I can’t quite believe I’m typing this, today marks 6 months since my Bestie flew home from our joint trip to Bali and I was left to embark on the solo leg of my trip. That leg has encompassed 6 countries, across two continents, and so far included two new jobs in New Zealand, with no end yet in sight.
It’s a pretty big milestone and the longest I’ve ever been away from the UK, and whilst I’m settled now in beautiful Wellington with a great job, room and group of friends, the trip is far from over with plenty more travelling to come. I’ve learned a lot over the last six months, completely stepped outside of my comfort zone, and grown in a variety of ways. It hasn’t always been easy but I’m so glad I took the leap. Here are just 13 of the things I’ve learned in my first 6 months of solo travel.
- If you can handle airport drama solo then you can handle most things. For me this includes running through the (enormous) Cebu airport after a flight delay (thanks Cebu Pacific) meant I nearly missed my connecting flight. Huge shout out to the awesome check-in desk dude who let me skip the queue and then basically ran my bag onto the plane himself. Successfully managing not to cry whilst in an enormous check-in queue, frantically looking at the cost of a replacement flight and working out if I had enough on my credit card, all on my lonesome is something I’m pretty proud of. I’m also proud of not having a breakdown when, upon checking in at Kuala Lumpur airport I was informed that in order to board my flight to Auckland via Sydney (which was leaving in 90 minutes) I needed to buy a visa for Oz. Something the internet had informed me I wouldn’t need. Turns out you can get visas pretty instantly if you’re willing to pay extra, not ideal but it got me on the plane and meant I didn’t miss the most expensive flight of my trip. Still not fun, and especially scary to deal with solo.
- On the flip-side, exploring airports on your own can be fun. Hello free facials using duty-free testers, and exploring all the ridiculously overpriced designer stores without worrying about boring your companion. And if you love people watching like I do then setting up shop in an airport bar can be pretty fun.
- No matter how many times you unpack and re-pack your backpack, it never becomes enjoyable and eventually you’ll succumb to just shoving everything in and dealing with creases/finding things later. This will then make it even more annoying because your last clean pair of undies is guaranteed to be wedged in the hardest to reach spot.
- Speaking of backpacks, carrying all of your worldly possessions, all on your own, on your back, gets old fast. If you are travelling with a partner deffo sneak some of your heavier items into their bag if you can get away with it. 😉
- Homesickness is real but it’s also fleeting. It’s totally natural to miss friends, family, even your old routines. For me, it’s especially bad after I’ve Factimed home, but then you distract yourself and it’s all good again. Thankfully the world is pretty small now and it’s easier to stay in touch than ever. Sharing photos and news with nearest and dearest makes you feel less separated from them.
- Having the total freedom to craft your days and travel plans according to your own wants is awesome. Not feeling the vibe of a place? Move on. Met some awesome people to buddy up with? No problem. Decided you want to have a few rest days? Easy. Whilst you can certainly be flexible when travelling with a partner, it’s infinitely easier when travelling solo.
- Don’t forget downtime. Travel is an amazing, invigorating, learning curve of an experience. It’s also tiring. Don’t feel guilty for taking rest days if you need them. You’re not going to ‘miss’ anything and just like when you’re working too much, or balancing too much when you’re at home, you can burn out when travelling too.
- You will make friends for life in the shortest time. I remember walking into my first hostel in Bali, my friend had just left to fly home and I was officially flying solo. I was terrified! I walked in and immediately got chatting to a girl doing yoga by the pool and that was it. We ended up as part of a group travelling around Bali together for the next 3 weeks, and I can’t wait to see them all again when I get back to the UK. The friendships you forge while travelling are intense and amazing, and it’s a wonderful feeling to collect friends for life by sharing the coolest experiences.
- Solo travel will make you feel strong and confident. I am a naturally shy person but being forced to meet new people and put myself out there has been a really valuable experience. When I arrived in NZ and needed to get a job, a home and generally set up my life I wasn’t worried. I knew I could do it because I’d just made it through the last 3 months of travelling all by myself.
- Conversely, sometimes you’ll feel lonely, and that’s totally ok. I remember being in Borneo in a pretty quiet, not overly sociable hostel and I definitely had some ‘what am I doing?!’ thoughts. But then I moved on to a different place and met some really cool people who were a highlight of my time in Borneo. Travelling solo isn’t always going to be easy and will bring up a lot of emotions, I think the best way to deal with them is just let yourself feel them and not beat yourself up about it. Travel isn’t always going to be amazing every single day (despite what Instagram may tell you), just as any other area of your life isn’t amazing every single day.
- The more I see, the more I want to see. I only had three months travelling South East Asia before I needed to get to NZ and start my working holiday visa, so I definitely couldn’t see anywhere near everything I wanted. In fact I’ve kept a running list on my notes app of other countries I want to see, often based on suggestions from other travellers I met along the way. Once you’ve got the travel bug it’s hard to shift and I doubt there’ll ever come a time when I feel like I’m done.
- Solo travel is easier than I thought. I can’t lie, I was absolutely terrified of the prospect of travelling solo, especially as a girl. A lot of people told me how brave I was but I didn’t feel brave, I just felt like I had to do it this way because I had no alternative. In an ideal world I’d have been doing this journey with a partner but in hindsight I’m so glad I didn’t. I look forward to one day travelling with a partner but I know I’ll always have a love for solo travel. It seems scary and difficult but it’s really not, my best advice if you’re thinking about doing it is just go, and figure out the rest later.
- Solo travel will change you. Yes, that’s a cliché, and yes, I hate myself a little for typing that, but it’s true. I am not the same woman who left the UK over 6 months ago. I am more confident, more self-sufficient, stronger and more self-assured. I’m really proud of myself for moving to the other side of the world and setting up a great life for myself all on my own, and it’s an awesome feeling to know that if I want to see somewhere I can just go, on my own, and be fine. It’s freeing and exciting and without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done! I would encourage absolutely anyone thinking about solo travel to give it a go, but especially women – the world isn’t as scary as we’re sometimes lead to believe and strong, empowered, self-sufficient women deserve to claim their place in it.
Love, Sarah x