It’s hard to describe the rush that you feel upon purchasing the tickets for your first solo trip abroad. Is it fear? Is it excitement? Most likely it’s a mixture of both, with a whole bunch of other stomach-churning emotions thrown in for extra measure.
You may be wondering; will it all be worth it? Will you make friends on the road? What if you can’t cope and end up booking the first flight back home? The answer is that when you are travelling by yourself, you will be exposed to new challenges, obstacles, and experiences that you have never been exposed to before. But all these challenges will teach you the following skills that you need to make friends and cope with all the obstacles that may pop up while on your first solo trip, and yes, it will all be oh so worth it.
Lesson 1: becoming more open-minded
Think about it: by being in foreign countries, you will inevitably be exposed to new varieties of food, new cultures, new manners, and even the rules around jaywalking may be completely different!
To adapt and continue to enjoy your travels, you will have to quickly accept that other cultures -although completely different to your own – are equally as valid and one way of doing things in one country does not automatically translate to another country. In a world where some people are growing frighteningly close-minded, being open-minded is an admirable and vital quality for being open to trying new things, getting along with others, and having a broad outlook on life.
Lesson 2: becoming more friendly
One thing that is guaranteed about travelling solo – and travelling in general – is that you are going to meet a lot of new people. Whether you are a thriving people-person or a bit of a wallflower, meeting complete strangers with different cultures and backgrounds from you can leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, practice makes perfect – or at least a whole lot better.
Before you know it, you won’t be nervous upon arriving at a new hostel or guesthouse, and you’ll come to realize that although people might be a bit surprised after you randomly make conversation, they will also be pleased and sometimes secretly kicking themselves that they weren’t the ones to make the first move.
Lesson 3: becoming more independent
When travelling solo, you – and only you – are responsible for yourself. While on family vacations you had your Dad to guide you through the crowded streets of a sprawling and confusing city. Or your Mum would take over and order you dinner from a menu that could have been written in ancient hieroglyphs for all you knew.
Now that you’re on your own, you will be in charge of navigating maze-like airports, making sure you arrive for your train/plane in time, finding your Airbnb or hostel with minimal directions, and eating alone in a restaurant after you and your non-English speaking waiter play an exhausting and mildly embarrassing game of charades.
While thinking about all these responsibilities now may seem intimidating or maybe impossible, just know that very few things can match the empowerment you will feel upon handling any obstacles that come your way and taking care of yourself.
Lesson 4: becoming more confident
After solo travel has changed your sense of open mindedness, independence, and how well you relate to people, it’s unavoidable that it has also increased your confidence. Part of confidence comes from accomplishing what you feared could not be done, and as a solo traveller – particularly female solo travellers – we are constantly told that it can’t be done. That travelling alone is dangerous, hard, lonely, and ultimately – not worth it.
But after your first solo trip, you will realize that all the obstacles and challenges of daily life just seem to pale away in comparison with what you dealt with on your travels. You will know that after hauling yourself around the world, and bartering with fierce stall-owners in Shanghai, that you are more than capable of handling whatever Stacey from the office throws at you.
When asked why they choose to travel alone, solo travellers may be stuck at a loss for words. It is hard to explain how travelling alone pushes us to our limits, enhances our independence, and opens our minds to new people and possibilities. It makes us see what we are truly capable of and challenges us to keep on reaching for higher and higher goals. Simply put, solo travel is the greatest adventure of them all.
Would you travel alone or have you travelled alone?
Written by Vicky Evans
When she is not thinking about her next overseas trip, Vicky can be found with her head buried deep in a book, writing, or binging on Netflix. Her obsessions include adorable cats, interior design, and indulging in ALL the sweet things.