“But how can you travel alone?! Isn’t it boring/scary?”
I’m dedicating this post to all those people who have never ever done it, or thought about doing it, or who believe they will never do it:
Yes, there are many moments of fear, mixed with excitement and anxiety, whenever I travel alone. But after having done it so many times now, I know this for sure – you will not be the same person you were when you left after you come back. As there are very few things in the world that you can devote your time and energy to that will help you understand and know yourself better, and travelling alone is most definitely one of them.
Because when you travel alone you learn a few things along the way:
You learn that it’s ok to not know everything.
Most people would like to believe they are well informed and know mostly every thing going on in the world today (thanks to social media and news/information being at our finger tips all the time). This will be your wake up call. And you’ll learn to be ok with that! You’ll find a new learning, a new lesson at every step of your journey and you’ll learn to enjoy it and love it. Best part – you’ll let go of your prejudices.
You learn that being comfortable is the easiest way to stop growing.
We all delay doing some of the most important things in our lives because we get too comfortable with our lives. We just can’t be bothered to step out of that comfort zone we build for ourselves and we convince ourselves that this is as good as life is or should be. Big mistake. Because the second we step away from the people we’re comfortable around, and the places we’re comfortable being in… we grow.
You learn that you only need yourself to be happy.
Most people believe they need their friends, family, partner, children, whoever they are closest to, to be happy. If they are alone, they need to have one or more of these people around them to feel comfortable and happy again. They’re scared to be alone with themselves. They feel a void or emptiness when they’re alone. And that is exactly what travelling solo will make you realise – that you actually are complete in yourself.
You learn that people come into your life for varying lengths of time, and leave, and that’s ok.
Many times during my travels, I’ve had a conversation for a few hours with someone to never see them again, and that conversation has left a life-long mark on me. And I realised that soul-to-soul encounters are not and must not be limited to just our partners, spouses, family, friends.. and people who spend a long time in our lives. There are many more soul connections and encounters waiting to happen to us if only we let them.
You learn that it’s ok to get lost.
Many a times in life we feel like we’re in a bad place if we ever feel lost about what we’re doing or where we’re going, and how our life is turning out to be. Travelling solo teaches you that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While travelling you are bound to get lost at some point.. but you will also get guided out of that place or situation by the universe in some way or another. And sometimes, while you may eventually find your way back to your intended path, you might actually discover a brand new path that you prefer to stay on rather than your original one. And that will be a happy realisation moment.
I once lost my way while walking through Siem Reap and it was almost sunset time when the temples area get closed off. I had to find my way back to gate, and I was feeling frustrated and tired. But then I turned a corner and voila, the most beautiful view, the sun setting behind a tall temple complex… and it was just there, in that moment, staring me in the face. I sat down right where I was, and took it all in. I figured I got lost for a reason. So I could have that moment.
You learn that language is not a barrier for communicating.
Of course it helps to know the local language of the place you’re travelling to, but there are very many basic thoughts and ideas that are common to every human being on the planet that don’t require words. I once had a very engaging conversation with a painter over his art on the street in very broken Spanish during my early days in Spain. Many broken sentences and gestures later, I left feeling like I’d chatted with an old friend for a couple of hours. And what I’ve come to realise is this – when there is a real conversation to be had, or a thought/message that the universe intends to bring to you, it will find a way, and language will never stop it from reaching you.
You learn that it’s ok to feel lonely sometimes.
Yes of course there will be moments you will feel lonely, happens to the most seasoned travellers. I was in Bali on my own for two weeks and on the 8th or 9th day of being on my own, I was really struck by the loneliness pangs. I was miserable wondering how I would pass another week on my own (though I still had a lot of things to do left on my list), but then I decided to snap out of it and do whatever would make me happy. So I made a long phone call to the mother and then went for a nice balinese massage.
When you learn how to comfort yourself and then put an extra effort to make yourself smile again, you’ll realise it’s only made you stronger. My suggestion – make a quick skype call home when you feel lonely and plan one exciting thing for the rest of that day that you look forward to – could be visiting a site in the city, a massage or simply going to a restaurant and enjoying a massive meal of your favourite cuisine. And ah, red wine. Brings instant cheer.
You learn how to handle disaster situations on your own.
So your bag got lost. Your wallet got stolen. Or you lost your passport. These are some of the worst travel nightmares. It doesn’t always get that bad. But yes, sometimes bad situations hit. And you may panic, break down or have an anxiety attack, but in the end, you’re gonna need to rescue yourself. So you pull your shit together and you do it. And guess what.. things usually work out fine in the end and you get to pat yourself on the back at the end of it all.
You learn how to be spontaneous again and do what YOU feel like doing.
Woke up not feeling like going to see that site/monument? That’s ok. You are the master of your own time on your solo trip my friend! You can change plans whenever you feel like without waiting for anybody’s approval. So go dive into the ocean or jump off a cliff for all anyone cares, as long as that’s what you feel like doing!
You learn that you are capable of much much more than you had believed and you start appreciating who you really are.
Just by setting off on a trip by yourself you’re telling yourself you can do something you never believed you could. And that’s just the beginning. All the limitations that society, family, friends, teachers, and even you had put on yourself, you learn to free yourself from those as you take one step after another out of your comfort zone.
You realise you’re not that limited living entity you thought of yourself. You learn all the good things you carry within yourself, and you learn to love yourself better.
You learn to read signs and follow your inner voice.
On a daily basis, there are too many voices surrounding us all the time. So much so that our inner voice gets drowned out in all the noise. We listen to others around us, and the world, and base our decisions and our opinions on all these voices. Getting away on our own helps us break away from all of that. I call it the white noise around us. We have to switch it off if we really want to hear ourselves, to know what we think, feel, and want, without any outside influences.
You learn how to be shameless and ask people again and again until you get a good enough picture of yourself.
You know, I really admire people who without a care in the world can ask people to keep on clicking pictures of themselves until they are satisfied with the end result! I mean, that’s a serious talent! I, on the other hand, very hesitatingly ask the couple in love walking past if they would be so kind as to let go of each other’s hands for a few minutes so I can have a decent picture clicked of myself. But then over time you realise what the heck, I may never come back to this spot in my life ever again, the least I can do is be a bit shamelessly persistent about having a memory in my camera.
You learn that there really is much more to the world and to life than the bubble you live in at home.
And this really is the best one. As we leave our comfort zones and venture out into the world, we’re smacked in the face by this painfully obvious fact – there is so much more to the world and to life than the bubble we have created for ourselves back home. And then we begin to understand that the problems, the people, the issues that we pay so much attention to, that we give so much of our daily energies to…are all really nothing. They don’t really matter. There are bigger problems in the world, there are more meaningful causes to divert ourselves to, and there are far more people creating their legacies in this world that we can take inspiration from to start working on our own.
So… if you’re feeling brave enough to think about taking a plunge into the world of solo travel, I say – just do it.
If the thought continues to terrify you, then just start by going through the motions – getting your visa, booking your ticket/hotel, getting a new backpack/suitcase, buying a few good books to keep you company, updating your music playlists, going and getting yourself a solo meal at a restaurant in your home city – just get to all of this one step at a time to prepare yourself. And when you finally take a deep breath and board that flight, believe me, you won’t regret it. Because when you get back off that plane at the end of your trip, you’ll have a story to tell, and you’ll be a new better you.