There was a time when I had no desire to become badass. I was acquiescent and without a face tattoo. I also didn’t have the brawn to bench press over 40lbs — what was the point in trying?
Then, I met my first genuine badass. She was trailblazing, bold, and relentlessly interesting. She redefined my expectations of what a badass looked like, and I started to notice them everywhere! The term evolved to include deep-sea divers and racecar drivers, rather than bullies. It belonged to human rights activists, teachers in challenging schools, and archeologists in far flung places. Some badasses had tattoos and muscles too, but largely, they were just those who had spent their lives achieving fascinating things. That was something I wanted.
Are badasses born or made? I’d say the title doesn’t come without a fair degree of both. So how does a reasonably interesting person take the next step to becoming a badass? There are plenty of roads to take, but I’d recommend the expressway. The swiftest way I have found is to gear up, go thousands of miles away from the familiar, and get to traveling solo. Here’s why:
1. It teaches you self-reliance:
When traveling on your own, there’s no one else to defer to. Rather than passing responsibility on to a travel buddy, you are left to drive your own motorbike and fumble through French to get food on the table. The tasks once shared are all on you, kid! Sure, it can be a lot at times, but I promise you’ll come out of it feeling more capable than before.
2. It makes you insistent:
That’s right! Traveling solo will stifle your willingness to yield, for better and for worse. You’ll negotiate rickshaw fares, bargain in the souk, and navigate your way out of questionable situations. You’ll learn to take no for an answer only after you’ve heard it three times. After you travel alone, you’ll likely lead a much more assertive existence. You’ll come out knowing when to pick your battles, and you’ll be prepared to win the ones you do fight.
3. It forces you to extend yourself:
By traveling alone, you leave just about everything that consoles you behind in favor of a transformation. You’ll start each day from zero. Some days you’ll be deeply fulfilled, while others you’ll feel hopelessly lonely. Grasping at customs, cultural intricacies, and language barriers, you’re guaranteed to make some tremendous mistakes. You’ll point your toes at a Buddha statue or misuse the word “coger” in Mexico, and you’ll cringe just thinking about it. Then, you’ll move on, and come home better for it.
4. It makes you less afraid:
Before embarking on a solo adventure, you’ll probably hear cautionary tales of tropical illnesses and near-kidnappings that happened to somebody that somebody knows. Go, and you’ll learn that you can experience places that are culturally different and come out unharmed. And, you know what? You may also get amoebic dysentery. Do your research and choose places that are easy for solo travel. Then work your way up. The truth is that bad things can (and do) happen everywhere, and you simply can’t let fear stop you from going. The more you experience, the more fearless you’ll become.
5. It gives you time for introspection:
Traveling by yourself helps you find comfort in being alone. There are plenty of people who are more confident doing just about anything in the company of others, and understandably so! Being alone makes us feel weird. But if you’ve ever been by yourself long enough to explore your thoughts, you’ll realize there’s an awful lot to hear. Without a crowd of supporters, you can become what you want, confront your weaknesses, and instigate change at an accelerated rate.
6. It enables you to understand what you want for yourself:
Traveling alone helps you to understand more about what you want, free of external influence. It starts off with simple choices. Maybe you’ll learn you love eating dinner at 4p.m. or that art museums bore you. You may also discover that you’re passionate about water sanitation, powerfully empathetic, or intrigued by Hinduism. You’ll suddenly have time to practice unexplored hobbies and brand new interests, and really work at them. This is one of the best opportunities you’ll ever get to find the path you like, and follow it.
7. It allows you to understand you’re not at the center of the universe:
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but traveling on your own can really help put this truism into perspective. Traveling gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the best and worst of everything. While there are some places you’ll simply pass through, there will be others that captivate you. Perhaps you’ll find a wildlife conservation effort that you want to support or develop a love of teaching. You’ll experience luxury high rises and remote farming communities that give context to just how diverse the life experience can be. Don’t let yourself forget this, as it can be one of your most powerful motivators.
8. It empowers you to surround yourself with others who are equally badass:
Traveling independently is still one of the most confidence-building things you can do. Got stuff you want to do? Go do it, whether or not you have anyone who wants to do it with you! And when you’ve already accomplished lots of interesting things, you’ll open yourself up to more badasses like yourself. Never again should you default to being with someone that doesn’t make you better because it’s easier than being alone.
I’d say that’s a pretty good thing.