I have been seeing a lot of posts lately - about travelling solo and how it is food for the soul, helps you connect with yourself and changes you as a person. It is a trend that is picking up - and mostly because not everyone finds it easy to find a partner to travel with. Some of us are passionate explorers and finding someone to share that passion, and that too, when we need them to, is rare!
But for many people, the idea of travelling all by yourself can be very intimidating. What if we get bored? What will we do without any company, is making new friends really that easy? Who will I turn to if I face difficulties? I will be all on my own, having to make tough choices. And can you really have fun, all by yourself?
I have always travelled with companions - be it my family (I am very close to them and absolutely love their company!), or Mohit since we have been married. There is a certain sense of comfort of being in an unknown place with someone you know, are close to and can always have beside you, while having fun or if facing any adversity. I never had the opportunity, nor did I have any inclination, to travel all by myself.
A few months back, Mohit and I planned a trip to Slovenia & Croatia, for 2 weeks and due to an urgent last-minute work problem, he could not take the entire 2 weeks off and had to cut his leave short by 5 days (one of the drawbacks of a full-time corporate job!) and I was left with two choices - to cut my vacation short as well and travel with him or travel solo and eventually meet him after 5 days for the rest of the trip. A tough decision for me - I did NOT want to cut my vacation short, and I certainly did not want to skip seeing half the places we had planned to visit. On the other hand, travelling all by myself seemed to be such a daunting idea! Could I really pull it off? How would I know until I tried?
And so I decided - this would be my first ever solo trip. I carried enough books to read, just in case I felt I was getting bored at any stage, I changed the car rental agreement in my name (I usually do not drive on foreign lands all by myself), packed my bags and was off! With my heart pounding in my chest - a mix of excitement and anxiousness I was actually curious to see how the next 5 days were going to turn out.
Here are 5 things that I loved about solo travel, 5 things that I did not love so much about being on my own and 5 things you should prepare for, should you plan to do it.
5 things I loved about travelling solo:
#1 You're more likely to make new friends: Although usually, I am a very talkative person, I am an introvert when it comes to making new friends or talking to strangers. When I travelled all by myself, I found myself talking to all sorts of people - an 86-year old lady who was a widow and lived alone in Dubrovnik, told me about how she decided to travel the world by herself; a 5-year old girl who was very excited to share the stories of her little doll, which she carried around everywhere with her and so many other people with interesting things to share!
#2 You learn so much about yourself: It is true. When you are forced to spend time with just yourself, there are things you discover that you did not know. You are closer to your thoughts, you have ample time to think about things and it is almost therapeutic to access thoughts you did not even know you had!
#3 You are totally free to do what you like: Don't want to visit a boring museum? Don't! Want to take a walk around the lake and just relax by the shade of the tree? Do it. Want to trek to that hill where the castle is? Do it! You don't have to fall in line with anyone else's plans and you are free to do what you like. Or NOT do what you don't 🙂
#4 You step out of your comfort zone: I love road trips but I usually choose to be the passenger rather than the driver. Not because I don't like driving but because it is less stressful to just sit beside and navigate or click pictures freely. When you travel on your own, you do things you would not have done or relied on your partner (fellow travellers) to do. You face your fears, gain confidence and realise your mettle.
#5 You overcome your shyness: When you don't know something, you ask. You learn to talk to strangers when that is the only option you have. You ask others to take pictures for you because you have to. And slowly, you realise, it is not that bad! People are mostly nice, especially when they know you are on your own.
5 things I did NOT love so much about travelling solo:
#1 You miss sharing your excitement with someone: Especially if you are used to travelling with a partner, you miss sharing your excitement with them. You have an experience that is so amazing, you want to talk about it non-stop. But you're alone, and strangers would not really be a good audience for your verbal diarrhoea. That is when you miss your partner the most.
#2 You miss sharing your food with someone: I always love picking fries off Mohit's plate. I don't order them myself because they're too unhealthy to eat the entire plate. But if I have someone to share with...
#3 You miss the warm fuzzy feeling of cuddling after a long day: You are tired after a long day, and all you want to do is crash on your bed and enjoy that warm feeling of having someone beside you. But when you're alone..it's just you!
#4 All the hard work is yours: I hate figuring out the parking meters in different countries. Thankfully, I don't have to, when I have my partner with me because that is his job. I hate dragging my luggage up the stairs when there are no elevators in a hotel. However, when I am alone, everything that I find tough, is my job!
#5 You miss the patience of your partner taking 100s of pictures of you: I love being clicked, as much as I love taking pictures. When I am alone, I can ask strangers to take a couple of pictures of me. But I doubt if anyone would have the amount of patience as Mohit does, of taking pictures in different poses, different backgrounds and then making sure that they turned out well or we will have to do another photo shoot all over again!
5 things you must prepare for before travelling solo:
#1 Travel with an open mind: Try new things, don't be afraid of challenges, take it as it comes. Have confidence in yourself, you know you got this!
#2 Don't be shy: Don't hesitate in asking people the way if you're not sure or asking people to take your pictures. People are nice!
#3 Carry your books/music/Netflix: Keep things with you which you know you can fall back on anytime, should you begin to feel like you're getting bored.
#4 Make friends: Talk to strangers. Hear their stories. There is so much to learn from others, you will be amazed.
#5 Go crazy! Nobody knows you here and you will probably never meet them again. So shed your inhibitions, have fun, go crazy!
I would love to hear your opinions and suggestions too. Please leave your comments below and let me know of your experiences with solo travel.
Suggested read: 10 things every NEW traveller must know