I have travelled a fair bit in my 20’s and mostly alone. I enjoy travelling solo because that’s when I learn the most. Sometimes the lessons I learn are good and sometimes, they’re not so good. But regardless of how good or bad they are, there is a lot I would’ve liked to know before I first set off. I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far to save other people from making the same mistakes I did. So if you are planning on travelling solo for the first time, give this post a read first!
1. Problems are still problems when you’re halfway across the world
Just because you’re travelling, it doesn’t mean everything is suddenly perfect. I realised soon after arriving in Canada that it wasn’t my circumstances making me unhappy but rather my mindset towards problems. Running away does not solve anything. Soz.
2. It’s OK to have a shit time
People tend to pretend their lives are fabulous even when sometimes, they’re actually struggling. When you’re travelling and posting photos on social media, people naturally assume you’re living the dream. But sometimes life gets in the way and your trip isn’t always as amazing as you thought it’d be. I’ve been depressed when travelling solo before and I felt SO guilty for feeling that way. I felt that I needed to force myself to try and have a good time. Otherwise I was being ungrateful and wasting an opportunity of a lifetime. I now know that bad times are just a part of life and I need to go easy on myself. It’s OK not to be on top form 100% of the time.
3. Not everyone is friendly
I have had some pretty rubbish experiences when interacting with others abroad. Creepy guys (one even calling me a slut when I didn’t accept his friend request on Facebook!), rude government officials in the street and just some people who have absolutely no manners. Assholes are everywhere you go.
4. It’s OK to trust strangers
You will meet plenty of assholes but you’ll also come across some really nice people. You’ll find that sometimes complete strangers want to help you for no reason other than to be kind. There are far more good people than there are bad. If you have your guard up too much you will miss out on some amazing experiences and connections.
I was once on a day tour on my last day in Asia and made friends with an older lady (a British expat) on the bus. I had to check out of my hostel at 8am that morning and wasn’t able to shower before heading to the airport at night (after being in the sun all day). On the way back, she asked if I wanted to hang out some more. She let me shower and change at her place then paid for my dinner. She even got me into a taxi to the airport. A similar situation also happened on my last day in Jamaica. Lovely, lovely people. Obviously be wary of trusting everyone. Just use your gut and common sense and you’ll be fine.
5. Book everything independently
Most of the time you can book a trip SO much cheaper than what you’ll be quoted by a travel agent. My favourite site to use is Skyscanner. Excursions, flights, accommodation etc. can usually be found cheaper online or once you’re actually at your destination.
6. Take local transport instead of taxis.
It’s so much cheaper. Because I stick out like a sore thumb in non-Western countries, I find that local people on buses/trains tend to want to look after me. Especially if I’m travelling solo. They help me get to where I need to be safely. It works out way cheaper and way safer than getting in a taxi on my own with a stranger. Plus, you get the authentic experience.
7. Keep a record of your travels
Starting my blog was the best thing I ever did. I love being able to share my stories with family and friends instantly, and uploading all of my photos there and then. In my blog I now have a full travel journal of all of my highs and lows from everywhere I’ve been in the last year. The best part is that it will never get lost or damaged like a physical journal might. I just wish I’d started it sooner.
8. Everything always works out
I’ve lost count of the amount of times when travelling that I felt like everything was going to fall apart. I worry a lot- especially when I’m travelling solo. But what I’ve learned is that no matter what, everything ALWAYS works out. Maybe not in the way that you wanted or planned, but it’s always going to be OK. We can’t control everything anyway so there’s no point in wasting time worrying. Just try to embrace the present and focus on the moment.
I hope this post is helpful to anyone thinking of taking their first trip alone. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned whilst travelling solo? Leave a comment and let me know!