Why I love traveling solo, and why you should try it out at some point
The concept of solo travel has been embraced wholeheartedly in recent years, especially by more and more women. It’s not just for the daredevils among us – in fact, everyone can (and should!) take a trip on their own at least once. You see, when you travel solo, you not only learn to stand firm in your own shoes, you also learn about your inherent softness, and that of others.
Read on to find out all about my first solo trip.
An experience unlike any other
The first time I flew to the other side of the world, I was merely 20 years old. As I stepped on the plane to Mexico, I could feel my heart thumping, my insides knotting up and my eyes getting a bit teary in panic.
During the entire flight, I constantly kept questioning my decision. ‘Why am I even doing this?’ I thought. ‘The summers in Belgium with friends & family are so much fun! How can I possibly backpack through Central America? How can I get to my hotel in one piece tonight… oh no, I’m arriving in Mexico at night!’
It didn’t end there – there was more, so much more. ‘What will I do if I am harassed? What if my mobile doesn’t work, just as it didn’t during the stopover in Canada? What if my bank card doesn’t work? Why don’t I just take a direct flight back to Europe? All my friends will go to such amazing parties in Belgium’. Yup, FOMO is my middle name!
In retrospect, however, this was one of the best experiences of my life and I am infinitely grateful for holding my ground at that moment. Everything was fine, I just had to reign in my own thoughts, I had to disable that doomsday mode. I had to take a deep breath and realize that flying alone is actually something I really like to do, whether it is to Australia or Biarritz… or even Mexico.
And what happened when we landed? I stepped off the plane, breathed in the smell of Mexico, and instantly felt calmer. That’s all there was to it.
After that, I lugged my far too heavy backpack with panache and basked in the sultry, heavy heat that came over me as I got into a taxi in the middle of the night. There were only a few taxi drivers waiting around at that hour, but I had luckily already booked one to my hotel beforehand for some peace of mind.
“You look like you need a tequila!” was the first thing a local said to me. He was right – I was excited for some tequila and a whole lot of adventure. Olé!
So what did I learn? Above all, I learned that solo travel is something you do to meet yourself, to silence those crazy voices in your head, to reach a state of acceptance. Many think that solo travel is lonely, but that’s far from truth. There are so many people you get to know, and a whole world of experiences to tap into, if you’re open to it.
Sure, sometimes it doesn’t seem like the coolest idea to eat alone, but if you can just pluck up the courage to say hello to those around you, you’ll be surprised by how many interesting conversations you will get to be a part of. For me, these spontaneous encounters are the best part of such travel – you hear stories and experience things that you never thought possible.
I also immensely enjoy the freedom that comes with solo travel. You can travel at your own pace and indulge in activities you’re 100% interested in. When you meet someone along the way, you can travel together for however long you want – when you want to be alone again, you can simply part ways.
I’m an extrovert and can easily connect with strangers, but if you’re more of an introvert, try staying in hostels. In these set-ups, you get to know other travelers really quickly, and talking to someone while doing the dishes becomes a breeze.
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Are up up for it?
So why do I travel solo? Well, actually, I’ve realized that my travel plans aren’t contingent on anyone else. It’s not a conscious decision I make, it’s also not that I don’t have friends with the time and money to travel … it’s just that I never bother to ask. I book a flight, and if a friend wants to travel with me, that’s not a problem at all, but I’m okay on my own as well.
I often hear people whine about how they want to travel more but have no one to go with them. To them, and to you, I ask: have you ever considered booking that ticket on a whim and just seeing what comes next?
Traveling alone will help you grow. This sounds very cliché, but it’s the truth. You’ll never be the same again. So, just go for it. Book that ticket. Pack up that bag. And just step into the plane headed to the destination of your dreams.
Need some more inspiration? Here are my top five destinations for solo travel:
Good luck, folks! Let me know how your solo travel experience is!