I always wanted to travel, though I wasn’t sure how I felt about solo travel. From a young age, my parents filled us with travel dreams. I can still vividly picture Turkey, purely on images my mum put into my head. I knew I couldn’t wait to get going, and always planned on making it happen, regardless of who would come with me.
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know if I planned on doing it all alone. Auckland City Council nearly had to be called to sort out the waterworks at Auckland airport when I left. Sitting on my flight to Singapore, I made friends with another Kiwi girl, who was setting off solo too. It was a reassurance to know I wasn’t the only insane one. We said our goodbyes in Singapore, newly formed Facebook friendship to bond over. I found my gate for my flight to Kathmandu, and was oddly calm about it.
I met a monk at the airport. I was intrigued to see him in his red robes, waiting for my flight. Our common language was minimal, but he managed to ask if I was by myself. Even he looked a bit surprised. When you shock a monk you really begin to question yourself.
The air hostesses were crazily attentive. Never have I received so much food and drink in one flight. This probably helped distract me. We circled for three hours, and a local reassured me this was normal. Staring out across the clouds at the other planes doing the same, I felt I could do this. The solo travel thing.
I made my way through Nepal and Thailand on my own, and made friends along the way. By the time I got to the UK, I felt confident I could do it alone. A few days by yourself, and you’ll quickly develop a confidence you didn’t know you had.
I knew I’d really made it as a solo traveler when I was super excited to go to Prague alone. I didn’t let a little thing like no mates stop me wanting to partake in their infamous pub crawl. I did a walking tour in the day, and made friends there who let me tag along with them. Problem sorted!
Prague was an incredible time on my own. There’s something quite rewarding about able to get up whenever you fancy, shower and eat whenever you want, and then go home for a nap because the pub crawl was too much the night before. I noticed so much more detail than I normally would, if I had been travelling with a friend. I went for a walk to Prague castle, and could admire everything in silence, really take it all in. I sat at lunch and listened to different accents and languages from all over the world, feeling such a part of my surroundings.
For me, solo travel has meant I’ve had a lot of freedom. To go where and when I want, and do what I want. And it doesn’t mean I’m alone the whole time. I’ve met so many people along the way. But when I want to do my own thing, it hasn’t been a problem. You are likely to make friends a lot quicker, as you have to put yourself out there more than you would if you were with a group of friends.
I think solo travel has been so good for me, to help me grow. I’ve noticed I handle situations better now. Going through absolute disaster in Nepal and learning from it has meant I can look at things as a ‘worst case scenario’, and chances are it’s never really that bad. When you can work out the worst that can happen and go backwards from there, suddenly your worries don’t look so bad.
I think it also allows you to make connections and friendships much quicker and easier than you would if you were travelling as a group. Forced to put yourself out there, you’ll find yourself having deep conversations you’d never normally have the first time you meet someone. Just today I was talking to a Norwegian guy who I met on a bus. He asked me what’s the one thing I like least about my country or people. I’m still coming up with my answer. But the chat that happens is never usual first talk. Which is great.
Solo travel doesn’t have to be scary, and I think it’s really good to learn that you can tackle anything life throws at you when you’re on your own. If you want to take the plunge but not quite sure how, you can always do an organised group tour, so you get some rent-a-friends, and a bit of hand holding. If you’re terrified, Contiki or Topdeck are a good start. But if you’re brave enough to make a bit of your own plans, but just want some friends and a bit of help, Busabout or Stoke Travel can be great. Whatever you do, think about solo travel sometime in your life. You might just enjoy yourself!
If at some point you don’t ask yourself “what have I gotten myself into?”, you’re not doing it right
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