Travel

Travelling Alone: Why Everyone Should Do This At Least Once

Travelling alone is something that is not for everybody, but I think everyone should do this at least once in their lives. My first solo trip was when I was 19; I traveled alone to France to go work on a campsite for the summer. When I was 26, I went backpacking in New Zealand for 2 months on my own.  

My backpack adventure to New Zealand was my first intercontinental trip alone and it was when I really got contaminated with the travel bug. My first long-term relationship had just ended, I needed some head space and time away. I had always wanted to go to NZ, so I saved some money, I booked a ticket and I went.  It was one of the best decision ever as I had the time of my life, made friends, cleared my mind, and was able to look at my ‘normal’ life at home from  a distance (literally) for a bit: my job, my house, my ended relationship. It helped me get through that tough post break-up time tremendously too.

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When I returned to NL, I wanted nothing more than to move to NZ, because everything was better there, or at least, that is what I told myself.  Life in NL was boring compared to NZ, there were not as many thrills as I had experienced over the two months before. Obviously, that comparison was completely unfair and I was comparing apples with pears, but at that point, I felt like that, fair or not.

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That move never took place as I finally came to realize that backpacking somewhere for two months, so being on holiday and doing whatever you like, is not the same living somewhere. Had I moved there, I would have had to find a job, pay rent, pay taxes, make new friends and build a new life, which can be very exciting too, but is a completely different experience than wandering about for two months and going where-ever the wind takes you.
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I am forever thankful though that my 26-year-old self took the decision to go travelling alone and I think everyone should do that at some point in their lives, either for a shorter or a longer period of time. Here is why:

1. It teaches you a lot about yourself
Mainly: it teaches you to be at ease with yourself. Going to the cinema on my own or having dinner alone in a restaurant does not bother me anymore. If people wonder and stare, I let them; I will likely never see them again anymore anyway. (Same with wearing heels basically.. 😉 ).

2. It so much easier to make contact with people when you are by yourself
When travelling with someone, you are always in some way, shape or form focused on each other. When you are alone, you will start that chat with the restaurant owner, or with that lady who is having coffee by herself too.

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3. You will grow appreciation for the things you normally take for granted
Regardless of where you go, they will not have the things you have at home. Sometimes that’s something minor like your favorite brand of toothpaste, sometimes it’s something bigger like running water or electricity. Or a car. 🙂
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4. Distance gives perspective 
Being able to literally take distance from your ‘normal’ life, gives it perspective. Distance can give you a new appreciation for the things you have going on in your life at home, see a bigger picture, as you will quickly notice what the things and people are you miss most (or maybe not at all).
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5. You have to (learn to) make your own decisions.
There is no one to rely on or to fall back on, you choose whether you go left or right. This can be hard when you are more a ‘follower’ than a ‘leader’, but for that reason alone it’s worth doing it, as it gets you out of you comfort zone.

Credits: Pinterest

Credits: Pinterest

6. You can do whatever you like when you like it.
No one tells you what to do or when to do it; you do not have to account for anything. And that is so liberating.

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7. You learn to be independent and to trust your gut.
I once stayed the night at the house of an elderly couple who I had met at a tiny station in the South of France. I had missed my last bus and they didn’t want me wandering about the dodgy area around the station looking for a hotel, so they offered me to stay with them; I slept at a huge house, had my own room with en-suite bathroom and they cooked me a lovely meal; it was better than many hotels I stayed in (and I have stayed in quite a few hotels). Had I had one hint of suspicion that they were up to no good, I wouldn’t have gotten in that car.

8. You learn to be flexible
Things will not always go to plan: A train might not run, a flight might be delayed, you might want to stay somewhere longer or maybe leave earlier. You quickly learn to adjust, to be patient, to be flexible and to deal with the situations life throws at you. Sometimes that is hard enough at home in your safe environment, let alone when you are in a country you don’t know and where you don’t speak the language. But you adapt, you learn and you will manage. One way or another.

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Even though I am married now and the Hobbit loves travelling too, I do still travel on my own (sometimes for work), and so does he. Not for two months, but for occasional weekends. I still enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling together with the Hobbit or with friends, but I like it even more BECAUSE I also travel on my own.

In fact, one of the things I love most about solo travel now, is missing home. That sounds contradictory, but it means that I care, that I love what I have at home. That I appreciate the life that I have built here and that I want to go back to that life, rather than run from it.

I’d love to hear your experiences on this: what are the things you like or dislike about solo travel? Have you ever done it? Would you do it again?

