Solo travel: nothing adventured, nothing gained.
Face those fears and book that ticket.
As a frequent traveller I am often asked why I choose solo travel over travelling with others. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of others when travelling, it is just that my preferred form of travel happens to be by myself. In the last few years I have had family, friends, and even strangers try to understand my reasoning so it has compelled me to put this piece together.
If you are seriously considering solo travel, I hope that this post gives you the motivation you need to commit to it. If you’re wary, curious, sceptical or don’t think solo travel is for you then I hope that this gives you some insight into the wonders of solo travel and how it can impact your life in such a positive way.
Personally, I have found that there is nothing in life more challenging, yet so fulfilling and life changing than solo travel. By being pushed so far outside of my comfort zone, solo travel has given me the ability to trust my own instincts and has elevated my confidence in ways that I would never have imagined.
Simply put, solo travel is liberating.
It is freedom.
And it is sooooooooooo rewarding!
My solo travels have been periods of extreme growth as an individual. It is where I have learnt more about myself and the world around me than I ever would have done sitting at home waiting for someone to travel with me.
On that topic let me just get this off my chest straight away. DO NOT wait for other people to accompany you on a trip. Just go. Do it. Don’t fall into that trap of letting other people hold you back from your dreams. Once you are out there, you WILL meet people and oftentimes you will forge lasting friendships with people from all over the world. What a win!! For me, if there is somewhere I want to go and I can afford it, nothing holds me back from booking that holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed travelling with family, friends and partners and for most parts have had some truly memorable experiences. Some of my happiest travel moments have been experiencing or witnessing something spectacular and sharing those moments with someone else. It is just that my most favourite form of travel is done solo. I do happen to quite appreciate my own company and the bonus is having the freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want.
For me there is nothing more satisfying than booking a trip, researching locations, choosing accommodation, booking tours and embarking on a solo trip when it is all for my own enjoyment. All without having to take into consideration the needs and wants of others.
Selfish? I don’t think so, life is short. Why not embrace and do what makes me happy! My mother’s early departure from life taught me to grab life with both hands and just do everything I possibly can. For me complacency and not fulfilling my dreams is akin to a slow and painful death, so travel on my terms, when I want and how I want is definitely for me.
I get that solo travel is not for everyone and not being one to sugar coat things, I will say that travelling by yourself can be hard and it will test you. Solo travel really does push you well outside of your comfort zone, and I understand that may not be very appealing for some people.
There have been many times where I have doubted myself. I have worried about my personal safety and general well being. I have wondered about the intentions of strangers, hoping I have got their motives right. I have gotten myself so lost in cities and wondered around for hours. Accommodation and tour bookings have fallen through last minute and I have missed a flight AND a train or two. But never once in all my solo travels have I run into any major issues that couldn’t be fixed.
Solo travel can be a lonely affair at times so the one thing you need to be able to do is enjoy your own company. Eating and drinking alone in a foreign place has been an unexpected obstacle for me to overcome. In the past I have been so worried about being judged for sitting there on my own but now, I am so comfortable with solo dining that I even do it back home.
Another consideration is the loneliness of not having someone to share amazing experiences with. For example, I would have LOVED to have shared with someone the excitement of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway or that time I stumbled across Paul Kelly busking out the front of Shakespeare and Co in Paris. But having those moments on my own far outweigh not ever having had the experience at all.
Have I enticed you to give solo a travel a go yet?
If you are hesitant to go it alone rather than jumping in the deep end and doing a massive adventure that you could potentially hate (unless of course that floats your boat) my advice is to give yourself a solo travel taster to begin with. Start small and somewhere that is familiar enough to you. It could be that you holiday in your own city, state or country. Or like me, to a country that you had been to before. If that seems too much, start by taking yourself out for dinner on your own. The important thing is to learn how to travel by yourself. See if you will be ok on your own.
I started my solo adventures in Bali because to me, it was familiar. I had been there numerous times with others and for me it was important to put myself out there but gently, dipping my toes in the solo travel waters one inch at a time. Bali was easy. If shit hit the fan, I was only 6 hours from home. I knew where I was, I knew the Balinese culture, food, and people. I even had a group of locals that I call my ‘Bali family’ that I could rely upon IF needed (I never did by the way).
That one week in Bali changed my life for the better. I don’t think I had ever been so relaxed and happy, and I felt like I had really nailed travelling on my own. After Bali I was hooked so as soon as I got home I booked another solo trip to France. I followed that up with trips to Norway, Denmark and Uluru. This year I am off to Italy, Germany, Austria as well as the US and Canada (some solo, some with friends). I am so thankful for the experiences I have had and incredibly excited about what is ahead!
