried to recruit people to come travel with me, but no one could commit or no one had the financial or time off from work abilities. If there is one thing I learned long ago and I know it sounds terribly selfish, but I do not put my life on hold or wait for anyone. If I wait around or depend on someone to travel with or to do something with me, I will probably end up waiting forever. And, ‘forever’ is not something myself or any of us have. If I want to do something, I will do it—with or without anyone.
My friends and even the transplant center somewhat scolded me for traveling all alone and in not the most hygienic of places with strangers. Hostels do not get the best of reputations—especially dormitory hostels. I had stayed at hostels before, but they were either alone in the room or with a good friend. This was the first time I would stay in a dormitory setting. In fact, it was the first time ever in my life I was going to be in a dormitory setting because I did not experience that in college. Granted, hostels are not 4-star luxury hotels or even a motel, but they get the job done as a place for me to sleep, go to the bathroom, and even eat breakfast. I was going to sacrifice comfort to save money and gain life experiences.
The three strangers ended up inviting me out for weed and cannabis. Marijuana is legal in Seattle. I learned that the hard way when I arrived. I was already having a hard time breathing and was all congested in the mornings in the stuffy hostel from lack of air circulation/no air conditioner and from the scent of weed. I kindly declined. They looked disappointed. I joked, “You have extra fun whiffs for me!”
For the two nights I was in the hostel, I was sweaty and craving the comfort of my air conditioner. I was the only one to put the small fan attached to my bunk bed on full blast. Not having fresh air in the room made me all the more grateful for the somewhat fresh air when I would go out to walk in Seattle at breaking dawn. I walked more than I had walked than when I was at home. The aches and pains in my feet made me all the more thankful for now having a hip replacement so I could actually walk now more than I ever could growing up. I happened to meet a girl from Italy on a food tour who was also traveling alone. We bonded over people questioning us single women: “Oh…why are you traveling all alone? That is sad.” I am sure that if I was a guy, I would not be asked this or receive a piteous reaction.
On the contrary, traveling all alone brings you to place of such freedom. I highly recommend it to everyone. You see things, people, places, and experiences in a whole different enlightening and eye-opening light that you do not get to experience when you travel with the familiar. You talk to people you would not normally talk to. Your senses are heightened and on more of an alert than if you were with someone else. Your natural instincts kick in of who you can talk to and who you cannot and where you can go to and where you cannot where safety is put first. It is purposefully putting yourself in a vulnerable place to come out stronger and much more open to adventures and experiences. It is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, thrilling, and exhilarating. It is life on less and you gain all the more.
It is when we have little or less that we realize how much more we really have. Have you ever purposefully put yourself in a place of hardships and challenges to test your strength and abilities? Have you ever hit rock bottom only to realize how much you really have and how truly fortunate and blessed you are? When have you had ‘less’ to see how much you really have?
Keep smilin' until we meet again,