I am at that stage in preparation for my upcoming trip where I am nervous as heck. I have not been super busy this month and as an overthinker, I’ve had a lot of time to think about everything that can go wrong. Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with doing stuff alone, and that is what I am msot nervous about. Yet, I know I am doing this trip to get out of my comfort zone and I will be alone.
To help myself realize solo traveling is not scary, I’ve spent some time talking to female friends who have solo traveled themselves and I wanted to share some of their experiences. For the pupose of this post, they will remain anonymous.
Traveler one spent 4 months in New Zealand. She spent time with different host families while there. Traveler 2 and 3 were both studying for a semester abroad and traveled during that time.
Without further ado here are their answers to some of my burning questions.
1. What were you most scared about leaving for your trip?
Traveler 1: Losing support. It wast my first time travelling outside of a school or family trip and I was unsure how I would handle being alone. Being a naturally social person I was nervous about being lonely.
Traveler 2: Getting lonely! I’m a social person who is very much used to being in a city with a group of friends. Leaving my social support network to go somewhere thousands of kilometres away on my own was an adjustment for sure.
Traveler 3: Throughout my exchange I travelled quite a bit, but it was all with friends that I had made so I did not get the opportunity to truly solo travel until the end. At this point I went to Lagos, Portugal. Lagos is known as a party haven, so I was definitely a bit nervous that I wouldn’t get to experience that whole part of Lagos travelling alone. I have travelled a fair bit, so wasn’t nervous about getting lost or anything like that. When I travelled to Iceland, I wasn’t too nervous about the social aspect as I was there for such a short time and knew I would be recovering from jetlag. When I went to Portugal, I was more nervous about the social aspect and about the superficial things that you take for granted when travelling with friends such as having someone to take photos of you and having people to go out at night with.
2. What was unexpected on your trip?
Traveler 1: I fell off a horse at one of my farm stays and broke my arm! Didn’t have a plan for that. ER there was really good about it, as were my hosts. I ended up spending a couple of weeks in Bay of Islands area and I’m quite thankful for and would never have ended up at if not for my little accident. Sometimes things that seem bad have great outcomes.
Traveler 2:Who I became friends with! One of my closest friends I made on my trip I met because he literally sat down beside me before a 14 hour bus ride. Another friend swam over to me in a hot bath in Budapest and we ended up spending most of the day together. It’s nice to keep an open mind and let people surprise you!
Traveler 3: I wasn’t expecting to be able to make friends in my hostel in Lagos so easily, and I also wasn’t expecting to meet so many solo travellers.
3.What suprised you the most when you were traveling?
Traveler 1: The kindess of strangers and how quickly you become friends with people in your hostel who are also solo travelling. One week hostel time feels like about 1 month normal time just because of the close proximity you can share with people. I also found this differed from hostel to hostel.
Traveler 2:How many other solo travellers there were! I think solo travellers attract other solo travellers because they’re less intimidating that groups. I ended up meeting quite a few people that would just come up to me and start a conversation.
Traveler 3: I was surprised at how easy it was to meet people in hostels! I also was surprised by the amount of people that were travelling alone for extended periods of time.
4. Were you ever scared during your travels, what other emotions did you feel during and after?
Traveler 1: I was lonely a couple times. Being so far away you can sometimes be caught off guard by the distance. Mostly I was happy and people were always super helpful. Fear was only really felt at home in anticipation of going on the trip
Traveler 2: Once I was getting a drink before going to see The Nutcracker and as I sat there all alone. I remember reflecting on how I was feeling and it was all kinds of different feelings. That night I remember feeling awkward and embarrassed about being alone, proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone, happy about the night at the theatre, a little lonely, slightly anxious about being out at night in a city I didn’t know but also excited about being out at night in a city I didn’t know….. like I said a lot going on.
Traveler 3: No not really. During my solo trips there were definitely times where I felt a bit awkward. Although I quickly met people in the hostel, it wasn’t really the same as having someone who you were actually friends with. Afterwards I felt happy that I did the trip alone, but learned that I don’t think I would want to travel alone for an extended period of time.
5. How would you compare traveling solo to traveling with friends or family? What are the best and worst parts?
Traveler 1: I have rarely travelled outside of school trips so it was a completely different feel. Scheduling was totally up to me and all decisions I made could be purely tailored to my personal interests. Solo travel is great if there is something you love doing that family or friends might not enjoy. The worst part is feeling the isolation that can come with being on your own but I think that really is affected by trip length and how much you go out of your way to socialize.
Traveler 2: Being on your own schedule is very liberating. You only pee when you have to pee, eat when you’re hungry, you don’t have to feel guilty if you want to sleep in on a perfectly good day for sightseeing, linger at all the sights you want to see and skip the ones you don’t want to. You get to be selfish!
On the other hand, I missed the companionship! Let’s just say I listened to a lot of podcasts. And there were certainly things I didn’t feel as comfortable with doing by myself especially at night or in areas without a lot of other people around. So I did feel like I missed out on a lot of the nightlife scene
Traveler 3: I would say that I prefer travelling with friends and family to travelling alone. I am a pretty social person and enjoy having the company of others. It’s great to have family and friends to share the experience of travelling with. I went on a kayaking tour in Portugal, and rather than getting to share the experience with a friend or family member, I got put with this guy who sucked at kayaking and didn’t speak to me the whole time. The thing that was great about solo travel was the freedom. Often when travelling with friends and family we are forced to adhere to the schedule that works best for the group as a whole, which may not be the best thing for you personally. It was awesome being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it.
6. Did you eat alone in restaurants and how did this experience change as you’d been traveling longer?
Traveler 1: I did! First time felt a little strange but afterwards I generally got into short chats with my servers. A couple times I noticed people glancing over as they must have thought it a bit strange but it was never judgemental – just curious.
Traveler 2: Yep I went to restaurants alone! I’ve been too embarrassed to try that at home but when you’re in a country with quite literally no one that knows you the stakes were quite low… I did get seated near a couple celebrating their anniversary one time and they felt bad for me sitting alone and asked if I wanted to join them! I politely declined and went back to eating in silence whilst scrolling Pinterest.
Traveler 3: I was always with friends until I went to Portugal. While I was in Portugal I never ended up eating at a restaurant alone. This was because the hostel that I was staying at had these awesome “family dinners” where everyone from the hostel hung out and ate together in the common area
I hope you enjoyed this, thanks for reading! Talking to others has definitely helped me realize that it is natural to feel scared when preparing for solo travel or studying abroad , but we should not let that stop us from opportunity.