The first time I traveled solo I went to Italy. I didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak much English. I got lost, I felt lonely and bored at times and I spent a small fortune calling my sister to Australia because I needed to talk to someone.
So you could guess that was the first and the last time I went solo. Well, it was not. After this first experience, I traveled solo many times and I actually prefer to travel this way.
You may ask what it is that makes me go through these inconveniences that I keep doing that again and again. I’m going to tell you. Just keep reading.
I mean, don’t get me wrong I enjoy spending time and going to places with people I love BUT going alone, it’s a completely different story. Maybe it’s because I enjoy being by myself so much but it is NOT the only reason.
And also, I know people who are truly extroverted and love spending time with other people and guess what? They are into traveling solo as well. So it’s not only for those who love the solitude.
But let’s get back to my first solo trip. Did I want to go on holiday by myself? HELL NO! But it was at the time when most of my friends were starting families, were pregnant or just had had a baby. So there were not that many travel companions to choose from.
It was also the time when I was very frustrated and tired at work. When I planned something big but life had other plans for me. So I had to adjust and I knew I needed a break.
I don’t know where the idea came from but at some point I caught myself checking out fly-tickets. Somewhere. And quite spontaneously buying a ticket for myself to Pisa.
In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine staying in a dorm with strangers so I spent too much money on accommodation. In Pisa, I stayed in a single room in a lovely bed & breakfast where the other guests were only families.
It was not completely pleasant to eat breakfast in their company. Not because I would feel jealous of them having company but because I could tell from the looks they gave me that they pitied me because I didn’t have a company. But the breakfast was simply amazing so I stayed.
It took me a while to stop booking single rooms and start booking dorms in hostels. But when I did that, not only it helped my budget significantly I also stopped getting the pity looks and most importantly I got to meet a lot of interesting people.
Sometimes it’s just a buddy for a half-day walk around town but sometimes you can get an amazing friend for life.
After this first trip, at first, I thought I would never do that again because it was not easy and fun at all times.
Sometimes I felt lonely and then the moment when I missed my bus stop and it got dark quickly and there was no bus to take me where I needed to be and nobody who would understand what I was saying, the lonely meals at restaurants, the frustration of not having anybody to talk to or to help me decide or to buy the tickets when I didn’t feel like talking to strangers.
There were moments when everything was just perfect. Like when I was on a train on my way back from Florence and overheard a heart-warming conversation between a young man and an elderly couple. A conversation I would have missed if I hadn’t been by myself. And the sunrise I watched from my terrace or getting lost in the streets of Siena and many more moments of absolute bliss.
When I came back home I didn’t feel as I expected I would. I remembered the great moments and the beautiful light (I still do) and the memories of the not-so-pleasant moments were already fading or more likely I started to see something else in them.
I started looking at myself from a different perspective too. Because I was alone in a foreign country in difficult situations and I made it. By myself. I started to see myself as a strong person and I became less scared of uncomfortable situations. I trusted and believed in myself more and it made my decision-making easier. Which ultimately made my life easier.
When I look back at my trip to Italy now, I see it as one of my favorites and definitely one that changed my life. This first trip was one week long. And after that, I made many more. The longest one lasted six months. I was traveling and volunteering in Canada and the US. And again this one completely changed my life.
All my solo traveling has been a positive experience. I have never met anybody who would have wanted to do me any harm and all my encounters with other human beings were truly enriching. I have also never been in a really dangerous situation.
The reason for that is partly that I am an optimist and I expect good things to happen so I draw it to myself and partly because I trust my instincts and I pay attention to my surroundings.
Still not sure if you should do it? Or if you can? I am sure that you CAN. And you definitely should. I think that everybody should do it at least once. Or twice. Or three times or just keep doing it.
What are your reasons/excuses why not to do it? How about turning them into the reasons WHY TO DO IT? You can get inspired by my top reasons why to dive into traveling solo:
If you are still afraid too much but you feel this is something you would like to do, try to make the first trip easy for yourself. You could go for a shorter time to test the waters. It could as well be a long weekend. Or choose a destination that you already know. It makes it less stressful.
You could also choose to go for a language course abroad and from the language point of view, it is an excellent thing to do. Especially if you decide to stay with a host family. You don’t have to be afraid to go only for a short period of time, because everything counts.
Or you could volunteer as I did in America. There are so many ways how to volunteer and I chose Workaway because a) it’s worldwide and b) there’s a wide range of hosts who in exchange for 4 or 5 hours of your work offer you bed and board plus you get to live like a local, learn new skills and so much more.
No matter how you decide to do it, just take the first step. EVERYTHING starts with a first step. And it could be something exciting this time.