End of the year lessons on traveling alone by Krishna De La Cruz

As 2019 comes to a close I am reminiscing on my favorite accomplishments this year. One of the scariest yet most rewarding things I did was travel alone for the first time.

About two years ago I felt like everything had fallen into place for me after a lot of work, and I couldn’t see how anything could go wrong. Then, of course, life happened. I got some earth-shattering news that turned life as I knew it completely upside-down. Though things are better now, it’s taken me a lot of work to deal with the aftermath and  get to where I am today. Having had the rug swept from under me really forced me to look within myself and desperately want to grow as a person and be better to everyone around me, especially those I love. As part of my growth, I decided to create new personal challenges by doing things I wanted to do, but was afraid of doing. Traveling alone sounded so daunting, but it was something I really wanted. I’d grown up traveling with my family every year and it was something that meant a lot to me and that I saw as a bonding experience. Because I’d traveled a lot, I thought traveling alone was doable for me and I really wanted to know what it felt like to just be completely alone in a completely different place and survive.

On turning an idea into a reality

The idea of traveling alone came to me at the end of 2018 and I decided to write it down in my journal, in which I’m also writing this, and I’ve written a shit-ton this past year (highly recommend). I was absolutely terrified of actually doing it on my own, but wrote the idea down with hopes that putting it out into the universe would somehow make it more real. A couple of months later, I picked the place—Portland, Maine—the original yet lesser-known of the Portlands. It seemed like a small enough place that I could get around without much transportation, and feel safe. And I’d seen pictures of its autumn on socials, and it looked beautiful. I’d never seen a New England fall, which I’d wanted to do ever since I was little and saw pictures of deciduous forests in geography textbooks.

Once I’d written it down, I started talking to people about going on this trip. I acted as if I was going even though I was still scared and had no intention of actually booking the flight any time soon. Again, I figured that putting the words out into the world would make it more real, make it actually happen eventually. And it did.

It took me about 8 months to actually do it, but one day in August, a whole eight months after first writing it down, I woke up one morning and I booked the flight for September, around my birthday. A gift to myself. I have no idea when the fear left me or when I started to feel ready to do it, but it just happened.

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Portland

All I can say about Portland is it’s beautiful, quiet, peaceful, quaint, oh so cool, and it changed me, like any new experience does.

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I journaled a lot while there, I hiked, I walked the ins and outs of town until my feet hurt, I laid on the grass in the sun, I sat on a bench by the seaport and listened to a man play saxophone, I read, I ate lobster, I stayed at a BnB of my dreams, I cried, I laughed, I stood at the top of a lighthouse and looked out into the ocean. I also firmly believe I brought the Texas heat with me because it was an unusual 80 degrees for the time of the year. I promptly watched the sunset every night and went to bed early. My favorite two experiences though were getting stranded at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and sitting on the Western Promenade every evening to watch the sunset.

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On getting stranded and surviving

Yes, one of my worst nightmares came true on this trip. I got stranded at a state park with no phone or car. But it was one of my favorite things because I learned I can survive. I’d wanted to do some hiking, but had not rented a car since I didn’t really need one, so I took a 30 minute Lyft to this park. There were plenty of people hiking and even a school bus with kids that were on a field trip. I felt pretty safe but somewhat on alert. I had overestimated my phone which now had low battery and I didn’t have a charger. My phone died about a mile into my hike, but not before I got to sit on some rocks by the ocean and get to truly admire the park’s beauty. I knew I had to get back to the main entrance and start figuring out how I was going to get back into town. My goal was to find a park employee. The walk back to the main entrance was only a mile and a straight shot. I retraced my steps on high alert the entire time. What if I don’t find help? I was truly alone. There was no one I trusted. But yet this is what I’d wanted for myself. I wanted to be truly alone somewhere I’d never been before and I wanted to survive it. Eventually I did find a park ranger named Andy—an older gentleman who had worked at the park for almost 30 years. He helped me get back into town where I was able to charge my phone and get a Lyft back to my BnB. The lesson I learned from this experience was—you’ll survive. Just stay focused, stay calm, think logically, and buy a phone case that doubles as a charger (I have one now!).

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On watching the sunset

Watching a sunset in Portland is an event. Every evening, people walk outside their homes toward a grassy area by the bay called the Western Promenade. They sit on the grass, alone or with others, and just look at it in silence. So I did it, too. It’s hard not to compare this event to the city life that I’m used to—where the sunset is always just in the background of whatever else you’re doing that evening. In Portland, the sunset is the thing to do. It made me want to be more mindful of it here in Texas. Texas has such beautiful sunsets and I think I have to stop and enjoy them more. Portland is a quiet town but its message couldn’t be louder: stop, slow down, and be present.

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As I sat on the grass watching the sunset, I put my earphones in and I started writing in my journal. I wrote was I was seeing, what I was feeling, what I was thinking because the moment was so beautiful and I was alone and I didn’t want to forget it. I cried because in that moment I felt so accomplished and all I had was the sunset and that was enough. The lesson I learned from this experience was appreciate the world’s beauty and recognize your own milestones. Despite how hard life gets, the world is here for you and life is so beautiful.

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

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Krishna de la Cruz is currently an attorney living in Austin, Texas. She grew up on the Texas-Mexico border in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas and the Rio Grande Valley. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Minor in Spanish from Texas State University in 2014 and Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2017. While in law school, she was an Executive Editor on the The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review for Race and Social Justice where she wrote an article focused on the issue of violence against women, particularly women of color. The article is titled “Exploring the Conflicts within Carceral Feminism: A Call to Revocalize the Women Who Continue to Suffer.” During law school, she traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, where she was certified in Mexican Legal Studies at Universidad de Guadalajara.

In her spare time, Krishna enjoys reading, journaling, and hiking Austin trails. Krishna is a big enthusiast of mental health, mindfulness, physical wellness, and her Mexican heritage.

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