I’ve just returned from an overseas trip, and am actually writing this on the plane just a few hours away from Auckland at 11,583 m / 38,010 ft because it’s not the middle of the night as my usual flights, but still day time.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at 38,000 ft

As the sun is setting on my last vacation day, I happily thought again I enjoy traveling by myself. Sure, there are moments when I turn around and wish I could share them with someone else right that instance instead of only seeing strangers, but most of the time, it is fantastic exploring new – and familiar – places without having to keep up a constant stream of conversation or wondering whether I’m taking too many photos, am slowing the other person down, or should have gone somewhere else instead. Rather, I can decide on the spot what I want to do, how long I want to stay, and whether I’d like to talk or just be quiet and enjoy the moment.

One thing that strikes me when I’m traveling with others is that I stay in my little group and am less likely to talk to chat with strangers. The group is my comfort zone, and I don’t have to speak to anybody else. Sometimes I catch myself though yearning to speak to someone else and not only be in my group. It takes effort to break free and also do things on my own without feeling bad about it. When I’m on my own, I don’t have these worries and don’t have to check in with anybody or wonder whether they feel neglected.

By traveling on my own, I’m forced to strike up conversations with others, be social, and step outside of my comfort zone. On this trip to the Pacific Northwest, and the Hawai’ian Islands, I met a bunch of wonderful people again who’ve enriched my journey, provided interesting conversations, or made me smile.

There was

  • Barb, the welder turned boat upholsterer, who rented out her second boat to share her and her husband’s passion for boats and living on the water;
  • The fire inspector from California who was seconded to Washington State to assist with investigating the many wild fires there taking a break on a quiet bay before being called to a new job;
  • Rhonda and her family who run a small farm on which humans and animals are in sync and enjoy every minute of life there;
  • Mary who rescues dogs and provides a caring home for them in the redwood forest on the banks of a river;
  • Pauline and Ted who’ve been living on Hawai’i Island for 12 years, home school their son, and are thinking of moving to Idaho;
  • Tina, a German university graduate, traveling the world before starting her teacher training course;
  • A photographer living on a lava field, growing his fruit and veggies on the lava and taking stunning photos of volcano eruptions, but not having a website because he’d like for people to come and visit him directly;
  • Sid, the aspiring dancer, who practiced with a hula hoop at the end of a lava field on the edge of the ocean;
  • Ravi and Anne who enjoy the quiet life near Waipi’o Valley after many years in the busy Bay Area fulfilling their dreams of setting up an eco-friendly and sustainable healing center and publishing a book respectively;
  • Ian from O’ahu who teaches visitors in Waimea Valley about the lei art of his ancestors and demonstrates it by working on one;
  • The Indonesian minister living in L.A. and doing medical deliveries having accumulated over 400,000 miles in just eight years;
  • Diane, who’s been a flight attendant for 25 years with Hawaiian Airlines and was very excited about her first trip to Aotearoa as her usual routes have been Honolulu-Sydney and Honolulu-Osaka recently.

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