You may notice that I enjoy traveling mostly alone while my husband is away for work, but it wasn't always that way. My first solo trip was not all that I expected it to be. While it was overall a great and rewarding experience, I was not entirely comfortable traveling alone in countries far away from home (Denmark, Sweden, and partly Norway).
Most of the 5 day trip, I was nervous, anxious to get it over with, and couldn't think clearly. My mind felt fuzzy and unsure. One morning in a hostel in Denmark, I almost didn't get out of the bed because I didn't want to push myself to leave that day. Nothing outside of my own mind was influencing me to feel that way. It was me the entire time causing a ruckus in my own head.
Let's be honest, being alone without any familiar resources, can be quite scary. But after some reevaluations and having the urge to travel alone again, I broke through the intimidating phase and now, for most trips, I don't hesitate to plan it solo. Although sometimes it still does seem a bit scary to travel alone, I never regret it in the end.
How I Decided to try Solo Traveling Again
It had been almost a year since my first solo trip to Scandinavia. I had told myself I would only stick to traveling with my husband or my girlfriends. When I was finishing up my degree in 2016, I wanted to gift myself something huge for my accomplishment. I had been wanting to go to British Columbia, Canada and ended up purchasing tickets to Vancouver without planning anything.
I had announced on Facebook that I was looking for another female who would be interested in taking this trip with me and had countless girlfriends requested that they join me. One of my closest friends really wanted to come and I told her to come. After taking some time to think about it (and I still feel like an ass for doing this, sorry Steph!) I retracted my commitment to go with my friend. I told her I really wanted to take this trip alone and I would hope she could understand. We would of course travel in the future together, but for this trip, I really felt the need to be alone.
I was going through a somewhat of a rough time in my life and really wanted to refresh my mind prior to going into a new chapter of my life. And I'll tell you what, that was the best travel decision I had ever made. I'm sure my friend and I would've had a blast during that trip (we always do) but that trip to BC, Canada gave me the strength and courage to get back into solo traveling. Without that solo trip, I don't know if I would have traveled without my husband or friends again!
Start by Taking Baby Steps
Traveling solo or alone doesn't mean you have to travel across the world for a year to get that solo experience. You can start off by taking nearby day trips alone and work your way into overnight trips once you start getting the hang of it. Maybe one of your goals is to learn how to use public transportation alone so that you can be able to navigate through most cities. My best recommendation is to take the train or bus within a few hours from home or maybe even a road trip a few hours away alone. Turn the music up and let go of your worries! You're going to make it through your first experience!
Understanding the Risks
Traveling, no matter in what form, comes with some or many risks. You could be speeding to the airport because you're running late for your flight- that's a risk of getting into a car accident or running a red light or obtaining a ticket. You run the risk of even traveling with other people! I was in Rome with some friends, a group of 8 people in total, and still managed to get pick pocketed. You're just always at a risk when leaving your home each day. You're also at a high risk of having a good time and enjoying some of the greatest memories in traveling.
Of course, traveling alone will put you more at risk for other consequences such as getting lost (it has happened to me, sadly). Unfortunately, female and male solo travelers experience different risks. Female solo travelers run a higher risk than male solo travelers in being harassed and/or sexually assaulted. Maybe you have traveled alone for so many years and still have not experienced that scenario but it happens to more people than you may think. I'm just being real, we can't be oblivious to the truth.
If you want the truth, I had a "weird" encounter once on a late train from Disneyland Paris back into the city. I wasn't even alone at that moment. It sucked. I was scared. I told myself I would never get on a train after dark ever again. That was over 3 years ago and I have not had anything similar happen to me again. That doesn't mean it can't ever happen again.
I still get cat-called and I still get the most disgusting stares from men (even while I am just siting down eating lunch outside)! But honestly, that still won't stop me from traveling alone. I understand what I am putting myself through. I am weighing my options out, of course. Am I just going to sit at home and do nothing while my husband is away for work all the time? I could do that, but what fun is that?
Many people know me as being an extrovert and always being around big groups, which is, well, partly true! Everyone just expects me to be "okay" out in the world alone because I put on the front that I can handle just about anything (which is also partly true). But traveling alone for the first time gave me major anxiety and almost at one point, I wanted to turn back around and go home where I felt comfortable.
Everyone can experience anxiety but may have a more severe case or may handle it differently than others. I've had meltdowns and panic attacks (don't call me out if you've witnessed this) before but for my first solo trip, I truly had to talk to myself and remind myself that I had chosen to make this trip and no one made me do it but me. I can't back out of something that I purposely chose to do for my own self fulfillment. It was a long 15 hour bus ride from Nürnberg to Copenhagen so you can only imagine how much time I had to worry.
Traveling Alone is not for Everyone
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love traveling alone! The freedom, being on your own schedule, and not having to worry about any other human being but yourself, feels friking amazing! But honestly, I can totally understand that solo traveling is not for everyone. Shoot, even traveling with other people may not be your thing (well, then you wouldn't be reading this blog post)!
Why I Still Continue to Travel Solo
Traveling alone not only fulfills my wanderlust but it also makes me feel really proud of myself in this adult world I'm living in. My experience in traveling solo has given me some real life lessons most of the time. I learn things in life that I couldn't have possibly experienced being with another human being all of the time. In some of the most stickiest situations, I have to come up with a plan on my own without anyone's help.
Traveling solo has hardened but also softened my heart in different ways. I've softened my heart in the way that I have seen so many beautiful, selfless and genuine people who are needed a second chance in this world by giving them the time of day to hear their story. I've become a bit vulnerable by that. But I have also kept my guard up in situations to keep myself out of trouble. After some time you'll learn which side to switch to.
How sucky must it feel when you had a really neat trip planned out with someone and the plans fall through? Maybe it was to a location you've always dreamed of going and it may have been your only chance to go. If "I'm still going to go with or without you" doesn't pop into your head, you might miss out on an awesome opportunity and experience.
I really do hate looking in the past but to be quite frank, I can often times be that person who thinks "what if?" and if I don't do the thing I said I wanted to do, it will constantly bother me until I do it. If you're like me, I would suggest doing what makes you happy - If it's traveling solo, do it.
Some More Tips for Your First Solo Trip
Have you traveled solo before? What was your experience like? If you haven't traveled solo before, do you think after reading this post that you may want to try it out? Let me know!