I took my first solo trip because I was looking for a connection to myself that I couldn’t find during my day-to-day life. I didn’t take an easy route either; I went to Australia then to New Zealand, so I really pushed it with the travel time and time difference! There were a few transitional things happening in my life at that time; a break-up and a relocation on the horizon and I was trying to escape and find myself again. I had an incredible time. There were some overwhelmingly happy moments where I felt like myself again and then there was some loneliness because I was feeling vulnerable, and the time difference made it tricky to call home for some comfort. Not all solo travellers are running away; I have friends who do it to meet new people, I have friends who prioritise it for their metal health. The connection you build with yourself will be different to anything you’ve felt before. It doesn’t matter why you want to do it; I can just promise you it’ll be one of the most valuable things you ever do for yourself.
What to expect:
I had no expectations when I went away alone – I didn’t do any research about solo travel ahead of my trip but a friend gave me a book called ‘How to Travel’ and it was really lovely, a simple breakdown of taking everything as it comes and finding joy in something new each day. My overarching feeling was a nervous anticipation. It’s amazing how, when you travel with someone else or a group, you don’t tend to pay attention to the small details of the bookings or logistics or directions (unless you are the organiser of the group – which I am not). Travelling alone forces you to be incredibly present and on top of getting yourself to where you want to be, I really enjoyed this part of the trip because that fed into not having to consider a single other person before acting on something you wanted to do, eat, see, or visit. Pure unadulterated heaven. Most days I didn’t have a plan; I booked things as I found them, ate at places I stumbled across, drank beer in bars that looked fun. Spontaneity came thick and fast. Travelling alone also pushes you to talk to people you meet along the way. If you were with a friend, you wouldn’t push yourself to do this as much, if at all. There is so much joy to be found in connecting with new people you wouldn’t ordinarily cross paths in your life at home. People will ask why you’re travelling alone because some people are curious, and some people would never do it; I am always honest about wanting to explore alone and because I enjoy it/ I am a heartbroken mess.
Loneliness and fear are two emotions I have felt during trips alone. There could be a time difference which doesn’t allow you to fall into the comfort of phone calls to home. Some of the places I have been to alone aren’t safe at night. You will feel a bit lost. It can be overwhelming to have an entirely new place with new experiences at your fingertips and not know where to start. I like to wing it but if you prefer a plan then I would recommend having some organisation to your trip. I am half good at talking to strangers so if I was feeling lonely, I made my way to people. I would introduce myself, tell them I’m travelling solo and ask for any recommendations in the area to start a conversation. To help this feel easier stay in accommodation where solo travel is expected – I booked an air bnb and whilst it was lovely, there was nobody around for me to chat with easily. If you feel fear, go to people too, someone will always help you – the reception at your or another accommodation, get taxi’s if you are worried about walking around at night, stay in well-lit areas, and always walk in the road instead of on the path where you are hidden and its dark. A lot of this is common sense, you just become hyper aware when you are alone.
The benefits of solo travel far, far outweigh the uncomfortable feelings that can also follow you. It will always be the best thing I will ever do for myself and I have prioritised it ever since my first trip.