When I was twenty, I really, REALLY, wanted to go to Paris. I’d been there before with a friend and had loved it and here I was, seeing these train-tickets on a massive sale and nobody wanted to come with me!
I felt lonely for a bit, but then my travelling-streak won out and I just went to Paris for the weekend. Completely on my own. For the first time ever.
The experience was transformative. I finally realised I wanted to travel, because I WANT TO TRAVEL, not because other people had told me I was the type of person who’d like to travel – yes, my rebellious side knows some ridiculous moments.
The trip was great and amazing and made me hungry for more! Paris will do that to you.
I’ve travelled some places on my own since then and each time people have asked me if it wasn’t scary to go travelling alone – especially as a white female. Now to me, neither my skin colour nor my gender have anything to do with whether or not I should go travelling on my own (other than maybe how I behave in certain places). To me, being a woman – white or otherwise – should NEVER EVER be a consideration if you want to go travelling.
So for everyone out there who is thinking about embarking on a solo-trip I wanted to tell you about the 3 absolute amazing perks that come with travelling alone every once in a while.
1. Doing what you want to do, when exactly you want to do it
Never before had I had this whole stretch of time where I was not accountable to someone else, not even to someone I loved. I didn’t have to ask whether or not the other person wanted to go to the Louvre or would rather see the Eiffel tower. Would they mind if I sat down for a long lunch or went to the ballet? Would the other person also enjoy looking at Monet’s paintings, or do they greatly dislike the impressionists – or even museums in general?
Every single moment of every single day I only had to answer one question: what do I want to do right now. No explanations, no compromises, no nothing. If I want it, that is enough to go out and do it.
This freedom is intoxicating and addictive. How could I ever go back to keeping other people’s likes and dislikes and energies and expectations in mind?
Of course I did, but for those few days, for the first time ever, I felt what it was like to be truly free and responsible for my own happiness. I can’t help but want that feeling again. Perhaps it is the thing I long for the most on random rainy Wednesday afternoons at my job. The freedom to not do what I should do, but only what I want to do.
2. Discovering who you are without any pre-set expectations
Going out by yourself for a while in a new environment with new people can teach you something about yourself. I always knew I was a chatty know-it-all who likes books and new discoveries and new people. But going travelling on my own has taught me that there are plenty of times where I don’t like to chat. I don’t always like to meet new people and at some point I have had enough of books and new places.
I discovered I quite enjoy alone and quiet times to reflect. I am kinder than I thought I was, enjoying to take care of people who are lonely or unsure of what to do and I am tougher and harder than I thought, not caring as much about what annoying people think of me and no longer afraid to just let these people not like me if that is the consequence.
I’ve again seen that I am very opinionated – as this blog surely shows-, but enjoy seeing new viewpoints if I have enough calm in me to discover it. I am restless at times, but constant travel makes me weary. I am an extravert with introverted tendencies.
All in all, I am what I am and travelling solo may or may not have changed that. But one thing is certain: I learned many of these things – or was reinforced in my knowledge – because I could discover it without the fear of disappointing other people’s expectations.
3. Becoming more confident
Perhaps the most important thing solo-travelling has given me is more confidence. When there is nobody else who can pick up the slack, you are confronted with the innate ability we all have to take care of ourselves. Sure, some of us may be more prosperous than others, but in the end, we all have what it takes to survive in this world, both physically and mentally.
However, solo travelling has given me confidence beyond merely being capable of surviving on my own in different countries/cities (I am definitely not capable of surviving in the wilderness for any extended amount of time!).
I’ve learned I can make new friends – who don’t think I am a total weirdo (at least not in a negative way). I have learned to trust my own feelings because I only had to ask “what do I want”. I’ve grown confident in communicating with anybody in any languages – nothing like a stoic Chinese woman blankly staring at your well-intentioned dictionary and refusing to budge to teach you a thing or two about how to communicate when you speak no communal language!
Moreover, I have grown confident I can be on my own. I am strong enough to be my own companion and to be enough. I am enough – if I want to be, or if I need to be.
Want to become more confident? Take the scary plunge and get out of your comfort zone and just go on that solo-journey. You will not be disappointed!
Writing this has made me realize I haven’t been out travelling without a companion (be it with my best friend or my boyfriend) in a long time. It would explain why I am starting to get the itch to go exploring on my own again and hoping Erik will go on a city-trip with his friends sometime soon, so I have a good reason for again stretching my solo-travelling muscles! Time to start planning!