I really want to encourage solo travel more. Particularly for females. This shit is fucking life-changing. I never quite imagined that I’d just pack my suitcase one day and head off to another continent on my own for a few months, but I did. And it was one of the best decisions I had ever made.
I remember the exact night that the idea popped into my head – I was feeling frustrated that I didn’t have anyone who I could go travelling with because no one I knew was prepared to just give up a couple months to travel. I didn’t want to go for a couple weeks, I wanted to drop everything and go for a while. I just wanted to run. And I wanted to run fast and run far. I couldn’t expect my small handful of good friends to have the same mindset as me at that point in time. So I started religiously reading other female solo travellers’ stories & blogs and watching videos, and I knew that this was something I had to do. It was inspiring. Especially for a young female, who comes from a pretty conservative family, where females aren’t expected to do things like this.
I now had this burning desire to go on my own.
This terrified me and excited me equal amounts, and I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to come back quite the same person I was. My friends joked that I was having a Julia Robert’s Eat Pray Love moment, which I was totally okay with… haha. It did feel like a childish, naive dream, particularly because I wasn’t very good at saving….! And I distinctly remember spending hours and hours trying to calculate how much money I would need for the trip. I just kept telling myself that I was going to make it work. Now being back, I’ve been reflecting on the things I learnt and discovered about myself and about life over the couple months. I hope these insights will be helpful to anyone thinking about pursuing solo travel. Or simply for anyone interested.
So, here are the 5 things that solo travel taught me:
1.We all want to Connect, to Belong, to be Loved … No matter where we are from:
I guess I have known this for a while, however now I wholeheartedly believe it. I believe that a fundamental underpinning desire in all us humans is to belong. I believe we are all hard-wired for connection, no matter where in the world we live. We all want to feel connected to others and to feel loved by others. For some part of my life, particularly my early adulthood, I felt like I really struggled to belong. It was as if I was always searching for my place in the world, and searching for my people to belong to. Although I had a lovely family and a small handful of good friends, I still often felt like an outsider. Or as the cliché saying goes, like I didn’t belong. I found myself constantly questioning whether I was enough. Whether I was worthy of the love and belonging I so desperately craved for. I think for quite some time, I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and trying too hard to belong. Everything changed when I stopped trying so hard. When I stopped pretending and just showed people the real Angelica. More importantly, everything changed when I accepted myself and began to realize how worthy I really was.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world; our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
– Brene Brown.
Heading overseas, I was anxious about meeting people and building friendships. I do believe that this is a legitimate fear amongst a lot of solo travellers, and as other solo travellers opened up to me, I learnt that we all just want the same simple thing. I definitely feared not being able to connect to others and make friendships. But I promised myself that I was going to be 100% authentic. I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and go out and connect with people. I realised nobody knew me anywhere, and so I had the chance to show others who I was. And guess what? I felt deeply connected to so many beautiful, genuine souls while travelling. Because finally I wasn’t pretending anymore. I was real, and other real people saw that, respected that and wanted to know me, and visa versa. This reminded me that we are never alone in this world. That none of us are unlovable or unworthy. That we all belong. Belong to what you ask? I believe each one of us belongs to the earth, to nature, to cities, to human beings and most importantly, to ourselves. Solo travel taught me that at the core of it, we are all the same. We all have stories we want to share, we all want to be seen, and we all want to be heard.
2. The world is insanely, utterly beautiful:
It truly is. Life itself is a fucking gift. And the world we get to live in, now that is something else. I don’t think we can really appreciate our world by staying in one place all our lives. And although you can still see and appreciate the world’s beauty by travelling with partners, family and friends, I believe the beauty can really be magnified when we travel on our own. Or perhaps that was just the case for me. I gained such a deep appreciation for how gorgeous and diverse the cities, cultures and communities were, and I found my mind being fucking blown away, constantly. Even more so, I could take that all in for myself. And whenever I felt this overwhelming sense of beauty, I would write it down in the notes app in my phone. Often I didn’t have anyone to share it with in that moment, and that’s what made it so special to me. Of course it’s awesome to have loved ones to share those kinds of moments with. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s even more magical to experience these things on our own. It’s as if the beauty sunk in deeper, to the inner most core of my being. I want to continue exploring this world forever, and I never want to stop exploring. With others, and on my own.
