Growing up, I never had the desire to travel beyond the borders of New England. My barrio and my proximity to New York were always enough for me. It wasn’t until graduate school that I began to broaden my border horizons. I lived in Siena, Italy for four months, taking spontaneous weekend trips to little cities in Italy of which I had never heard.
These trips were always with friends, or friends of friends, or people I actually didn’t like all that much. As an infant traveler, I never felt safe going anywhere alone, even if the alternative was to spend five days and five nights with someone I could not stand. I credit my parents and all the American horror films where curious people of color die first for this fear.
My first solo trip was a gift from the heavens-literally.
A person I didn’t like very much and I were planning a two week-trip to multiple Southeast Asian countries. When it came time to book our flights, a mysterious glitch plagued our computers granting my friend a more direct flight to our first destination and, me, a day and a half layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I was completely terrified up until I hit that tarmac.
It was then that I realized I could do whatever the fuck I wanted to do. I could spend my time in Malaysia living my best life, with no one’s thoughts, feelings, or dietary restrictions to consider.
I hopped in cab, hired the driver for 50 ringgit (a little over $10), and told him to show me his city. I didn’t even think twice about the bombing that had happened earlier that day a block from where I was staying. Solo Traveler Mavis was less interested in fear and more interested in experiencing all there was to experience.
And I did.
I ate all the nasi goreng, smoked hashish, got a mani-pedi, saw all of the major monuments, went to two art galleries, and sat through the most amazing jazz concert. I literally got my life in a day and a half, on my own time, in my own way.
This trip was far from perfect- Malaysia was hot as fuck, the neighborhood I stayed in was super scary at night, and my computer had to be wiped after connecting to my hostel’s wifi. Despite all of its imperfections, this trip was amazing because I was fully in control of my itinerary. And though, at times, it was scary, and awkward, and lonely to be alone (dinner’s are always hard), there is no one I’d rather be alone with than myself-I am my favorite person.