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Credits: Pinterest

7 Comments

  • Reply
    tallfashionadventures
    24 August 2015 at 11:50

    What an interesting topic! I admire your adventurous spirit and enjoyed reading about your solo travel experiences (especially the bit about the elderly French couple that took you in). Now that I think of it, I have not ever traveled alone other than for a couple of business trips. I’m certainly not against the idea though. In my early 20s, I didn’t really have the resources to travel much since all of my money went to cover the horribly high cost of living in Southern California. I met my husband when I was 26 and we’ve done a ton of traveling since then. He’s very good at navigating and figuring things out when we travel, so I’ve learned a lot from him but also probably rely on him a bit too much when we’re on trips. On the other hand, being an expat in a foreign country has forced me to figure out a lot of stuff for myself and that, combined with everything I’ve gleaned from traveling with my husband, makes me feel more comfortable with the notion of going on trips alone. One of the main points is to get out of my comfort zone anyways, right? We’ll see…maybe I’ll try it some day! 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      Tall Wife
      24 August 2015 at 23:04

      After my NZ trip I was out of funds for a bit too, as I had used my credit card a bit too enthusiastically, but I figured I’d not be back in NZ very quickly, so I’d best make the most of it and worry about that CC bill later. I would handle that differently now, but that is also something I learned then! 🙂

      I rely very much on my husband as well when we travel together, as he is very very organised and studies google maps for days so he knows exactly where to go. This is handy and convenient, yet I always am proud of myself when I find my own way in a place I’ve never been to before. 🙂

      Living as an expat is a great challenge too though, I can imagine. I admire that you took that jump, as I think it puts a lot of people off; moving that far away from your friends and family and out of your comfort zone to a completely new country! I have yet to experience moving to another country, but I can see a move to England coming at some point in the future. That is not nearly as far away as the move you did though. Moving from the US to Europe is a much bigger leap than moving from NL to England, which is a 1h flight, so I tip my hat to you!

      • Reply
        tallfashionadventures
        28 August 2015 at 09:06

        Thanks for the kind words about expat life! They mean a lot especially since earlier this week I was just OVER IT and desperately missing my friends, fam and career back in the U.S.! What you said about wanting to pick up and move to NZ after your time there but realizing that visiting/vacationing somewhere is much different than real/everyday life rings so true with me. Overall, we love living here and the travel opportunities are unparalleled but every day life is still every day life and it can be quite challenging at times.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    26 August 2015 at 04:00

    This year at he age of 60 I travelled by myself to Germany. Now for me this was definitely getting out of my comfort zone even though when I arrived in Germany it was to stay with my daughter and son-in-law. On my way there I had to face all of my traveling phobias such as missing a connecting flight, rebooking, finding a place to stay ( ok my daughter and her husbands helped me with that one) until I could fly the next day, getting to the hotel, and not getting my baggage when I arrived. Now I feel more comfortable about traveling alone. It’s amazing the kind people you meet when you’re all in the same crisis boat.

    • Reply
      Tall Wife
      26 August 2015 at 13:07

      Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for your response! Travelling alone for the first time can be quite overwhelming at any age, especially if you are not used to travelling. Plus you then had to go through all the hassle of missing a flight as well, so you really got the full travel experience! The connections you make with people when travelling are amazing indeed; good to realize that there are loads of kind people out there still.
      I am happy to hear that your chaotic experience did not put you off travelling though and that you now feel more comfortable doing it; I do admire the fact that just took on this journey and went for it!

      🙂 Karen

  • Reply
    Sara
    1 September 2015 at 16:58

    Ah now here is a blog post I can relate to.
    My last relationship ended a long, long time ago. As I was getting more at ease with my single life, all of my friends seemed to be getting settled down – and every time I’d moot the idea of a trip they’d consult their other half and then come back with a no. So I made the decision to go it alone. I can’t claim to have ever done the backpacking thing – but as soon as I started travelling solo I realised what a great thing it was to be on no one’s schedule but your own. Now I apply that to everything – theatre, cinema, restaurants, etc. Of course it’s lovely to have someone to share in the experience with you, but as you say, why does that have to be someone you know? It could just as easily be the person you just met.
    Really enjoyed this post. And I hope I get to go horseback riding in New Zealand one day too!
    Sara x
    http://www.girlintheprettydress.com

    • Reply
      Tall Wife
      2 September 2015 at 09:30

      Hi Sara,

      Thanks for your response, great to hear you like it too! 🙂 I love being on my own schedule too. Because we live in such a well-connected world nowadays, I occasionally love the feeling of nobody knowing where I am, wandering about in a city that I don’t know, just exploring and taking everything in. I also think a lot of people mistake being alone for loneliness, and indeed, you’ll meet new people on the way. People who you likely would not have talked to had you been travelling with somebody. 🙂

      Here’s to solo travel!

      xx Karen

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