Why Explore Solo?
My first solo trip. It feels like it was yesterday. I remember the smells, the thoughts in my head, the clothes I – after lengthy and very careful consideration – decided to wear, the tears I unsuccessfully tried holding back when saying goodbye to the love of my life – my dad, the brand new passport cover I grasped onto tightly, the bright blue neck pillow awkwardly tangling off my bag, the Lufthansa blanket that I hastily crammed into my carry-on– as a souvenir, naturally; up until my very first ‘Welcome to New Zealand, Miss Huter’. 36 hours later and I felt like a different person!
Due to my post on 7 tips for solo travellers being one of my most clicked articles to date, I decided to back it up with the answer to that very first question we ask ourselves before embarking on the adventure of a lifetime: “Should I really do it by myself?”.
Exploring a foreign destination by yourself is so much more than a ‘holiday’, it is a journey to find and lose yourself at the same time, to understand and be surprised by new cultures, to become more aware and to just ‘be’. Sounds a bit too intangible and spiritual for your liking? Read on to discover the seven real reasons why you should start packing your bags, leave your loved ones behind and wander the world.
We step afoot on a new country excited to explore its culture, cuisine, and history. What we don’t expect is to discover more of ourselves. While the extent to getting to know a country is entirely up to you, I promise you will without a doubt get to know more about yourself. The first and foremost question you will be asked is something along the lines of “Where are you from?” or “What do you do”?; it seems like standard small talk, but in fact it is far from it. Your answer lays the base for how your fellow travellers and locals judge you and by meeting new people most days, introducing yourself and cramming all those quintessential factors surrounding your life, your character, your destination into one sentence will soon become a routine.
2. Challenge & Survive
Pushing the boundaries, broadening one’s horizon or getting out of one’s comfort zones have become clichéd buzzwords, overused and, at times, overrated. At the heart of said phrases, however, is the truth of how challenging times, in which we face the unknown lead to positive change. There will be embarrassing moments. There will be moments when all you want is food, and all you get are abandoned streets and no restaurants. There will be moments when you have never longed more for a hot shower, and ice-cold water is what life gives you back.
Many of us are used to having all of our basic physical needs fulfilled; until we find ourselves in countries where clean water, electricity, or even personal space are far from standard. After sleeping on trains where dozens of older men simultaneously smoked and stared at me, exchanging money with the local Mafia, and being denied on a flight for no apparent reason, all I can is roll with it. The mesmerising sunsets, mouth-watering feasts made by a friendly local you ran into on the street, and that bargain you got at the market will all make up for it.
Always remember, expect the unexpected.
3. Meet & Engage
Meeting folks from all aspects of life, learning more about where they come from or just having a good laugh with them is one of the most rewarding aspects of travelling by yourself. Longing for human interaction or just someone you can tell your adventurous stories, you will find yourself more open to meeting strangers and engaging with locals. My travels have led me to meet the most random people, including members of the Chinese Billionaire Club and even a lovely guy who grew up in the same tiny village in the Alps of Austria as my dad. Trust your gut feeling, be open, and say hello. Who knows who you will meet next?
4. Embrace & Experience
Embracing foreign cultures and experiencing the new is what travelling is all about. It’s the stories behind the photos. In the spirit of YOLO just go for it. Book that train ticket, do that sky dive, learn how to cook local delights, go diving, or hike up that mountain. Just be sure to stop along the way, take it all in, snap those once-in-a-lifetime shots and say hello to those along the way.
5. Observe & Understand
One of my favourite past times is to people-watch. Busy pedestrian zones around Europe and airports seem to be made for just that. Watch the hustle, observe the diversity and understand the day-to-day patterns of the culture. Solo travelling teaches you how to stand back and just see. You are by yourself; there is no one around who you can immediately share your thoughts with, so sit back, relax and notice all the little things.
By being constantly challenged, a solo traveller becomes more resilient. Crowded and dusty streets won’t put you off anymore, street food suddenly seems more appealing, and, most importantly, the lonesome wanderer knows how to make themselves heard and stand up to adversity. Self-esteem, physical and mental resilience, and your very own backbone are only a few factors which will increase through wandering the world by yourself. Sometimes we need to escape to find our own voice; we need to watch others to see what is that we want to do with our own lives; we need to be pushed to our limits to grow. Solo travelling is like a school; it is self-taught, influenced widely by various cultures, customs and experiences, and it never ends.
You’ve returned home. You feel different but relieved to be back with your loved ones. A few months in, something starts to feel a little off. You are not quite sure why until you get a message from one of the friends you made on your last journey. She asks where you were going next. Where am I going next, you ask yourself. The options seem endless, while time and money seem limited. But you know it’s worth it.
Have you been thinking of venturing abroad by yourself?