Well, I’m not the bravest. I’m in fact very fearful of things. I’m fearful of the unknown that I can’t predict (well, we all are to some extend). I tend to over think, what if this doesn’t work out? And I’m pretty much a worrywart.
Well, I’m not the best with directions. In fact, I’m terrible at remembering locations and directions. My friends often wonder how I managed to make it back in one piece with my poor sense of direction. I’m not even kidding, it’s that bad. I am terrible at reading maps. But it’s something that I’ve accepted over the years.
Traveling with someone is great, awesome and lovely. There are definitely times I wished I had someone to share the moment with. There are times I wished someone was there with me so I could order more food to share. There are times I wished that I have someone by my side reassuring me that everything will be alright.
But I’ve never regretted any of my solo travels. I haven’t done that many solo travels to begin with but through it all, I’ve learnt several valuable lessons.
1. You learn to go with your gut.
Well, the world isn’t an entirely safe place out there, at the same time, it isn’t entirely unsafe. Traveling solo taught me to trust my instinct and go with my gut. Bad vibes about someone? Just walk away, you’ll thank yourself later. There are also times that I had good vibes about people and I ended up having a really good conversation with them or I end up changing my travel plans and making plans to spend a day or two with them.
2. The world is nicer than you think it is.
When you’re alone in a foreign land it can get pretty overwhelming. But traveling solo also made me realize that the world is full of really nice people as well. Most (disclaimer: most) people mean no harm and are more than willing to help you if it’s within their means. I’ve had locals walk me to my airbnb locations, bring me to the right train platform or even treating me to meals. People are a lot kinder than you think they’re. Of course, I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with people as well. I’ve met people who offered to ‘help’ me with my baggage and then request to be paid a fee.
3. You’re forced to trust people.
When you’re alone in a foreign land, you’re forced to trust strangers. Not everyone can be trusted definitely. But go with your gut. No one is an island, sooner or later you’ll need help, be it to ask for directions, getting someone to look after your bag or to trust someone enough to follow him or her. Everyone tells you not to trust strangers but no one has taught you the lesson of trusting strangers.
4. You realize you don’t need a lot in life to be happy.
When I travel solo, I always go on a backpack so I don’t have to lug my luggage up and down stairs. Also, a backpack is always so much more convenient. But because of that, I can’t shop or bring unnecessary stuff along with me. I don’t always buy baggage allowance, so sometimes I’m forced to keep within the 10 kg of carry on baggage. That’s when I realize I really don’t need much to hit the road. The same applies in life. I don’t need that branded bag or that latest phone to ‘survive’. I’d rather spend it on another adventure. Branded goods don’t mean anything (at least to me). You’ll realize that there’s so much more in the world that money can’t buy. Those are the truly valuable things in life.
5. You get comfortable with solitude.
It’s perfectly fine to dine alone, shop alone and of course explore alone. You only have yourself to please. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. I used to wonder why would people dine alone. But now I ask, why not? One of life’s greatest pleasure is chilling by the cafe with a cuppa reading a book or just merely people watching. One of my favorite activities when I dine alone is to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations especially if I understand the language. Don’t get me wrong, being around with your loved ones is great, it’s just that sometimes you need some time off for yourself. As you grow older, you’ll have different priorities that are different from your friends and it might not be easy to always find someone to travel with you.
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau
So go ahead and do it.
6. You learn how to go easy on yourself.
Remember that time you packed your itinerary with so much stuff just so that you can make full use of every waking moment exploring but ended up feeling disappointed because you failed to do so? This was me when I embarked on my first solo trip. Along the way I realized that it’s fine not to see everything on my list. It’s my trip anyway, I make the call. And there’s always another excuse to be back if I leave something out. I’m someone who take things very hard upon myself but when it comes to traveling, I’ve learnt to go with the flow. I can spend the entire day in the museum if I wanted to. I can forgo my itinerary if I wanted to. I’ve learnt to go easy on myself. This applies to my life too. I’m slowly learning to go easy on myself. Life is hard enough, why not be kinder to yourself?
7. It’s alright not to ‘find yourself’ during your travels.
During my previous solo travel, I was asking myself why I travel so much, and why I choose to solo travel? Was it because I couldn’t find someone who can travel with me or do I truly like solo travel? Have you read countless of thought catalogue articles telling you how traveling helps to find yourself? So what does ‘finding yourself’ mean? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m as clueless as you. Well, I believe that life is a process, you find yourself gradually and you lose yourself in it too. So don’t be too quick to ‘find yourself’, and don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out after your solo travels. I travel to a new environment to gain a fresh perspective and a change of environment. Sometimes a change in environment sparks creative juices, sometimes it’s just a nice break away from what you’re facing back home. I travel to recharge so I’ll return home feeling more refreshed.
Traveling solo is all about yourself. It’s not about proving to someone else that you’re ‘brave’ enough to do it. It’s about you. It’s about spending quality time with yourself. It might seem daunting at first but it’s definitely worth every bit.