Today’s guest post has been written by Lois, who blogs at AuburnRoe.com. She’s currently a 21 year old who’s just finished her studies and is now attempting to travel the world whilst sharing what she learns along the way. She loves travelling, dogs, personal development, movies, chocolate cake, and self-care books. Originally born and bred in London, England, giving others advice and helping people is a trait Lois has inherited from her mother. AuburnRoe was born whilst documenting a pretty tough time in 2016, after which she decided to set out on this bizarre journey to find out how to be happy and make the most of this crazy ride we call life. Since then it has become a space for people to come and learn about her millennial wellness journey from all around the world. You can follow Lois on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Solo travel can be a magical, life-transforming experience. It can teach you things about yourself you never knew and give you the most amazing memories. However, it also comes with a price. It’s easy to look at the idea of solo travel through rose-tinted glasses, especially with all the pretty travel photos and captions people write on social media about how solo travel changed their life. (Yep, I’m guilty of this too!)
So, if you’re about to set off on your first ever solo trip, make sure you become familiar with the realities that you could well end up facing in an unfamiliar country.
As a solo traveller, it may come as a surprise that despite what many people assume, you will always be around people and you definitely won’t struggle to make friends. So, you might be thinking, why would I still feel lonely if I’m constantly meeting new people?
If your trip involves moving from place to place, when you decide to eventually move on after meeting and spending time with a good group of fellow travellers (very common if you’re staying in hostels), it can be a shock to the system. Meeting people can sometimes be a luck of the draw, and it’s impossible to plan in advance, but when you come across people who you really click with, it can be hard to leave them.
Being back on your own whilst travelling to your next destination after spending time with people in such close proximity is like going from one extreme to the other. And then of course when you get to the next place, it takes a while to settle before you find a new group of people. And then of course, the cycle begins again.
It’s always good to have some alone time, and if you look at it as a chance to be grateful for the people you’ve met and be excited for the people you’ll meet at your next stop, hopefully you’ll be able to embrace it!
There’s certainly an upside when it comes to travelling on your own, as you have the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want (within reason, obviously!). The downside of this is that there’s no one around to act as the voice of reason when you come to a metaphorical (or literal!) crossroads and you have no clue which one is the right one to go down.
Do you stay in a place that you’re really enjoying with the risk of overstaying and missing out on other adventures?
Do you change your carefully crafted plans and spontaneously book on to the excursion that a fellow solo traveller you’ve just met is inviting you to?
Do you take the risk of getting into that friendly stranger’s car who is offering to show you around?
Travelling is all about learning when to say yes and when to say no, and sometimes you have to get it wrong to learn how to get it right in the future.
Yes, I have got into strangers’ cars on more than one occasion whilst on my travels – most of the time it’s a great opportunity to meet a local and get off the beaten track. But it’s important to look out for the signs that the driver might have different intentions. So far, I’ve not been kidnapped! But I’m cautious every time, for sure.
Things Aren’t Always Smooth Sailing
When something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, especially when you’re wanting your trip to be as enjoyable as possible. (You saved all this money, after all!)
Whether you’re on a 12-month expedition around the world or simply having a weekend away, there’s a very high chance that something might go wrong. Be it as miniscule as leaving your shampoo behind, to more extreme cases like having a moped accident. (I’m also guilty of both of these!)
It’s easy to have high expectations, especially as being on your own can definitely give you a false sense of control.
On my 2-month solo trip around South East Asia, I would sometimes get super anxious about a situation, and in turn that would make me more anxious because I knew I should just be enjoying myself and should stop worrying. Eventually I realised that I was only ever getting anxious when I found myself in a situation where I didn’t have full control.
When I learnt that I wasn’t always going to have control (like having to give up swimming in the Thai islands because of my moped accident injuries) it was easier to accept. Scenarios like this are always going to be a little frustrating, but you can always control how you react to what’s going on. Having too much control is no way to get out of your comfort zone!
It’s Good to Play it Safe
We all know that it’s nice to let loose every once in a while, and there’s certainly a stereotype when it comes to the backpacker scene and letting your cares sail far away from the beach hostel where you’re partying the night away. As fun as this side of travelling is (if that’s what you’re looking for) it’s so important to be somewhat responsible. You are the only person who will care about any of your belongings, and when it comes down to it, you’re the only one who is truly looking out for you.
Even if you’re planning on living the high life in luxury hotels whilst you’re solo travelling as opposed to backpacking on a budget, it’s still vital that you keep your wits about you.
When walking through streets at night on your own, be aware of your surroundings. ALWAYS. Make sure you get your bearings as soon as you arrive in a new place, this way you will know if a taxi or driver is going in the right direction. I highly suggest you download an app that doesn’t require data such as MapsMe or CityMapper to save the location of your accommodation so you can come back to it at any time regardless of if you have Wi-Fi. One thing I did (mostly to put my worried mother at ease) was letting her know the name of my accommodation every time I moved to a new place. Just so that someone knew where I was.
Because, realistically, being on your own in a foreign country, there’s no reason for your loved ones to know exactly where you are or what you’re doing.
Of course, updating your social media every now and then helps, but my advice? Save the details for your loved ones back home.
Get Comfortable with Yourself, Whether You Like it or Not!
If you’re the type of person who prefers to surround themselves with people and keep themselves busy to minimise the time spent in their own head, there’s no running away from the fact that you’ve got to learn to love your own company as a solo traveller.
As much as you will spend time with people, you can’t get away with never being on your own (as mentioned in my first point). During these times it’s easy to let your thoughts wander or start to overthink things. One thing solo travelling has taught me has been to learn to keep myself entertained. Having no idea how long I’d have to wait for a bus and train journeys as long as 12 hours in South East Asia meant that by the end of my trip, I found I was so much more at ease with myself than when I first started. It’s scary in the beginning, especially if you’re an overthinker like me, because there can be times when there’s not much to distract you. Some things you can do if you’re feeling anxious and don’t have a fellow backpacker to turn to:
- Have some films or TV shows pre-downloaded on your phone so that even if you don’t have Wi-Fi, you can still watch them.
- Download a podcast or audio book to listen to – something funny or, even better, something that will get your brain juices flowing. (I like to listen to Mel Robbins who talks all about self-development and how to be less anxious!)
- Keep a list of things to do when you’re having some down time and not really sure what to do with yourself.
- Don’t ever be too shy to strike up a conversation. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, this will take some practice. (Trust me, at the beginning of my 2-month trip I was so nervous, and by the end, I was making conversation with strangers like I’d known them for years.) People are a lot less likely to start a conversation with you if you’re the quiet one sitting on your own in the corner!
Yes, solo travelling can be hard at times, and yes, it’s important to have realistic expectations of how it will truly be when you’re out there in the big, sometimes scary world. Nevertheless, the challenge is what makes solo travel so rewarding, and it’s just a bonus that you get to experience all of these incredible sights, people and (of course) food, in the process.