Thinking about heading out on some solo travel? Today, it is easy to convince yourself to travel solo, thanks to the many blogs encouraging eating at a table for one and photos of the world well beyond your window. The internet is filled with inspirational stories of traversing the world alone. Motivation awaits with simply the click of a mouse.
But, once that airplane afterglow has long-since ceased and that massive backpack begins to take its toll, it can become a reality that everything you see and read isn’t all simple. Or easy. Or effortless.
In fact, solo travel can be downright challenging at times.
“…I always try to be honest about what solo travel actually entails…”
As a woman who took my first solo trip to Europe at 22, and then fell in love with it and took a career-break to hit the road for seven months, and now travel solo whenever I can, I always try to be honest about what solo travel actually
entails; both the Good! Amazing! Incredible! experiences, as well as the ones which are difficult, to say the least. Hey, it isn’t just me that was chased by the mafia in a coastal town in Turkey, right?
So, what should you know about solo travel?
Everywhere You Go, There You Are
So many people head out on their own to see the world because they are looking for answers, for happiness. I know I did. And, while solo travel can be a happy and life-changing experience, at the end of the day, it boils down to who you are and why you are traveling.
“And, while solo travel can be a happy and life-changing experience, at the end of the day, it boils down to who you are and why you are traveling.”
As someone who has battled with depression my entire life, I ran. Many, many times. I ran to wake up, to see what the world had in store for me. There were plenty of moments during my travels when I was able to see my life with fresh eyes, but more often that not, I was caught up in my on thoughts instead of being able to appreciate where I was and what I was doing.
Now, after lots of work on myself, I look back at moments in my travels and realize I missed out on so much because I was running. I wasn’t traveling for the experience, per se, I was traveling to find happiness, and that happiness doesn’t exist outside of us; it is up to each person to discover that and travel isn’t a surefire way to accomplish it.
There Are Good Days & There Are Bad Days
Like everything in life, nothing is perfect and there are no guarantees. That train you were supposed to take that stopped on the track for four hours making you miss another bus that was going to take you to a new city where you had already booked a hostel … but now you’re a day behind and that reservation is gone? It happens.
The beauty of solo travel is you are on your own. It is challenging at times, but it makes you that much stronger. And, if there is one thing I learned (and yes, I did end up having to completely alter my plans to make it to the next city), it is that those experience often – while they are annoying to go through – actually make the best stories.
“Always remember, for every crappy day you have on the road, there is an incredible day waiting in the wings.”
Always remember, for every crappy day you have on the road, there is an incredible day waiting in the wings. One likely filled with meeting other solo travelers and experiencing moments you would have never thought possible the day before.
Expect the Unexpected
It’s easy to plan an entire trip, but it is also ridiculously easy for things to change last minute, and for the unexpected to happen. Snags are a part of solo travel, and they can be discouraging.
From lost luggage to canceled flights to broken down buses in the extreme heat of the summer – they all happen. It is a lot easier to roll with those punches than to focus on the negative in the situation.
This also comes into play as a solo traveler because you never know who you will meet on the road. If you have every flight, train, bus and bed booked, it can lead to missing out on random opportunities with others.
“When I travel solo, I like to book the first night or two, and then leave the rest of my trip (no matter how long that trip is) entirely up to chance.”
When I travel solo, I like to book the first night or two, and then leave the rest of my trip (no matter how long that trip is) entirely up to chance. It is incredibly freeing and invigorating to wake up in Sarajevo on a Thursday morning and decide to head to Croatia for a chance of scenery. Knowing there aren’t repercussions, like losing money on what has already been booked, makes it all the easier to simply change course.
People Are Generally Kind & the World is Generally Good
Thanks to social media news of incidents people face on the road spread like wildfire. Always remember, these are random and not par for the course. Yes, there are horrible people in the world, and yes, accidents happen, but in general, remember that people out there want to help, and that the world really is good.
I’m not suggesting skipping precautions and being reckless, but keep in mind that in most circumstances, that person offering help genuinely wants to help you.
“…just know that in general, solo travelers are safe and that, when in need, people do step up to the plate and help.”
During my long-term travel, I showed up in Budapest with a hostel booked, but when I went to the hostel, no one answered the door. It was late and night was falling, and it was my first night in the city. With a stupidly heavy backpack weighing my down, and my SIM card not working, I had no idea what to do. I stood at the door of the building, dumbfounded, imagining myself sleeping on the street because I was so exhausted and frustrated. A woman saw me there (likely looking pathetic) and offered me her cell phone. When I told her I didn’t speak Hungarian, she actually called a hostel for me and made me a reservation and then showed me where it was.
I could go on and on about how kind people can be, so just know that in general, solo travelers are safe and that, when in need, people do step up to the plate and help.
You. Are. Brave.
“Are you really going to travel solo?”
That question was probably asked to me more than a hundred times from friends before I set out on my first long-term journey.
Then, it was almost always followed by: “I couldn’t do that. You’re so brave.”
I always imagined brave to mean jumping out of airplanes or something else equally challenging, but brave means so many different things. Including being a solo traveler.
Never forget that not everyone can travel solo. That it takes a brave soul to embark on a journey alone, not just because solo travel can be challenging, but because getting to know yourself that well is a brave task, too.