Today I wanted to talk about something that I’ve touched on before but never in any real detail. In the last few years in particular, there has been a lot more information on solo travel. You know the type of posts I mean: “Why Travelling Solo is the BEST Way to Travel”, etc etc. But rather than fiercely defending one side of the argument, I’d like to share my personal experience. I’ve found it quite tricky to talk about but I pride myself on honesty so here goes!
My first ever solo trip was actually part of a Contiki group tour so there could already be some debate over whether this is ‘real’ solo travel. But as I left for the trip alone without knowing a single person, I’m pretty sure this counts. I won’t beat around the bush about why I did it – I was heartbroken, recently unemployed and I needed to escape. Being in a vulnerable frame of mind with little confidence, I knew that going completely solo wasn’t a great option for me and with no friends able to travel, the group tour was a fantastic compromise. When I returned three weeks later, I’d had some of the best times of my life with amazing new people who I’m still in touch with today.
My experience of going solo here was completely positive. For the first time, I saw something I was afraid of turning into something amazing. It allowed me to come out of my shell and open myself up to meeting new people. Spending time with people who were like me and wanted to see the world was a reminder that I could still love life. I still think group tours are awesome and it’s definitely something I’d consider doing again. It was this trip that made me brave enough to buy a one way ticket to Australia, confident that I’d be able to take on a full solo adventure.
Now when I left for this trip – almost exactly a year ago as I write this – I was in a very different place. From discovering that I could be genuinely happy as a singleton to settling into a new job that I really enjoyed, it was one of the best years of my life. When I decided to book a solo trip, I was excited but I also knew that I’d be leaving a lot behind this time around. My friends and I were doing tons of fun things and a few months after booking my ticket, I unexpectedly got into a new relationship. I wrote about my fear of solo travelling a few months before I left but come 13th August 2016, I boarded that plane.
The plane journey was rough, as was my first night in Australia, but things did look up. The very next morning, I met a couple of lovely people to hang out with and for months afterwards, continued to meet amazing people who I have incredibly happy memories with. However, despite the good times, I struggled with my experience of travelling solo this time around.
Almost every day there was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and at the time, I couldn’t explain what the feeling was – homesickness doesn’t really affect me and I usually don’t mind doing things alone. But I ended up in a few uncomfortable situations and really missed having consistent company. I honestly think if I’d have done another group tour or flown out with a friend, things would have been completely different.
Luckily, an amazing friend from my Contiki stepped in and let me stay with him and his family to get back on my feet. But looking back now, I can see how much anxiety was crippling me – I just didn’t recognise how to cope with it back then. I made the decision to fly back home for a few months, earn a bit more money and continue the adventure with company.
I’ll never regret pushing myself to go through travelling solo. It’s really important to learn about yourself and this has taught me that I can do it – I just need a plan and structure which I didn’t have on my way to Australia that first time around.
I was scared of being judged for my decision for booking that flight back home and also scared that I was taking the cowards way out. Part of me will always wonder what would have happened if I’d have stayed but truthfully, my mental state wasn’t allowing me to settle anywhere I stayed. While it’s a shame, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still confident that I could take on a city break alone and maybe one day I will just for the fun of it! But learning that you like company is no bad thing and if anything, it makes me appreciate my travel partners even more.
I know this post is quite personal but if you’ve managed to make it to the end of this epic ramble, I hope it’s been interesting to read about how my two different experiences of travelling solo have shaped my travel habits. I’m definitely envious of those who feel totally comfortable travelling far and wide on their own but even having the courage to learn that it isn’t for me is something that I’ve learned to be a little proud of.
What are your thoughts on travelling solo? Do you love it? Hate it? Or are you curious about giving it a try for the first time?