4 Things You Only Learn When Travelling Solo

When I was 18 I found myself on a plane to Asia. Relaxing during the on-flight movie, probably something like Pirates of the Caribbean, and licking down the remains of the plane food a sudden weight hit my heart.

Where the hell am I going?

In a few hours we were due to land, suddenly I am struck by the ungodly fear that I have no idea where I am going… except speeding for Bangkok. In a panic, I start tearing through my bag to find my travel guide.

Somehow I ended up on a flight alone to a strange country with no plan and no one to rely on. Just me, going it solo.

Of course, I had an amazing time and I’m not going to sit here and say that ‘I found myself’ I probably went travelling and lost myself. I have not been able to sit still since nearly 10 years later.

One thing is for sure, travelling alone forces you to learn certain life skills very VERY quickly.

Doing Things Alone

I have spoken to many people about whether they would even sit down at a table in a restaurant or go to the cinema alone. Many say no way.

This is a given when travelling alone. You quickly become comfortable asking for a table for 1, otherwise, you ain’t going to be eating. Unless you can afford to pay for room service, and as you can imagine I can’t.

Granted going to the cinema by ones-self is a higher level and to be honest I still haven’t worked out if that is fiercely independent or a bit sad. Your call.

Anyway, almost immediately doing things by yourself becomes second nature. It is a great feeling to sit back, take a sip of beer, and reflect on what a badass you are.

Get better at putting yourself out there

Even though you are a badass it can still get lonely pretty quickly. Very very quickly in fact. You start to realise you haven’t spoken to anyone in a while or wonder why the rest of the world is so busy. Time to put yourself out there.

You will quickly be loving talking to anyone and everyone, even the guy trying to flog you sunglasses.

It can take a little bit of courage to ask for help too, especially if you are not used to travelling alone but sometimes you have no option. Most people are pretty friendly though. Just watch out and don’t mix up friendliness with a sales pitch.

Learn to improvise and problem solve

A friend once said to me ‘Fail to prepare and improvise well’. Now I’m not a great planner, certainly not when it comes to travelling. I like just flip flopping about at my own pace, wandering if you will.

This often provides a few problems and things aren’t always so easy to solve in a country where you have no google maps and can’t speak the language. I have some vivid memories of standing at train platforms trying to work out what train to get… something usually quite simple.

There is no formula to problem solving but the need to piece together a plan or enough evidence to make a decision quickly comes to the fore. When you need a cheap bed for the night it is time to turn on the detective skills.

Most of the time it works out, even if you solve the problem by following the guy that looks like he knows where to go. (usually works fyi).

Take responsibility

I have walked around a few cities in a lost state and loved every minute of it, except the blisters. There is no one to be angry or grumpy at about being lost so what more can you do but enjoy the walk.

It is natural to pass the blame or push frustration at people even if you made the error. Travelling alone you don’t have this luxury and you’re in charge now.

You have to make EVERY decision, look after your own security, work out travel, make friends or choose a cafe. It can be a tiring process especially for long trips but you will learn how to be a leader, even if it is just leading yourself.

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