3. We are call capable of more than we can imagine:
I believe when we do something that scares the shit out of us, we grow. I believe this also leads to discovering our potential and feeling a sense of achievement and a stronger sense of confidence. By going out into the wilderness on my own (both physically and figuratively speaking), I made many mistakes, I learnt a lot and I grew a lot. There was no one out there to turn to, and although I could contact family/friends via phone, ultimately I had to figure shit out on my own. I was scared at times, but I did it anyway. I was forced to make decisions on my own, and I was forced to trust my intuition. If something didn’t feel right, I didn’t do it. Listening inwards like that was critical for my self-development and for cultivating an appreciation for my own mind and heart. At the end of my trip, I felt accomplished. I felt so fucking proud of myself.
If there’s one way to build confidence, it’s doing this. We are all scared of things, but we must do them anyway. With feet shaking, hands trembling, heart racing, we must do it anyway. Solo travel was a big, big leap into the unknown. I wasn’t sure if I could do it and I wasn’t sure what would happen. But I just knew that it’s what my heart ached for, and so I went. And now I realize how capable I really am. We don’t get anywhere by sitting in our comfort. I promise you, you are capable of more than you can imagine. You have no idea. I had no idea.
I think that deep down, each one of us knows that we are capable of anything in this life. Sometimes this thought terrifies us. I truly believe that we are all far more capable than we choose to believe.
4. I can give myself the life I have always wanted:
This is a story I will one day proudly tell my grandchildren, because I want them to look at my life with their sparkling eyes and feel inspired. And know that they too can do whatever it is that they want to do. Not only did solo travel help me realize that I was capable of more than I had imagined, but I also proved to myself that I could truly create the life I had always wanted for myself.
I so strongly value the awesome people I got to meet throughout the travel. People who shared their life and their stories of courage, adventure and passion with me. People who filled me to the brim with inspiration. It’s from these brave, loving, badass humans that I learnt that each one of us has the ability to create the life we want. Nobody is in charge of my life but me. I get to write the pages of this story. Exactly how I want. And we can all do this, at any given time. We are all capable of going out there, being whoever we want to be, doing whatever we want to do and with arms stretched towards the sun, giving ourselves the life we dream of. I learnt that there’s really no need to compare and copy someone else’s path. Carve your own path. Do what feels right for you, and you will always win. Don’t pick the easy, comfortable, mundane option. Do the thing that sparks a fire inside of you. I don’t think we were put on this earth to merely survive.
“The whole world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want”. – F.Scott Fitzgerald
5. Solitude is peace:
My last big lesson learnt is the value of solitude. Solitude gives us time to think, to listen, to stop doing and to just be. During the solo travel I evidently spent many moments alone, just me and my solitude. I found so much fucking beauty and solace in the solitude, doing things with myself. Waking up alone to the sound of waves crashing on the shore of a beautiful beach in a foreign place, dressing up and going out for coffee on my own, reading a book on a quiet park bench on my own. This is peace. This reminds me of me. In all of this, I also realized that I spend too much time worrying about people who have nothing to do with me. And I learnt that we all need to learn to just be with ourselves. Friends are wonderful, family is necessary, and having a partner is beautiful. People will come and go throughout our lifespan, but the one constant in our life is our self. So you better learn to love your own company. You are stuck with you.
Go on the journey with yourself. I know that in this day and age, it’s tempting to bring everyone along with you. It’s tempting to show social media what you are doing at every moment, trying to paint a beautiful picture of your life for others to see. The challenge is stepping away from all that noise, and only doing it for you. Without all the background noise. Too often, I have tried to find myself in the lives of everyone else, but I was unable to. I found out who I was and who I want to be when I was finally on my own. Just me and this big, exciting world.
I pray that you choose yourself. Because that is where the magic of life happens. Because I believe that when you decide you are good enough for you, you set yourself free. And I think we can only realize that we are enough, when we spend time with ourselves. You don’t need to go on a 3 month solo trip to realize that. You can go anywhere, but just go alone.
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And friends, those are 5 of the things I learnt from solo travel. What a journey it was. I hope to do it once again someday. It felt like a beautiful dream, one that I can re-visit through photos and other little memories I collected.
I hope this post can inspire at least one other person (young or old, female or male, whatever!) to go out and travel solo. Even if it’s just a weekend trip down to the next city. Just go and wonder, on your own, without a phone by your side, hands in your pockets, head tilted towards the sky, a head full of dreams, and a heart full of joy.
This world is magic.