Some other valuable discoveries about solo travel that I think are incredibly important:
I am more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. Stepping outside my comfort zone has been a life changer!
To be totally transparent, when I embarked on my first solo trip, I was shit scared and so worried that I wasn’t capable of doing it. I thought that I needed someone with me to have fun with or to rely upon to navigate the holiday. In fact, I still have some of those doubts before every trip (mostly when I am on the plane and it is fortunately too late to back out).
Self-doubt and low confidence have been somewhat of an issue for me my entire life. Jumping into solo travel has really tested me, but with having no choice than to face my fears I have gained a new and profound sense of independence and understanding that I am more than capable of travelling on my own. All I have needed was to trust myself and listen to my gut instinct.
From my solo adventures I have had to talk to people I would normally shy away from. I have had to ask strangers for help, I have had to face eating and drinking on my own, going solo on tours and the list goes on but, by facing those fears I have not lost a thing. Only gained new friends and some fabulous new experiences.
People are inherently good
One of the greatest realisations that I have had while travelling solo is that most people are good and are not out to screw you over. In fact, in my experience, locals are often willing to help someone asking for directions or are full of useful information and recommendations. Generally, they are proud of their home and want to show it off to you by being helpful.
Fellow travellers are often in the same boat as you and can turn out to be the source of endless fun and unexpected adventures. I have been very fortunate in all of my solo travel experiences and have met some wonderful new friends all from asking for directions or getting over my own scardy cat bullshit and striking up conversation.
I have had dinners with a couple from Germany who have invited me to stay with them in their home, a night out in Tromso with a total misfit 70 year old woman from Brisbane, bonded over beers with a new friend from Hong Kong while sitting next to each other on a flight, an awesome new friend in Svolaer who happens to own a bar there (handy friend to have) AND I’ve even had a waiter attempt to pick me up in Strasbourg (ah huh, that happened much to my delight).
Yes, there are some jerks out there, but do as you would do in your own home. If someone looks dodgy, common sense would mean that you probably wouldn’t approach them to ask for directions. Same goes for when you are travelling.
Things can and will go wrong and that is ok.
Sometimes shit just happens and while it can be quite frustrating, when you are holidaying you can’t afford to waste precious time holding onto the what ifs and what nots. Just roll with it.
I mean, what is the point of stressing over things beyond your control while travelling? The only outcome is that the stress will lead to you having a miserable trip and who wants that? So yeah, you missed that flight? Go find an airport bar and drink a bottle of wine (like my friend Loz did in Oslo). Your accommodation is not what it looked like in the pictures? Move places or better still stay, you’re not on holidays to spend the bulk of your time in a hotel room.
It really does pay to lower your expectations of what your holiday should or could be as it inevitably will lead to less disappointment and a more enjoyable trip.
A new sense of freedom.
The first moment I realised how liberating and freeing solo travel was occurred after a 24-hour flight from Melbourne to Paris. After I landed, I navigated through the airport and train into central Paris, found my hotel and now my holiday was to begin. I had done it. I had made this trip happen, I saved the money, researched, created an itinerary, booked tours, hotels, Airbnb’s, train trips and now here I was, totally relaxed, very excited and utterly content on my own in a wine bar sipping on some of France’s finest.
This was what freedom was and is to me. Being able to decide for myself on doing something that makes me incredibly happy. And just simply doing it. This is how I continue to feel every time I travel solo.
Solo travel means being vulnerable, and it really is a beautiful thing.
Travelling solo is ALL about being vulnerable. Not all of us are ok with feeling vulnerable and to be transparent once again it took me a long time to embrace the idea that accepting my own vulnerability was going to be one of the best things for me. So good that it has been a part of transforming me into being the best version of myself.
The moment you start thinking about solo travel is the moment you step outside of your comfort zone. The moment you step outside of your comfort zone onto another city, state or country with hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people you do not know who speak a language you do not understand you are ultimately vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is by no means comfortable. But neither is masking our vulnerability and failing to put ourselves out there and take a chance. Everything I have done, things that I am proud of, every brilliant memory I have, my accomplishments, successes, and fabulous life experiences have come about because I allowed myself to be vulnerable and take a chance. I took a chance on solo travel, allowed myself to be vulnerable and I am so glad I did for my life is so rich because of it.
So next time you are wishing that you had the courage to get on a plane, train or in a car on your own to have an adventure I hope my words of encouragement help push you in the direction of saying a big YES to solo travel. Don’t wait for someone else to be ‘available’ to holiday with you, trust me you CAN do this. Those first few days may be a little rough, but I promise you that it will be the best thing that you ever did for yourself.
What are you waiting for? Treat yourself and book that solo trip! Go on, I dare you!