Greg Audio, certified life coach and host of Optimal Relationships Daily, answers a listener's question on wanting to travel solo.
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I Wanted to Travel Solo Before the Pandemic Hit
QUESTION: “Last year, as a 25 year old, I wanted to go on a 6-month sightseeing, exercising and partying trip through Europe. I was 6 weeks into my trip (I hadn't started the partying tours yet) when I had to come home to Australia.
While I have since had amazing experiences because of coming home (including meeting my now girlfriend and spending more time with my elderly dog), and I have gone for other trips because Australia has fared well in the pandemic, I keep holding onto what I missed out on.
Specifically, I was looking forward to traveling by myself and growing individually as a person, and also going partying because I discovered my love for this later than most.
I am now almost 27 and feel I should be letting go of this, but I'm still finding it really difficult to accept because I had planned it for such a long time. How can I let this go and move on?“
GREG AUDINO: Rather than rushing right into how to let go and move on, let’s first examine the contents of your trip and what it means to miss it.
What exactly are you mourning? It’s great that you’ve acknowledged the grief you’re facing, and that anyone reading this can be reminded of the fact that grief comes in many forms. But what specifically about this trip are you grieving?
What I want you to get to the bottom of is what’s beneath your grief and the ways in which you were actually relying on this trip.
The Objectives of Wanting to Travel Solo
A good way to start this discovery would be by identifying the objectives of your trip. You mention wanting to travel solo, experiencing individual growth, and (to a lesser degree) partying. Do you feel as though you needed this trip in order to accomplish these goals? If so, why?
Can’t you pursue these objectives in other ways? Or is it possible that there was a lot of added value in pursuing these objectives in a fashion so high as a 6-month trip to Europe? If you find yourself spending more time grieving the trip than finding alternative ways to grow now that the trip is no longer happening, then it was more likely about the fun or about the story than it was about the growth.
And that would be fine! Whether this trip was interesting because of fun, flash, or learning, it’s all right to miss it. It’s all right to not be over it yet, even if a considerable amount of time has passed.
Maybe you’re having a hard time accepting the trip not happening, but can you accept yourself for having a hard time with that? To me, that’s more worth focusing on. It was a cool experience that you planned for a while and didn’t get to finish. That sucks.
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The Good News
But I’ve got good(-ish) news! You’re always missing out on something!
Why it’s good-ish: You have no hope of winning this. It’s inevitable. Maybe that helps you clear your mind, or maybe it only makes you feel worse.
Why it’s good: Just like you can’t have light without dark, you can’t miss out on something without gaining something.
This time around, your tradeoff seems pretty decent. Like you said, you had the amazing experiences of meeting your girlfriend and spending time with your aging dog. The cost was another 4+ months in Europe, which is far more replicable in the future than what you gained by missing out on it this time.
I know you already know this and that you’re grateful for what you got in exchange, but really bask in the glory of the fact that these huge parts of your life would not have happened had the trip gone according to plan. It’s powerful stuff. Sit with it.
What Have You Missed Out On If Things Had Gone As Planned?
And while you’re sitting with that, spend some time reflecting on other times than this might have happened in your life. What wonders have you experienced that would have been missed out on had things gone according to plan? That’s a fun question to ask yourself, isn’t it?
Don’t worry, it has an evil twin. After you’re done thinking about the good that has come from plans that went bust, go ahead and consider all of the stuff you might have missed out on by making the choices you’ve made.
While answering that second question may feel both difficult and depressing, it’s also extremely sobering, because it only leads back to the truth about how we constantly miss things at every corner.
I love the college I went to. I had a ton of fun, learned a lot, felt great in the environment, and really got to hone my own identity. But maybe had I gone to another school, I would’ve met someone worth spending my life with and I’d have married her by now.
I’m a big fan of work-life balance. I’m constantly out playing sports and getting outdoors when I’m not working. But maybe if I’d sacrificed this and instead gone back to school, I could’ve gotten another degree and opened more doors for myself.
You can see how there are no answers to these hypotheticals. There’s only grim and inescapable speculation.
Turning Our Focus Inward
What we can both do is surrender to this fact, and instead turn our focus towards what we want out of life and how to get it right now. And maybe in doing so, we’re unknowingly setting ourselves up for lives that will somehow turn out worse than if we’d chosen other values. Who knows? Not us.
And while we’re doing this, it’s OK for us to mourn that which we might’ve thought would’ve been best for us that didn’t work out. You can mourn the loss of your trip. But sometimes numbing the pain of mourning those specific instances comes from remembering that they’re mere droplets in an endless sea of things that we’re regularly missing out on.
We’re powerless over this.
But what we do have are some cool surprises that come along instead, and it’s in our best interest to be awake enough to appreciate them.
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