The Truth About Solo Travel
The thought of taking a solo trip can be scary. There’s not only comfort and assurance by traveling with others, but the ability to share memories and experiences with people from our circle.
Remove these known factors, and an individual might become quite terrified of travel.
But travel, especially solo travel, is a personal journey. And even the smallest steps can turn into giant leaps for an individual. Which is why we often push ourselves to do unsettling things.
I personally craved the ability to go abroad alone; To wander the streets and cities and (try) to blend with the crowd, to have to figure everything out by myself, and to meet new people and connect with other travelers.
See, I have no problem being alone. I actually relish in alone time. I like the distance from other people’s energies to achieve balance and focus. I find I often feel recharged after a little time by myself.
I planned a short solo holiday for myself this summer. I spent three weeks in Europe, traveling around Italy, France and England. It was my very first solo adventure, and I learned a lot. So I’m here to share my honest reflections and stories from the “other side” for those of you interested in your own solo trip!
Honest Reflections: The Truth About Solo Holidays
If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, have your doubts or worries about various aspects, or are just curious about traveling alone, here are 10 tips that will shed some light on a solo trip and help prepare you for your own adventure!
1. You’re going to be okay.
You’re not going to get “taken”, robbed, or worse. If you’re smart, organized and prepared, you will be okay. You might even have some fun! I wasn’t all that nervous that something terrible would happen to me, but I’ve seen the movies, and I watch the news, and some of those stories like to stay in the back of the mind just to toy with us. Follow your innate instinct and trust that you WILL be okay.
2. If something feels weird, tell someone.
There’s no shame in alerting someone that you’re uncomfortable or nervous. When I was in Paris, I noticed a man following me. He was watching my every move and following me from store to store. I’m not going to lie, it really creeped me out and made me uncomfortable and a little frightened.
But I used my head and made my way toward the closest touristy area: Notre Dame. I got on line and started talking with a family behind me and the couple in front of me. I made it look like I was not flustered. I even told them I thought I was being followed. And you know what? They stuck around and chatted with me until we were ready to part ways and I felt like I’d spent enough time dodging my follower. It worked!
3. You might make friends, you might not.
It depends where you go looking!. Restaurants and touristy attractions will often be filled with couples, families and people apart of groups. Not to say you won’t meet some friendly travelers here, but it’s the hostels, pubs and local spots where you’ll make friends with other travelers looking for companions.
4. You will change.
I heard a lot about how traveling alone would change me. I thought I was going to have a crystal clear “A-ha!” moment while embarking on my solo adventure. One where I suddenly realized so much about myself and who I was going to become in life.
Maybe that does happen for some people, but that wasn’t the case for me. It wasn’t until I was home and settling back into my old way of life that I felt the differences that my trip had imposed on me. I understood the subtle ways I had changed. For me… it was about feeling more worldly, more exposed, and more appreciative. I felt like I had a vast new sense of knowledge just from immersing myself in different cultures. I even felt kinder, and more open to new ways of doing things.
I can’t say these are the exact things you will experience, or feel, or become. But I can say that you’ll leave a little piece of yourself behind, and you take a new-found piece of yourself home.
5. You’ll learn the type of traveler you are.
We think of ourselves as travelers, but have we ever sat back and thought about the type of traveler we are? Luxury, adventurous, budget, fast-paced, laid-back, partier, minimalist, over-analyzer… I guess this boils down to knowing who we are as people.
You might like to dive right into tours and sites, or steer clear of the touristy areas and head for the local’s neighborhoods. You might like to move fast, or perfect the art of slow travel. You might prefer to observe rather than join in. Or to experience through food rather than through art. The beauty of solo travel is being able to find out what type of traveler YOU are.
6. You might get homesick.
Whether this is your first solo trip or your 31st, we all get a little nostalgic for certain things we’ve left behind. If you start feeling homesick, it’s important to just remind yourself that you will soon get back home! It’s even more important to not let this homesick feeling affect your experiences and adventures. There’s tons to see and explore wherever you are. So if you catch the homesick bug, get outside and do something awesome in this new destination you’re exploring! It’s the best cure.
7. Learn to deal with feeling overwhelmed.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re traveling alone. You now have to do everything by yourself, for yourself. But that’s part of the experience! Learning how, why, where, when and who.
For me, it was best to tackle everything I needed to do, one at a time, in order to not get anxious or overwhelmed: Locate metro station. Look up the stop I needed. Determine how to buy metro ticket. Find the right track number. Get off the right stop. Find hotel.
My brain worked best when I looked at each task individually and worked my way down the list. I never felt overwhelmed, but I did feel incredibly accomplished!
8. You’ll push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Isn’t that the reason we travel, after all? Whether it’s eating alone at a restaurant, trying to learn a new trade, sampling different foods, attempting to speak a foreign language, or doing a new activity… kiss your comfort zone goodbye.
9. You’ll make beautiful memories and see beautiful things.
Need I say more! Travel is an enriching experience, and the things you see and experience will stay with you always.
10. You will truly accept yourself.
From all of your weird and quirky traits to good and bad habits, you will find acceptance of all the things that make you you. You might learn new things, or resurface old things… but whatever you find out about yourself along the way, you will come to accept, love and feel proud of.
Disclaimer: This post first appeared as a guest post on The Planet D, written by me!