The wheels touch down on the tarmac, the seatbelt sign turns off and people start disembarking the plane. Gulp! This is it. The time has come to venture into the customs, baggage collection and arrivals, then go somewhere you’ve never been before. And you don’t know anyone.
Whether it’s a business trip to New York, a tour in Europe, a research program in South America or backpacking through the Australian Outback, here are 10 things that WILL happen to anyone that travels solo.
What am I doing!?!?
It may happen straight away or take a few hours or days. There is a time when you say to yourself “what was I thinking?” Everything is strange and new. It smells different. It sounds different. And you start to question whether you are in fact, the cool dude you thought you were. The joys of travelling solo may take a while to creep up on you as you find your feet, become familiar with your environment and get into the groove of your new destination. Stick with it – its worth it.
I’ve lost my…..
Passport. Credit card. Phone. Luggage. Any or all of these will happen at some stage in your travelling solo adventures. It may be that you left it on the train or it slipped down behind a couch or was taken from your room. These things happen but with good pre-trip planning, you will have foreseen circumstances like this and have a backup plan. You did scan a copy of your passport and saved to your email account (or have a hard copy in your luggage), you’ll have stashed that spare credit card hidden in your toiletries bag, you’ve got extra funds to buy another phone and so on. None of these things is the end of the world but they are an inconvenience and with patience and planning you’ll continue on your journey.
You’ll get sick/injured/be unwell.
‘Should I have eaten that last samosa?’ Even the best traveller comes down with something that will change their travel plans. I was hit by a car in Canton (China) in 1988, got Amoebic dysentery in Bombay (Mumbai) and Mt Meru (Tanzania), knocked over by a motorbike in a thunderstorm in Lombok (Indonesia) and had a cracker of a hangover after trying kava in Suva (Fiji). For some of those trips, I was travelling solo which meant I had to look after myself in a foreign country. It’s doable and like the point above, some prior preparation and contingency plans will make it easier. You will get through it – it’s just a glitch on the itinerary.
Meet people who delight you
- The juggling mortician who was working in an orphanage to bring them some joy.
- The retired nurse educating young trainees how to vaccinate babies and toddlers.
- The uni student who’d saved up thousands of dollars to volunteer at a veterans clinic.
- The school group who built a schoolhouse for a small village.
People continually delight me with their generosity, purpose, vision and passion. Their journeys and stories are one of the highlights of any trip I go on.
Become less self-absorbed.
Travelling does make you realise how small you are in the big scheme of things. I feel like I’ve done a lot of travelling yet when I look at a map of the world, I realise I’m nowhere near as well travelled as I think. It puts me in my place. When you’re travelling solo, your heart opens to others and by focussing on their lives instead of your own.
Do something you wouldn’t normally.
Jumped off the top deck of a boat moored off Komodo Island into the black abyss of cold water. Hitchhiked around Fiji. Stayed up to watch the sunrise in Nepal. Travelling solo means you have a certain amount of freedom to do what you want when you want. There isn’t someone telling you that it’s dangerous, or you’re too old, or ‘what would your mother think?’ Travelling solo is about making the most of your journey when opportunities arise which may mean throwing caution to the wind on occasions. And yes, you’ll probably do something you regret later but that is part of travelling.
You’ll fall in love.
Watching the aurora australis on New Year’s Eve OR a sunrise over the Serengeti OR walking the Himalayas. You’ll meet someone and the romance of travel will take over. Two people who love to travel are away from the pressures of home, in a different place and the flirtation and fascination of each others company can make your heart sing. Whether anything comes of it or not isn’t the point – when you’re travelling solo, expect yourself to be attracted to others and enjoy the company of someone new. You just never know – this might be the one!
See how amazing you are.
You navigate your way through peak hour in Mexico City OR make friends with complete strangers OR learn how to speak the local language. You’ll find your strength and realise your smarter, savvier, funnier and more chilled than you thought. Travelling alone means you learn faster and retain that information longer because the learning was done on your own without someone holding your hand every step of the way. Being independent brings with it an inner strength you may not know you had. You learn to think on your feet, fly by the seat of your pants, go with the flow and all those other cliche expressions. But it’s true. Solo travellers are more resilient, flexible, adaptable and curious. Embrace your awesomeness.
You will get lonely and maybe even sad.
Happens to me only occasionally, usually when I’m homesick but once I acknowledge that it’s okay and part of travelling, I keep going. I also believe it’s a necessary evil when travelling on your own and can be a consequence of having a brilliant day, experiencing amazing things and at the end of the day it’s catch up time when you want to share that with someone and there may not be someone there to hear about it. Grab onto it and embrace it and take that strength to acknowledge it, comfort you and cheer yourself up.
You’ll rediscover who you are.
Freedom. It brings with it courage to be who you really are. The layers of multiple masks we wear are stripped away when we solo travel. We have to be who we are otherwise we’ll end up being just a people pleaser and not happy in ourselves. I do believe we need to be something of a chameleon when travelling solo so as to fit in with the ever-changing situations we are in. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be our authentic selves. So keep your eye out for the real you.
Now it’s your turn.
What are your solo stories travelling solo? What have you learnt?
Leave a comment below.