After reading countless blogs, following all of the travel inspo Instagram accounts and watching vloggers tour the world on their own, I wanted nothing more than to experience what it was like to travel somewhere completely foreign and completely alone. Solo travel was calling my name.
During my semester studying abroad in Spain, I warmed up to the whole solo travel deal with a few mini day trips that included train travel and discovering different small cities in Spain. Then, one weekend I decided to spend three days in Belgium entirely alone.
I booked my hostel and established my last minute flight arrangements. And honestly, the weekend could not have been better. I explored on my own for the first day and then became acquainted with some friendly people at my hostel and traveled around with them for the next two days. I may have gotten lucky on this trip, but solo travelers seem to find one another and they tend to get along very easily.
The whole solo travel lifestyle seems very glamorous. You have the ability to pick up and relocate at any second and explore new places with no strings attached. As great as it is to travel on your own, there are a few truths that are important to know (and can only be learned with experience).
Everything is confusing
It doesn’t matter how much research you do on a place, how many recommendations you have and how foolproof your plan is; there will be things you have to figure out in the moment. Public transportation, metro tickets (you will more than likely get on the wrong metro once or twice), airport shuttles, where to get a drink under nine dollars…nobody tells you these things! Thankfully, we live in a time with all of the answers right in our hand. I was constantly looking stuff up on my phone and figuring things out on the fly when I traveled alone. It made a world of difference!
Nobody is there to help you
If you have a question, you’re consulting a stranger. If you’re confused about something, you keep it to yourself or you ask a stranger. Since there is nobody with you, there is nobody to help you if something goes wrong. If you run into a dilemma, you are fixing it. It’s all about staying calm in the moment. You can do this!
You probably won’t understand everything
During all of my solo travels there was a constant feeling of bewilderment and being within the unknown. Sometimes I felt like I was in a bubble because I didn’t know the language and everyone seemed like they knew exactly where they were going while I had no idea. But the feeling wasn’t necessarily bad. The best thing to do is to fully embrace the confusion and just laugh at it (yes out loud to yourself).
You become your own best friend
There were many times when I thought to myself, ‘When was the last time I said any words out loud?’ A lot of time is spent in your own head, so if you’re thinking of solo traveling, it’s time to become your own best friend.
You are in charge!
It’s rare when you get to be fully, one hundred percent, responsible for every decision made while traveling. But with solo travel, you get to determine how your days go. You don’t have to pretend to be indifferent about where you eat because someone else is insistent on one place. You get to choose what time you wake up, how many monuments you visit and how fast you walk through the museums.
Days go by slower than you think
Since you are determining the days’ schedules, you may check off all the sites and activities on your to-do list pretty fast. With the remaining time you have, you won’t have anybody to spend it with. That’s when you’re able to be spontaneous and creative with your wanderings (which can be the best part of traveling). If you want a nap, you’re free to take one at any time. You also get to decide when to begin and when to finish your day.
You can eat and buy everything
Going shopping alone is amazing. You don’t have to be self-conscious if you want to spend hours in one store and your buddies don’t. Nobody is there to criticize how much money you squander or how tacky the souvenirs you purchased are. You can also eat as much as you want without anyone there to indicate that you’re over-doing it. Experiment and taste all the delicacies on the menu! Splurge on all the chocolate you can eat.
Making friends is hard at first
Before I solo traveled, I was under the impression that everyone who saw me would automatically know I was traveling alone and therefore make endless conversation with me and want to be friends. This was not the case. It’s actually really hard to connect with strangers when you’re alone. Unless they are also solo travelers, which in that case you will usually have no problem connecting. I definitely didn’t become buddy-buddy with my bartenders or hit the town with the person I sat next to on the tram (despite my efforts). It’s just hard. Be on the lookout for other solo travelers—they’re your best bet.
It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks
You are one hundred percent in charge of yourself. That means you are carrying ALL of your luggage and accessories, you pay for everything and if you have a negative experience, it’s entirely your fault. It’s an incredible adventure to travel on your own, but it’s not Eat Pray Love. Make sure you fully understand the journey you’re taking on (all the good and all the bad) when deciding to solo travel!
It’s time to travel
If you want a successful solo travel trip just keep these truths in mind and you’ll be just fine. It’s a life changing experience that everyone should try. Stay cool, embrace the moment and take a risk! You’ll thank me later.