The Truth About Solo Travel

The truth about solo travelI really hope this post resonates with some of you. Solo travel can be enriching, empowering and life-affirming. It can also be terrifying, lonely and damn hard. All in all though, it’s an incredible opportunity to experience a one-on-one confrontation with the world.

And that’s pretty damn special. 

I never planned to attempt solo travel. That decision was sort of taken out of my hands.

I was going with an old school mate. We weren’t that close, but we always got along. This was the perfect travel buddy in my eyes… close enough to enjoy each others company, but not so close that going our separate ways would mean the end of the world.

We spent long afternoons in the pub (where else?!), hovered over a ridiculously large world map, armed with highlighters, ‘borrowing’ the WiFi, drinking beer and planning. The excitement was electric and my itchy feet were on fire.

This plan, like many of my ‘best-laid plans’, didn’t exactly play out like I’d hoped.

Unforeseen circumstances and a severe lack of funds meant my travel pal pulled out… 2 days before we’d planned to book our flights. Shit.

Do I put it off and wait for another travel buddy to emerge from the sidelines? Or do I bite the bullet, grow a pair and go it alone?

I closed my eyes and pictured myself job hunting, nervously blabbering my way through interviews and spending the foreseeable future chained to a desk. Not on your nelly. My decision was a simple one.

I needed to travel. I needed to quench my wanderlust and explore at least a little of our stunning awe-inspiring world. And more than that, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

the truth about solo travel

THE GOODBYES

I won’t sugarcoat it. The goodbyes suck. When you solo travel, there’s no one in the same boat as you. I mean – of course there are, somewhere. But in your mind, at that moment when you hug your loved ones goodbye and head through passport control – you are completely alone.

I thought I would cry. I didn’t. I thought I’d be excited. I wasn’t.

As I walked around Gatwick’s South Terminal, I think my mind was fairly blank, either that or it was too full to function. The enormity of the thing I had just done – walking away from everyone and everything I knew and towards everything I didn’t – just wasn’t really fathomable. I felt odd and you will too.

THE FIRST SOLO JOURNEY

I‘ve never felt nerves like it. Sat on a plane full of strangers and realising that as every minute passes you are moving further away from the world you know and closer to a completely new existence.

No one knows you on the flight. No one can appreciate what you’ve just done. No one will fist bump you and share in the excitement that you should be feeling at the start of a massive adventure. No one will put your mind at ease that it will all be okay. No one will be there to meet you at the other end.

You start to question if you’ve done the right thing. You start to wonder what you were thinking. You start to wish the flight would go slower because you’re not too sure where to go once you land. Who in their right mind would leave friends, family and a comfy bed in favour of strangers, potential weirdos and lumpy, questionable hostel mattresses? I remember feeling like a lunatic. Why was I doubting myself so much? Why was I re-thinking my love of travel before I’d even got going?

At that point the lady next to me (who had about 4 teeth in her entire head) offered me a smile and a chewy sweet. I accepted, smiled, asked the air hostess for a gin and tried to convince myself it would all be okay.

The truth is, it’s completely natural to feel uneasy, overwhelmed and unsure on your first solo journey. What you’re doing is taking a massive jump away from normality. But just remember, you’re taking an even bigger leap towards what will most likely be one of the most life enriching experiences you could ever have.

THE INEVITABLE LONELINESS

There will be times when you feel lonely. It’s inevitable.

You’ve made the decision to travel solo and more often than not, this means you will be thousands of miles away from anyone who holds a place in your heart. If you didn’t suffer pangs of loneliness, regret or even the desire to throw in the towel and go home at times, then you may not be quite right in the head.

I remember walking around the streets of Melbourne, feeling lost in more ways than one. I’d just arrived in the city after a long journey and after making friends and leaving friends in the last city, I was alone all over again. The feeling was exhausting. I actually went straight back to my hostel at 2pm in the afternoon on a beautiful, sunny day. I hang my towel across the side of my bunk and just lay there in silence.

Travel is a massive assault on the senses, wherever you venture to. There are new sights to drink in at every turn, new food to taste, new people to meet and experiences to be had. It can be overwhelming and at times you’ll want nothing more than to curl up in a ball, shut it all out and think of home. Allow yourself this time. But don’t be surprised if after you’ve spent an hour or so feeling sorry for yourself, you emerge with a renewed sense of purpose and a realisation of how lucky you are to be in the incredible place you are in.

