By Nika Bosnic for Summersalt Yoga
I did my first solo travel one year ago. One week in Bali was long enough to get the first taste of how it feels to travel solo but definitely too short to consider me a well-experienced solo traveler. Yet, I gained some valuable experience I’d like to share with you – not to teach but hopefully to inspire you to do the same.
First things first: I think it was Rachel Wolchin who once said that “if we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots”.
I’ve always loved traveling, especially the absolute freedom it gives you to do what you want and when you want. I believe that the happiest moments of my life are all somehow related to my travels and one of my earliest childhood memories is our family journey to Greece. So traveling has become an intrinsic part of my lifestyle or even existence if that is what you wish to call it, and it is no surprise that at some point solo traveling crossed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with traveling with your best friends, your better half, siblings or family. I’ve tried all variations so far and cannot say (and will not say) which one is the best. Despite my urge to discover the world, it was only in my late twenties that I felt “ready” to go for the “solo” option. I remember when I first shared this idea with my family and friends and their reactions were, well…let’s just say I wasn’t mad about them 🙂
“Young and a blond woman traveling alone – are you crazy!”
“You sure you wanna do this?”
“Why, won’t you get bored?”
Sure, I was scared as I was traveling outside the EU for the first time totally alone. I would lie to say I didn’t have any doubts as to how will I manage to do everything on my own as disoriented as I am. Questions like “how will I know where to go”, “what if I get ill all of a sudden” and “where am I going to meet new people” crossed my mind at least a hundred times a day before my solo journey actually started.
On the other hand, I knew myself a bit too well to give up when I hit the first obstacle. It’s probably got to do with my stubborn nature which finally came in handy.
And so I did it. And survived. Here’s what I learned about the solo traveling.
It helps you grow mentally
This one is obvious. You cannot avoid it. I remember my close friend once said to me that I will never be the same after my solo travel. As cliche as it might sound, she was right. Solo travel changes you, it defines you. You learn how to negotiate, organize your day, master more or less pleasant tasks on the way, stand up for yourself and yes, manage your thoughts which can be challenging sometimes. It takes some time to start enjoying it, but once you do you’ll never look back.
Solo travel for creativity
If I expected no. 1 to happen sooner or later, I surely did not expect that my solo journey would boost my creativity so much. I guess solo traveling gives you the opportunity to step away from the daily routine and habits and forces you to try new things that you normally wouldn’t dare to do or try. The new events, cultures, and people you meet along the way encourage you to get creative. I did karaoke (and believe me, I’m tone – deaf but it’s much easier far from home), started writing a diary and got the whole bunch of new ideas.
Out of your comfort zone
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Facing difficulties in an unfamiliar environment, among new people, forces you to learn and adapt to a life that’s out of your comfort zone. As a result, you become more flexible, patient and emotionally strong.
Meeting new friends
You don’t need to be a talkative extrovert to meet new friends during your solo travel. In my experience, you meet even more people when you travel solo as you don’t have a constant travel buddy to stick with. When in doubt, try hostels which are the best resource for meeting people. Remember, you are all in the same boat, struggling with similar difficulties on the way and sharing advice is more than welcome. Also, if you prefer to take it slow you can start with retreats (like yoga retreats or surf camps) which are a great combination of solo traveling, maintaining an active lifestyle and meeting new people.
Go with the flow
Last but not least, apart from the obvious fact that you don’t have to go to work (and can legit eat chocolate for breakfast), traveling learns you the beauty of spontaneity. This lesson was the hardest one for me as I am so used to plan everything, from my career to everyday activities. When (solo) traveling, I learned that you cannot predict everything (like a boat to one of Bali Islands to break down which made me change my plans immediately, at midnight!). What’s my advice in situations like that? Take a deep breath and simply go with the flow. Just like I was surprised to learn that there is suddenly one more boat going to another island (where I’ve had the craziest days so far) so you might be surprised to find out what is waiting for you if you just surrender to follow the flow of life.