My bags were (almost) packed. A bottle of blue pills sat on the table in front of me, along with the prescription for how many and how often to take my anti-malaria medication. My stomach flip-flopped with nervous excitement. I had been here before. But this time was…different. I was going alone.
A lot of thoughts ran through my head. Voices from my co-workers telling me I was crazy for travelling to Egypt by myself, especially as a woman. Memories from the times I’d travelled before but with a group (studying for a semester in Mexico), with my family (visiting my grandparents in Germany), or with a friend (travelling to Italy, Greece, and Turkey).
Fear and excitement coursed through my body in equal amounts. I couldn’t sleep. I wondered if I was doing something dangerous or naive. If I was risking everything familiar and safe for an experiment. If I was pushing the limits of my own life too far to ever come back.
It might seem silly, but a lot of decisions were resting on the success or failure of my first solo trip. If I could hack it for two months during an internship in Ecuador, my plan was to come home and quit my job to travel even longer. My first solo trip was a turning point. A test.
Along the way, I learned a lot. But I always credit my first solo trip for giving me the courage to follow my dreams. I want to pass some of that courage on to you, too. Here’s what I’ve learned and advice I wish somebody told me before my first solo trip.
1. Trust your own inner voice the most
A lot of people have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Whenever you start taking risks in your own life, it can make those around you feel uncomfortable. Anytime someone questions the status-quo or does something that takes courage, it kicks up a lot of fear. That’s normal.
However, if you have the desire or vision to do something BIG, trust it. The resources, support, and bravery you need to pursue your dreams will come. Listen to the voice inside that’s curious, hopeful, and passionate about coming ALIVE. The more you learn to tune out the other voices, the more they’ll just become background noise and the easier it will be to ignore the doubt, worry, or fear that holds you back.
2. Go at your own pace
The best thing about travelling solo is that YOU get to make all of the decisions. Maybe you fall in love with a certain city or country and want to stay….forever. Maybe you get to a destination and realize it’s not all you thought it would be.
3. Don’t expect to be alone for very long
Travellers are some of the friendliest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. And there are a lot of them. No matter where you go, you’ll inevitably encounter other people who are on their first solo trip (or third or hundredth) and are excited to share their adventure with you. Let them.
One of my very first travel mentors was a woman named Elisavet from Greece who was travelling South America solo. We met in Ecuador and immediately connected. I asked her all of the questions I had about travel gear, relationships, loneliness, and what it was really like to leave home to travel long-term. She was more than happy to share her experiences with me and we had so much fun creating our own adventures together! So, excuse us for spoiling it– we bet you won’t be alone for that long!
4. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone (even yourself)
Why is solo travel such a big deal, anyway? I think the biggest reason is freedom. It gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. To be who you want to be. Freedom to change, to explore, to reinvent yourself or rediscover the you you’ve always been.
That being said, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Maybe solo travel isn’t for you and you realize you just want to go home. Maybe you feel like your first solo trip has to look a certain way, or live up to certain expectations you (or others) might have. Let that sh*t go.
Travelling solo is not about anything but you and the pursuit of your own inner freedom. If you happen to make amazing friends and eat delicious food and change the world and dance with joy while doing it, even better. If not, that’s okay too. Because….
5. You can always come back home
Two years after my first solo trip in Ecuador, I realized it was time for me to stop travelling and go home. I was even more scared than when I first began my backpacking adventures. I didn’t know what going home would mean for my future. I wasn’t sure how it would feel after all of my time away, or how my life might change, again.
For me, coming home has been its own adventure. The lessons I’ve learned while travelling solo have changed how I see everything, including where I come from. The places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met are part of me and always will be.
Maybe you decide to go home earlier than expected. Maybe you create a new home for yourself in a corner of the world you’ve grown to love. Maybe you realize home is always with you, no matter how far your feet may go.