In discussions of upcoming travel, there are generally two questions people ask right away. Number one, obviously – “where are you going?”. And the follow-up, more often than not, is some version of, “who’s going with you?”.
I still, every time, get a little amusement out of people’s reactions when I invariably answer, “oh, no one – just me!”
Beyond surprise, people tend to react in one of four ways:
- Disapproval, thinking that “a young girl has no business traipsing around third-world countries by herself”, and that it’s “just looking for trouble”;
- Pity, although they don’t come right out and say it – I can feel some people thinking, oh that poor girl, no friends to go on a vacation with!;
- A weird mix of doubt, fear, and admiration (?). You know – the whole “but aren’t you afraid, going all that way, alone? I wish I had the guts to do that, but nooo, I’d never…”; and
- Excitement. Typically, I get this from a fellow traveller, and I like these people best. These are the people who know just how much fun to adventure alone.
My love of solo travel began with a fifteen-hour flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, part of my multiple-day journey to a final destination of Bali, Indonesia. I was eighteen at the time, and I’m still a little surprised (and so, SO grateful) that my parents didn’t have a conniption and forbid it completely.
That month I spent adventuring around Bali with a bunch of strangers was totally life changing. (Coincidentally, it was there that I tried my first yoga class…and hated it!). You learn a lot about yourself when you’re totally out of your element, away from everyone and everything that’s the norm.
Before I’d even left HK airport I’d had to employ a skill that is now second-nature to me in any foreign city: find a trustworthy-looking person, and for directions. Don’t just stand around looking like a lost idiot – go ask someone for help! I’m always so pleasantly surprised by how willing to help out a stranger people are. In this case I got particularly lucky, and the man I asked went above and beyond, accompanying me through the humongous airport all the way to my next gate.
Asking for help taught me to have more trust in other people, but the times when there just wasn’t anyone to ask taught me to have more trust – and confidence – in myself. When there’s no one around to save your butt, you’ve got to step it up and take care of yourself. I’ve realized that when I’m out in the world on my own, I feel totally capable and independent. On the few trips I’ve taken with people, however, I’ve noticed I’m more likely to doubt myself, or to wait for them to take the lead. I’m way more likely to cry about something silly, or to have an anxiety attack if something strays slightly from plan. For whatever reason, when I don’t have to take care of myself, I totally forget how. Weird, yeah?
Along with that, I think it’s a lot easier to be brave, or outgoing, or a totally different (more authentic?) version of yourself when you’re away from the people you’ve known all your life. When you’ve grown up being the shy, quiet girl (hi – that’s me!), you kind of resign yourself to that label, because it’s what is expected of you. Separated from all the people who know you as shy, though, you might not be at all! Whether I’m traveling or at home, I always find it easier to step out of my shell and be outgoing around total strangers, while around people I know I’m usually pretty quiet. Travelling helps you peel off whatever label has been stuck onto you, and find one that might feel more true.
It’s one of many things you learn about yourself, when you’re your own travel buddy. Without a constant companion to swap stories with, you begin to listen more to your own thoughts. Acknowledging those thoughts, and maybe even diving deeper into them, can reveal a lot. You might not know yourself as well as you think! Whether it’s the big important life stuff (OMG I just realized I need to change ______ about my life!), or something simple (OMG I never expected to enjoy ____ so much!), You learn a lot about who you really are when you step out into the world on your own.
That “step out into the world” doesn’t even have to be huge. I get it – not everyone wants to, or can afford to, or for whatever reason can go on a big solo backpacking trip on the other side of the world. Little solo adventures can be just as valuable, and enjoyable. Despite how antisocial it may seem, doing things alone can be really fun! Whether it’s taking yourself out for lunch, or signing up for a class where you won’t know anyone, or going to a movie alone. It might feel a little uncomfortable at first (but seriously, nobody is looking at you and thinking you’re a lonely loser)… get over that and let yourself enjoy it. You’ll realize how nice it is to do things solely because you want to, and how lovely time spent with yourself can be. I lovelovelove my friends and family, but I also reeeeally love my quality alone time.
Anyway. Back to travel questions one and two:
1: Rimini, Italy.
2. Guess. 😉
Go have some solo adventures, let me know how it goes.
Much love, namaste ❤