Last year around this time, I was backpacking throughout Europe having the time of my life. After graduating from a five year undergrad program I decided to try something I’ve always wanted to do. I went backpacking, both alone and with friends, and without a doubt it was the best decision I have ever made. Both experiences were totally different, but enjoyable nonetheless. This post will be dedicated towards why you should travel solo and if you’re still contemplating, hopefully I can change your mind.
I am a huge optimist and I am never really thinking about the worst case scenario, but I still found it difficult to click the “book now” button. “What if I don’t meet anyone? What if I get lost? What if I get pick-pocketed?” These are all normal thoughts, but they should never deter you from going to another country alone. There are so many backpackers traveling alone all around the world – believe me when I say you will have no problem meeting people. My cousin gave me the best piece of advice after he came back from his world tour.
“Just say hi”
Edinburgh, Scotland was my first stop and the first thought I had when I landed was “what the hell am I doing here alone”. It was a beautiful country, very fairy tale like, but I couldn’t believe I was by myself. I got settled into my hostel and instantly made friends. What was the trick? Every person I saw, I said “hi” to. It is a simple word with no limits. It’s small enough to acknowledge someone’s presence and large enough to start a friendship. The beauty of saying “hi” is that 98% of the time, most people will say something back. I now have friends from all over the world, which is a privilege not many people get!
Two weeks into my travels, I noticed something about myself (no, it wasn’t that life changing moment that people talk about when they go abroad). I started doing things without purpose. I went to museums because it was a “top site to visit”, but I didn’t appreciate it. I enjoy adventure, food and getting to know people. As a solo traveler, you are in control of each decision. You can do what you want, when you want, without having to report to anyone. Sure enough, I stopped visiting places that I didn’t find interesting and went on choosing activities that I enjoyed (hiking, sports stadiums, parks). You can spend 3 hours people watching on a patio and no one will judge you. It’s just you living in the moment.
” Learning how to be comfortably uncomfortable “
This is probably the biggest take away from traveling alone. We all have comfort zones, some bigger than others. The most important tip for traveling alone is knowing when to push yourself so you’re trying new things, but not too far where you’ll want to pack your bag and leave. Remember, you know yourself best. For some, being in a new country alone is a challenge in itself. For others, perhaps a new experience will get you on the edge of your comfort zone. Traveling alone exposed me to the unknown. The idea that I will not always be in control of every situation or that I may not know what I will be doing a week from now. Aside, if that terrifies you, then you also have the option of having everything mapped out. As a result, I became stronger, smarter, and more resilient.
After coming back from my travels, I can confidently say that I am no longer scared to do things alone. When you realize this independence, you find yourself with more options. You can go anywhere you want, whether it be overseas or local. You’ll participate in more events, start chatting with more people, and you’ll have a bunch of cool stories to share. The greatest part of it all is that no one can ever take that independence away from you. Although I have only backpacked throughout Europe, I’m excited to see what’s in store next… South East Asia, South America or maybe Africa. If you’re thinking about a solo backpacking trip, think no more. Clicking that “book now” button will be the best decision of your life!