This week was the first time I've ever traveled by myself.
In fact, I've never even been on a solo U.S. vacation or gone away on my own for even the weekend.
But alas, Nate got the opportunity to go back to the U.S. to work, and the extra income will free up our budget or allow us to continue traveling a bit longer. So it felt like the right thing to do.
I could have flown back with him. Flights were expensive but not outside of the normal budget I would have spent living and eating and entertaining myself in Lima for 9 more days. I could have seen my parents and walked my dog and eaten BBQ.
But I decided to stay.
Despite it being the scarier option, I felt like it was something I needed to prove to myself I could do.
When I made the decision, I reached out via social media for advice. Solo female travelers from all over wrote to me about safety and planning and how to make friends. They reassured me that solo travel can be liberating and fun. My friend, Stephanie, described a day of solo travel on the Spanish coast when she browsed a used bookstore and then read topless on the beach because (in her words) she's a "GROWN ASS WOMAN."
So I started to get excited.
Being on my own isn't hard. I go for walks, grocery shop, cook for myself, even go to the movies. It's a little quieter without Nate, but having the freedom to do whatever I want all the time is nice.
It's forced me out of my comfort zone on a lot of occasions. I can no longer buy time to translate in my head by asking Nate, "What do you think?"
At times walking down the street I've felt totally invisible and others like the whole world is watching me.
This week has been the week of just saying yes. I finally made myself look up the vocabulary words, go to a salon and start the awkward interaction of getting a haircut in Spanish. I felt so much better after.
I went on three (count 'em THREE) blind friend dates. I sat on some church steps and looked at my watch waiting to meet a girl I didn't know anything about (except that she's a friend of a friend of a friend). I counted the minutes and wondered how much longer I had to wait before I could convince myself that she just forgot about meeting me or had the wrong time and that's fine I'll just go home and watch Netflix anyway. She didn't forget, and she did show. We drank pisco sours and watched a bluegrass band on the street and looked at the stars over the ocean and danced at a discotech until late.
I can't say that I've learned anything earth shattering about myself this week, although it's nice to be continually reminded of a things:
1. I am capable. Despite all my anxiety and forecasting and second guessing, I'm perfectly capable.
2. It's good to do scary things. Not mug-someone-in-a-dark-alley scary but put-yourself-out-there scary. People meet you on the ledge and are happy to help. They won't let you completely fall on your face.
3. Time apart can be really good for me and Nate. We've skyped a lot, and I miss him in the bed at night, but we also have the chance to really appreciate how good we have it. He is the most important person to me, and my entire life is better with him in it. We are good to each other, and our relationship is a foundation on which we're both building unique and fulfilling lives. That's huge, and I'm very grateful for it.