I have been traveling on my own for about two weeks now in three different countries, and have made several observations. This is my first time traveling outside the country completely by myself, so I was extremely nervous, but I’ve already learned a lot.
1. There is way more freedom.
You don’t have to rely on anyone else’s timetable. You are free to choose when and how you spend your time. For someone who is usually strapped to a tight schedule, this can be very liberating. I felt light and completely in control as I planned out my schedule each day.
2. Adaptation becomes necessary.
Culture shock is real when you travel with a group or with your family to another country, but it’s a completely different monster when you’re on your own. I’ve been to Peru, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Dubai, Qatar, and other parts of Europe, but I was always with friends or family, and could find comfort in their presence.
At first, any country is a slight adjustment, but I had never experienced culture shock until I was traveling solo. When you’re immersed in a completely different culture with a different language, and have nothing familiar to grasp onto, culture shock is nearly inevitable. However, this breeds the necessity to adapt to your surroundings. I wanted to make the most of my trip abroad, and not spend it feeling overwhelmed or incompetent. It was the perfect opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace the new culture head on.
3. Getting lonely is inevitable.
Like most people, I spend a lot of my time interacting with familiar people, and rarely have long lengths of time to myself. This is, obviously, not the case when traveling alone. Whether it’s the first day or the first week, at some point, you will get tired of yourself.
Meeting new people and reaching out to strangers can only take you so far, and you will start to feel a slight bit of homesickness creeping in. Even though you might get lonely, this is a good opportunity to sink into your own loneliness and have some self-reflection time.
4. Self-reliance is a valuable skill.
If something bad happens, it’s on you, and no one can bail you out. This can be a great way to build self-confidence and independence.
5. You need a good sense of direction.
Like most people, I shut off my cellular data once I landed abroad in order to avoid international phone fees. This of course means that your dependency on google maps is no longer useful, and you have to learn how to navigate foreign cities through your own means.
6. Talking to strangers is a necessary evil.
Other than having to ask strangers for directions 38,498 times per day, eating every meal alone can become very tiresome. Learning to socialize and build relationships is a useful life skill that traveling alone can help foster.
7. You should pay attention to your surroundings.
This point may be extra pertinent because I am a small, 5’ 2” human being, but can be applied to anyone. I learned to pay a lot more attention to my surroundings in order to avoid getting lost or being pursued. I always kept track of the direction I was walking and who was around me.
8. You should always double check.
I missed my second plane, because I accidentally got on the wrong train. That’s why it pays to double check everything, especially when you’re the only one traveling.
9. You should appreciate your own company.
It’s important to remember to use your time wisely. Sometimes, I’ll be completely caught up in my thoughts, and with no one to interrupt, I won’t realize I’ve been thinking for hours.
10. You shouldn’t panic.
Should a crisis occur, which one is bound to, it is important to remain calm. For example, when I missed my flight, my initial reaction was to get emotional because of how overwhelmed I was feeling. However, I wasn’t able to do anything productive until I calmed myself down and could accurately assess the situation.
While not panicking in any situation is ideal, it’s especially relevant when you’re on your own, because you only have yourself to rely on. When I missed my flight, I couldn’t call anyone else. I had to deal with the issue by myself, which is why it pays to be in a stable mindset abroad.