The truth about solo travel

THE FREEDOM OF SOLO TRAVEL

Yes it is a challenge. Yes you will feel like you’ve made the wrong decision at times. And yes, it may seem like an easier option to travel with others… But the truth is, solo travel is a completely unique experience and the only way to travel with complete freedom.

On my second day in Auckland, I took off and made the decision to do very little. I would amble around, get lost, drink coffee and explore this completely new city. I remember walking around with a stupid grin on my face. It was the feeling of being 100% free. I didn’t have to fit in with anyone else’s agenda, only my own. This city was mine to conquer, to drink in. I walked down the streets, smiling at strangers and feeling on top of the world. Here I was on the other side of the world and my time was truly mine to explore this wonderful new place.

I felt like one of the luckiest and richest people alive.

YOU WON’T BE A SOLO TRAVELLER FOR LONG

One of the biggest truths about solo travel, is that you really won’t be ‘solo’ for long. You will find travellers everywhere, many of whom will be in exactly the same shoes that you are. You will laugh, share experiences, learn from each other and explore together. You’ll then go your separate ways and will be alone again until the next stop where you’ll be surrounded by like-minded friends again before you know it.

Before I left, one of the things that really stuck with me was a conversation I had with a friend of a friend one night. We’d only met 15 minutes earlier, but the topic of my travels soon came up (as it always did – I was like a broken record). I remember saying the words: “See, I’d be absolutely fine if you were coming with me and I’ve only known you 5 minutes.” 

And that’s exactly it you see. You’re never alone when you travel… you’re just surrounded by friends you haven’t met yet. So smile, say hello and you’ll soon forget that you’re rolling solo.

The truth about solo travel

THE BOTTOM LINE

Solo travel is a challenge. You’re forced to spend time in your own company and to trust your own mind… so if you don’t know yourself before you leave – you bloody well will by the time you make it home.

The feeling of solo travel is one of absolute freedom. Your choices are your own, uninfluenced by anyone else. If you want to spend a day watching the world go by, do it. If you want to throw yourself out of a plane, do it. If you want to change your plans and go East instead of West, do it.

You may feel lonely at times and you may even consider giving up and heading home, but I urge you not to.

Solo travel forces you to take the reigns of your life. It’s empowering and enlightening. The world is yours to devour and explore without hiding behind anyone else. So dive in and prove to yourself you can do it. Have an adventure that belongs 100% to you and only you. And make the most of every magical moment.

The Truth about solo travel

  • http://thesouthernadventurer.com The Southern Adventurer

    Great post! Solo travel can change you and give you new experiences. This post can help a lot of people who haven’t gone out there on their own yet and don’t know what its like. Thank you for sharing!

    – The Southern Adventurer

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks so much Nichole – really pleased you enjoyed it. Taking off on my own is without doubt one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. Everyone should solo travel at least once in their life :).

      Gabby

  • http://www.blakesalive.com Blakes Alive

    I felt EXACTLY the same my first solo trip, going from my comfortable existence in Australia to third world South America solo, I asked myself everyday what I had gotten myself into! But like everything else you said, things get so goddamn wonderfully better, everyday i grew more and more into the person I wanted to be, solo travel, is scary and is daunting! But doesnt everything worth it come with some risk and doubts?

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks so much for stopping by Blake! Blimey, Australia to the third world for your first solo trip must have been a shock to the system… bet you look back on it everyday and thank your lucky stars you took the leap though aye? 🙂

      Couldn’t agree with you more about the ‘risk’ thing. What is it they say…. if you risk nothing, you risk everything. Wise wise words.

      Gabby

  • http://www.taowestventures.com Wayne Seto

    Great Post! I’m currently 3 months into a one year career break of travelling abroad. I’ve travelled solo often before, but never this long. I relate to most of what you’re talking about. Being a bit of an introvert, I generally handle the solitude well, but as the travel extends, the inevitable loneliness sets in. But as you said, you just seem to run into other travellers like myself. Thanks for the post. Happy travels!

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks Wayne, really pleased you enjoyed it. I’m a bit of an introvert also. Knowing you’re happy in your own company definitely helps make the prospect of solo travel a more appealing one. Thanks for the comment and hope you’re having an incredible year! It certainly sounds like you are! 🙂

      Gabby