I don't know if I've ever shared this, but the first time I came to America, I went on my own. I met up with a group of people (strangers), but I was on my own for most of it. When I went to London with my Nana, I did all my sightseeing alone.
It's been awhile since I've travelled on my own, but even if I catch a flight to Orlando to meet my mum, or to DC to meet Alyssa and Tracy, there is something amazing about travelling alone. I don't really have a desire to travel alone anymore, I have KC and I like to share things with him. But I am glad I did it because I feel like it really made me open up and learn more about myself.
I got to choose what I wanted to do and see. I could wander into any shop I chose, enter any museum that looked interesting and walk straight back out when I was over it. I ate when and what I wanted, slept in late or woke up to see the sunrise.
Make new friends. I am pretty shy when I don’t know people. If I know you, you'd probably scoff at me calling myself shy because I’m loud and annoying. But at first, I’m shy. I was even worse before I travelled. I literally would find a corner, cross my arms and perfect my resting bitch face. But travelling alone made me open up. I had to talk to people. When I was on the trip around America, I was in a bus with like 13 strangers. I could find my corner, or I could talk to them. It’s amazing how fast you make friends in that situation, there is no time for slow friendships. You’re in them, fast. It was awesome. I still talk to some of those people. If I had travelled with a friend (like I was supposed to, but she bailed), I would have stuck with her and not made new friends. Sure, you try, but it won’t be the same.
Imagine if you went to Italy on your own, with a friend who spoke the same language as you, but not Italian. How much Italian do you think you’ll try and speak? Imagine if you went on your own. What a different experience that would be. It feels natural to be outgoing when I travel, which I would have laughed at if you'd told me that beforehand. Even when I first came to Louisville in 2010, I knew only Megan and I met my other (now) best friends for the first time. I was so nervous. Megan ran up to the room to get something right as they arrived, and I wanted to hide behind someone so they didn't see me. But I smiled my biggest smile, waved and rushed towards them like I knew them. Now they love me (okay I love them too). It might not seem like the biggest deal, but it was for me.
When I travelled on my own, I did spend a lot of time with other people, but when I wanted to be alone, no-one noticed or cared. I didn’t have to report to anyone, I just grabbed a book and sat by the pool. I wandered around the campsite while they were all drinking. I went to a movie when they went shopping. I spent money without having to explain my purchases, I did things without having to ask or check with other people. It’s so freeing.
You will learn so much about yourself. Something I realised very early on in my London trip was that I was responsible for my own happiness. I was young, moody and very annoying (or so my Aunty tells me). I realised no-one was going to hold my hand and make me happy. I was on the other side of the world from the douche boyfriend and I realised I didn’t like him so much. The beauty of solo travel is time to be alone, time to reflect and time to test myself. I started to understand myself in ways I didn’t know was possible. When faced with a choice and no-one to make it but yourself and no-one holding you back, you’ll realise ‘hey, I don’t even like museums and I don’t have to go because no-one is making me’. Before London, I convinced myself I loved all museums because everyone else did. Truth is, I like the majority of museums (history! science!) but not all (art. sorry). That is okay. I also didn’t know how much I actually enjoy the company of just me. I kinda liked me.
My world became bigger when I took the risk of going to London and America on my own. I was scared. It might not seem like a big risk, but for me it was. I felt like I conquered my fears and because of that I felt more confident about any adventure my life had in store.
I ate surprisingly healthy on my solo travels because I wasn’t tempted by other people’s choices.
Eating not so well. Ok so sometimes I want to indulge and be a fatty. Other people, especially KC, try and be all logical and stuff. No thank you, give me all the dessert!
Common sense. I thought I had the common sense thing down before my travels, but I did some pretty stupid things. I learned really quickly though, and I feel like I have a good head on my shoulders now. I got in some sticky situations because of my naivety that I luckily got out of, but looking back I could have been in serious trouble. I’m much more aware now when I travel on my own. Don’t do anything stupid, keep an eye on your stuff, and you’ll be good.
That never happened. I don’t really want to share any examples here (but the above photo is from one of those times), but I am glad there are things that happened during those trips that no-one in my current life knows because they weren’t there. Ergo, it didn’t happen.
It’s an awesome sense of accomplishment. I walked over 500 steps to get to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was beautiful. I stood up the top, taking photos and it hit me. I was in London. I was in London. Dream come true. I was on my own, and I was just fine. I was quite a dependent person so to realise this and feel that sense of accomplishment that hey, I could do anything (hey, that’s how I felt) was amazing. The feeling of figuring stuff out on your own in a totally foreign country – it’s indescribable. Whenever it happens, the feeling that comes with it is so completely incredible you might get a bit cocky and think there is nothing you can’t do.
No risk of going with a bad companion. I'm sure we've all been there. Halfway through a holiday or weekend and we want to wring the other person's neck. How many times have you had to compromise on something you want to do to avoid splitting up or a fight? How many times have you said ‘I’ll sit this outing out because I don’t feel well’ just to get a moment’s peace away from those people?
I haven't done a lot of it, I certainly haven't backpacked around Europe on my own for a year, nor is it likely that I ever do that. But little travels? I can do that, and have.
Have you ever travelled somewhere alone?