Indagare’s Hannah Small shares her inspiring story of loss and self discovery through an 11-month solo travel journey that took her through Asia, Australia and the Middle East.This interview is Part I of a new Indagare series on Solo Travel. Check back in future e-Newsletters for more, including tips for traveling alone, plus our list of ideal destinations for the solo traveler.“My parents raised me to have an amazing sense of adventure. When I was little, we rented a camper and went to Mesa Verde in Colorado, and I thought it was the coolest place in the world. We were constantly hiking, exploring museums and dreaming of far-away places. From a young age, I was taught that curiosity was a beautiful thing, and it was my job to follow it.My eyes were opened to the world’s endless possibilities when my oldest sister, Rachel, traveled to Israel when she was 17, an impressively young age. She organized it all on her own and one day, hopped on a plane and flew across the world, where she trekked through the Negev desert, swam in the Dead Sea and visited the national army. It was so inspiring to me. Traveling so far away, by yourself, was unheard of in our community. She was a regular trailblazer.
After I graduated from college, my dad sat me down and asked what I wanted to do. “Name it, and we will support you,” he said. I told him I wanted to travel, craving the euphoria I had experienced in Paris and Cape Town. So I took the plunge and began the planning process. I tried to find travel companions, but to no avail, and I knew, deep down, I had to do it on my own. I was craving a certain validation: I knew this would be the thing that would make me feel proud. While I had a general idea of my route, I made a conscious decision not to plan too much. I had become fascinated with Southeast Asia, and I knew it was an easy place to meet people. So I started there, with a one-way ticket to Vietnam and no set itinerary. It was terrifying to land in Vietnam and be by myself. My feet hit the tarmac and I thought, What have I done? In the taxi from the airport, the driver asked, “Scared?” and smiled. During my first few weeks, I experienced incredible self doubt, wondering whether I could really pull if off. But with a lot of grit and a bit of luck, I found myself completely autonomous–and completely happy–during what would become a crazy, exhausting and amazing, year-long adventure. With only a backpack, I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, India, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the Middle East. I slurped noodles at hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Saigon; dined in local homes in rural Malaysia; took a boat ride on the Bosphorus in Turkey; saw the lights of Mumbai at night; skydived along the glaciers of Queenstown; and made lifelong friends. I found such happiness in realizing: I got myself here. I remember looking around and thinking, for the first time in a long time: everything makes sense now.
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