Good to the Last Drop

When I first started drinking coffee, I had to drink it with milk and sugar. Actually, when I FIRST started, I just had hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. I thought the taste of black coffee was the worst. Bitter and sharp, it was an assault on my tastebuds.
Then, my father told me of how my brother (in an attempt to impress his then girlfriend, now wife) taught himself to drink black coffee: he bought a large at Starbucks and forced himself to drink the whole thing. So that’s what I did, and those who know me know I am a complete junkie now (though I also know better than Starbucks, having been fortunate enough to experience the tastebud joys that are Australian and Vietnamese coffee)

Traveling solo is kind of like training myself to like black coffee. I get so many shocked reactions when I talk about traveling on my own. I think people assume, when they hear that I love to travel solo, that I’m this fearless badass who just barrels into unknown circumstances with a smile and a backpack. 

Yeah, definitely not.

There are honestly a lot of times when I travel that I’m quite anxious. Today, for example, I had to take a taxi from the airport in Danang, Vietnam. I’d read, and been warned, several times about taxi scams and I was nervous about navigating the whole thing myself. But the alternative was to walk from the airport, in the rain, for an hour.

Uh, no thanks. 

So I took the taxi from a reputable company and…

It was fine. I think the guy asked for more than was on the meter at the end but he gave up pretty quick when I handed over some cash, so it was all good. No screaming, no yelling, no stealing my stuff. I survived wholly unscathed. 

There is, without a doubt, a lot of shit that can go wrong while traveling. I find I get most anxious when moving cities. I’ve checked out of one hotel/hostel room and have no “home base”. I move from a city where I have gotten my bearings and generally grasp how things work, to a place where everything is new, confusing, and intimidating. 

But this is where the true freedom and joy of travel–especially solo travel–comes in. As I left my hostel in Hanoi this morning, the woman at the front desk gave me directions to the stop for the airport bus, which I had not previously taken (Hanoi isn’t known for its super public transit system. It has one but taxis and motorbikes are used far more often). I did not, as usual, listen particularly carefully as she explained where to go–just took in a general idea of “rights and lefts”–what could go wrong?

As it turns out, nothing did. I found the stop fairly easily, got the bus quickly, and made it to the airport 2 hours before my flight. The whole walk to the bus stop I had worried about what to do–would the bus come? What if it took a long time? What if they didn’t give me change, only had large bills? What if I had to take a taxi, how much was it supposed to cost? What if I got ripped off? What if the taxi tried to take me to somewhere else? These may seem a bit excessive but when you hear people’s crazy stories about travel (and that’s ALWAYS what people want to tell you when they hear you travel) and you’re a single, solo female traveler, you kind of can’t help but be a little wary I think. 

But I got on the bus, and had an awesome, triumphant and immediate feeling of success. I had  figured it out. I can do this! 

Solo travel is like rock climbing. You’re up on the cliff, sometimes in a secure spot, sometimes dangling on the edge. And should you fall off, you’ve got to trust that your “rope”–all your brains and guts and common sense–is going to catch you. When I went rock climbing as a kid, I always had a giddy, excited sense of relief when then rope would catch me and I knew I wasn’t plummeting to my death (not unlike my feelings while bungee jumping last year). That is a similar feeling when I’m able to navigate a tricky situation while traveling solo–I “catch” myself and the feelings of badassery overwhelm. This has not always been a strength of mine–trusting myself to handle things–and this makes the experience all the more sweet.

So sometimes the thought of going on my own, dealing with the new and unfamiliar, seems like my old perspective of black coffee–“ick, why would I do that to myself?” But I always push myself to do it and–as I have come to feel about my coffee–it is So. Damn. Good. Every. Time.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dad
    Jan 25, 2017 @ 16:02:19

    Love it😃 Well said👌Still proud of you and your “adventures”
    P.S. I bought him that black coffee in NYC😂


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