Solo travel will be a wild rollercoaster ride with all the ups and downs necessary to make it fun. Breathtaking, nerve racking, leaving your heart beating wildly, so strong, so untamed, that all you can think of, is getting on that ride again …
Choose your path
Every morning when you wake up, you have the wonderful opportunity to choose. To choose your path. However, I often found myself straying from this path, from my ideas, because I felt I needed to spend my time with other people. In our modern world, where everything, and everyone, is connected, setting out by yourself can get you some weird looks. Somehow our society has managed to equal “alone” with “no friends” and reinforce a rather poor reputation on people doing things solo.
But too often, I was standing in front of a waterfall, sitting in a magical place, wishing to be able to stay just a little bit longer, watch the sunset, talk to a person for a few minutes without having to run after my group, eat at a different restaurant, take a different road, rather sleep at the beach than in a hotel… Too often, I found myself making compromises that I wasn’t really happy with. The day I stopped making these compromises was the day I started travelling by myself.
When travelling, the most important thing really, is to decide who you are going with. Have you ever embarked on a journey with someone who you were absolutely ready to kill after 5 days into your trip? It is rare to find someone you can spend a lot of time together with. Off the top of my head, I know exactly one person I genuinely enjoy travelling with for a longer period of time. But we’re not always in the same country, or even the same continent for a lot of the time. And if I asked you, be honest with yourself: how many times, did you choose not to go somewhere, let it be a holiday trip, or even a workshop you were interested in, because none of your friends had time? How often did you change your travel destination or plans because the friends you wanted to travel with preferred going to a different place? Stop waiting for other people to come on board and instead start relying on yourself.
I’ll be honest: it takes guts and it is not an easy journey, but setting out on your own gives you the chance to find out what you really want. In a world of constant input, of well-meant advice from friends, of advertisement for things we start believing we need, it sometimes becomes difficult to listen to our own voices, to understand our own needs. But when there is no one to ask for help, what choices do you make? When there is no one to comfort you, how do you cope with situations that don’t go as planned? When there is no one to laugh with, do you manage somehow to become your own best friend? Who are you when there is no one else around? It is a difficult art, being able to be by yourself. But once you learn to enjoy your own company, once you’ve learned how to trust yourself to make the right decisions, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want, to do exactly what you want. It may not necessarily be fun to start with, on the contrary, sometimes it is hard and you’ll feel utterly lost, but when you look back, you’ll discover how much you’ve grown, how much you’ve learned about yourself and how much you have thrived.
Because when you do, when you travel all by yourself, you’ll discover freedom in its purest form. And while freedom sometimes includes solitude, the beauty of solo-travel is that you never have to be alone if you don’t want to. When you’re by yourself, you’re more open to the world and the people around you. You are more aware. Nowadays there are so many applications such as Couchsurfing, Workaway, WWOOF just to name a few, where you can text other travellers or local people to meet them and exchange stories. But even without, there are loads of like-minded people out there, just waiting to walk a part of your journey with you. I’ve met the most amazing people while travelling solo, strangers who’ve now become some of my closest friends.
But what if?
People will always tell you that solo travel is dangerous, that you should never do certain things alone. And while it is true that there are always things that can go wrong and you should never neglect a bit of good common-sense, a lot of those things can also happen when you travel with another person. It is not a reason to mistrust every person that looks at you or starts to speak with you. Even as a woman, you can go out there by yourself. Especially as a woman. I’m a fairly small woman myself and the only self-defence class I ever took part in consisted of screaming “no” (which I sincerely doubt will ever help me) and I’ve been hitchhiking, partying and camping in some questionable areas all by myself.
Being a woman is not a reason to miss out on things you want to do. Learn how to trust your gut feeling, it is almost always right : )
Embrace it all
This is my last tip for you: embrace it all. The challenges and the fun times. Your tears and your laughter. The solitude and the smile of a stranger. The unknown, the uncertainty and the embrace of your family when you come home. Appreciate every single moment, because it is all part of your journey. Solo travel can be challenging, but it can also be the most liberating, most rewarding adventure you’ll ever experience.