Traveling solo is not just a journey around the world, its a journey of yourself. After asking friends and family when they returned from traveling, I heard the term that they ‘learned life lessons’ creep into the conversation. I didn’t really think much of it at the time but after going it alone myself, it quickly became apparent that those words would become pertinent to my own life. I didn’t understand just how much the world can teach you that the classroom, a job or relationship never will.
So here they are, the burning lessons:
1. Social timelines mean nothing.
”You need to be on the property ladder by 30.”
”You need to start a family at the same time.”
”Aren’t you in a relationship yet?”
”If you aren’t on the right career path by 25, you will never be”
Excuse my language, but what a load of bollocks. No one dictates where I should be in life. If I’m happy, no one will let me think otherwise. Have they climbed the highest peak in the world? Have they sat watching the sunset over the Mekong river? How about skydiving out a plane in New Zealand? Nah, probably not. Or if they have, they haven’t done it properly.
2. People are truly wonderful.
There are many misconceptions that certain places are more dangerous than others, but in reality, most people are lovely regardless of creed or origin. People will go out of their way for you no matter where you are in the world. I learned this many, many times whilst I was backpacking. People showed kindness in many forms from showing the way when lost to inviting me into their family home to feed me. If you trust people, they will usually come through for you, you can be surprised at what you get back.
3. Loneliness can be independence.
Possibly the most pertinent lesson that I learned. Solitude is often portrayed in different media platforms as being a thing to be ashamed of, or even taboo. Some of the best days I had backpacking were in my own company and the best days on the road. If I wanted company, there were many other backpackers in youth hostels (I like to call these people one-day-besties) if I didn’t I had no one to answer too. I quickly recognized that I didn’t need constant company and being by myself was liberating, soul-satisfying and just all round lovely.
4. Change is beautiful.
I used to detest change, it made me so anxious that I stayed in my continuous comfort zone cycle of life, every week almost the same as the last. This could not be further from reality when you travel alone. Almost every day you do something that is out of your comfort zone which means almost every day you evolve. When you are open to change, you say yes to more spontaneous things. Which means you get to experience more and enjoy seeing things in a different light.
5. Appreciate the small things.
When you are away from home for so long a home cooked meal, a room to yourself or even just hearing a familiar accent can fill you with joy. This definitely continues when you get home, I never appreciated just how beautiful my home city is, the culture, the friendliness of people or even just the quality of the whiskey.
6. I will never be the same.
Have you ever heard the phrase ”Travel bug”? In British English, the slang word “bug”, in the given context, means an illness or a disease which is usually infectious and continuous. This term applies to many people, however, when you travel alone, or backpack this becomes heightened. I like to call it ”Travel Bug on Steroids”, an even stronger infection. Suddenly, everything will revolve around your next adventure. It will always have to be bigger and better than the last one. When you are home, things like a day out in nature might fill a small hole but its like having a snack instead of a whole meal.
7. How to be open-minded.
I used to think I had it all figured out and going it alone was another right of passage, which, is correct to a degree. What I didn’t realize, was how small minded I was and how closed off I could be about certain aspects of life. Meeting people from all walks of life, countries, just different personalities really opened my mind and suddenly I was seeing things from different points of view.
8. I like myself now.
I liked myself before, I always knew I was a decent person. I just really like myself now. I got to know myself really well after all the alone time and I got to push myself and evolve my personality. Like they say, if you love yourself, you love everyone else too.
9. Who my friends really are.
When I left to go traveling for over a year, I had a wide circle of friends that waved me off and promised they would keep in touch and we would Skype or Facetime all the time. Some of them once, maybe twice, some of them didn’t bother at all and a small percentage, through a mutual attempt made a good effort. I realized that whilst, this number was small, it’s quality over quantity that is important and I would rather have a small group of loyal friends than a load of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ people in my life. Although, I met tonnes of lifelong friends on the road.
10. Confidence is key.
Meeting new people all the time, subjecting yourself to different cultures, foods, fun activities, skydiving etc will really make your confidence in life grow and teaches you how to interact and present yourself to many situations confidently.