Travelling by yourself is a life changing experience and it definitely changed me. Travelling by yourself for the first time can be daunting, but it does lead to this overwhelming sense of freedom, which is quite addictive. I became a solo traveller four years ago when I wanted to celebrate graduating university by travelling to Europe. The only issue was that none of my friends wanted to go with me. I was stuck with this dream of adventure and the reality that if I want to go I would have to go by myself.
In the end I decided that I was going to Europe and I became a female solo traveller. I discovered that there were many great and exciting parts of traveling solo. Traveling solo is an opportunity to learn more about the world around you and even more so to learn more about yourself. I’ve put together five of the biggest parts of solo travelling that I learnt from my experience.
One: You get to do what you want.
If you have ever travelled in a group then you would know the struggle of making decisions. When you travel alone you don’t have to vote on where to eat. You don’t have to compromise when no-one in your group wants to do something you want to. This is my favourite part of travelling by myself! You get to be completely selfish. If you want to get up at a stupid hour of the morning to see the sun rise over Edinburgh, you can. If you want to do a cooking class, you can. If you want to visit as many churches in Rome in a day, guess what you can!
Two: You realise just how capable you actually are.
Travelling alone forces you to be resourceful and focus on just doing what you have to do. It makes you realise just how capable you are looking after yourself and working though unfamiliar situations. I think every traveller remembers that inspiring moment when against all odds, somehow you navigate yourself across a foreign city. As I discovered when getting myself and my bag across Rome though the metro system and finding my hostel in one piece which was a cause for celebration! I had no useful Italian, no access to the internet, and no map. Only terrible verbal directions to help me on my way and somehow I managed to make it.
Three: You’re more inclined to meet people.
I considered myself quite a shy person. I discovered when travelling solo that I am in a way forced to interact with other people. I’ve learnt that it isn’t actually that hard to start a conversation with a stranger. You can ask them where they are from or what they have seen so far and would recommend that you should see. If you stay in a hostel then there is a high chance that you will meet other people who are travelling solo. I have made some great friends while travelling solo. The more I travel the more I realise that us humans, are pretty much the same no matter where you go.
Four: You gain an extra level of awareness.
Safety, it is definitely an important part of travel whether you are travelling solo or in a group. I have been told that it isn’t safe to travel alone as a female. This isn’t exactly true, because if I was out alone, in my home town in Australia. I would have to be just as aware of dark alleys and my own safety. It is important that you do trust your instincts when you are travelling solo. If a person, place or situation seems unsafe then it probably is and you should take yourself far away from it. Trusting your instincts is very handy skill to learn when it comes to travel and life in general.
Awareness is really the key to safety and it can be tiring at first to take in everything around you. I have found that now it is second nature for me. For example when I walk into a cafe I assess the environment and situation.
I scan the people to see who is around, do I feel safe? I look for a position that isn’t isolated. I acknowledge the staff, I want them to know that I am there, so if something happens they will notice. Finally, I listen to the people around me. I am listening for the tone of their voices, you can usually tell if someone is angry even if you don’t understand the language.
Five: You have no-one to share with.
I will admit it would have been nice to be able to turn to someone that wasn’t a stranger and mention that the view is amazing. Sometimes it is nice to share an experience with someone, but it is awe inspiring that you get to experience it alone all the same. It is just disappointing that no matter how you try to describe and explain to people they will never truly understand what it was like, because they weren’t there. Also you can’t share transportation, food, accommodation costs which you can get cheaper if you are travelling in a group.
Travelling solo has made me into the person that I am today. I would recommend travelling solo, even if it was only for the weekend. I will admit that there are a few countries that if I wouldn’t travel by myself, but there are plenty that I would. I have travelled around New Zealand, Fiji, most of Europe alone and would again in a heartbeat.
Have you been travelling by yourself? Did you enjoy it and where did you go? Let me know in the comments below.