There are many traveller blogs out there that share their personal experience about travelling abroad. What to expect, encounter, and look out for. They not only help you prepare for the adventure of a lifetime but give you guidance through tips and advice. Being able to travel is a luxury and should never be taken for granted. It humbles you as you see people from different cultures, places, and all walks of life. You’ll realize that the world we live in is a truly remarkable place.
Unfortunately what a lot of articles don’t tell you is the challenges you will encounter. The emotional struggles you will go through as you plough through foreign land. Here is a list of what you may be coping with on your next journey alone.
Oh do I hate that word. I’ve always pride myself in keeping my walls up in fear of being vulnerable. Vulnerability is your tolerance to the people, places, and situations around you. The more vulnerable you are, the more susceptible you are to how those people, places, and situations can affect you. For example, during my trip to Australia, I feel in love. Unexpectedly. With no intentions to stay in the country long-term, I expected to land, have my fun for a year and boot it back home. But things happen, and it felt like I fell hard. But did I really? Here’s what happens when you’re alone in a new city, have no job, and no one to rely on. You’ll hold on to every little relationship, courtship, words, and events close to heart. They are your grounds. Because essentially they are the only things you have.
When you’re home, you have your family, close friends, comfort, reliability, familiarity, a job, and a lifestyle that you know, live and breathe. Out in the wild, well, whatever comes your way, you take it and hold dear to it. You’re vulnerable to all these encounters. A mere friendship with a fellow mate sharing the same flat will feel like s/he is your best friend or someone close enough to be in that position anyway. Because really, who else do you have? A relationship you’ve had only for a few weeks will give you the comfort you probably need and perhaps they will feel like family. Who else can you count on? Not only are these encounters more important to us, but we are more vulnerable to them. By being alone in a new city, we start with a blank slate. Everyone and everything we build a relationship with is offered a big portion of our lives because we have that much more space to hold them close. Unfortunately, with no grounds to hold you down, when things fail, you’ll come crashing down.
2. You are not who you are
You are who you want to be. A friend once told me “it’s silly to be afraid to make your first impression… because a first impression can be anything you want it to be.” Travelling alone gives you the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Nobody knows you for who you are. You’ve already made the first physical step out of your comfortable homeland, so why not a step out of character as well. You’ll be a little more outgoing, a little more crazy, a little more shy. Your laughs will be louder, your cries more effortless, or your body language more expressive. Whatever it may be, there is just something about you that boasts more of those actions and reactions you’ve been waiting to express.
Somewhere along your journey, you will find enlightenment. I don’t necessarily mean a spiritual discovery (although this can happen) but an answer to questions you’ve been asking yourself. No, unfortunately not all of life’s questions will be answered from one vacation trip. If that were the case, we’d all be packing our bags and booking the next flight out. What I mean is you will find an answer to some of the following questions.
- What makes me happy?
- Who are the most important people in my life?
- What are my goals and how do I achieve them?
- Why have I been so focused on what others think of me in the past?
- Where will I go next?
The questions are endless. But somewhere along the way, you will find an answer to one of them. And if you’re lucky, some of them!
4. Feeling lost
Sure, being in a new city will require some navigating and mapping to get used to. You’ll take the wrong bus, get off on the wrong train station or simple walk in the opposite direction. The real challenge isn’t so much a directionally impaired one but a mental and emotional hurdle you encounter. You can feel lost even before you know where to go. Sometimes people and experiences can throw you off course. Maybe you’re travelling alone to visit all the hotspot destinations but wound up meeting someone special along the way. Throwing you off your itinerary. You spend more time getting to know each other rather exploring the next destination and forget why you came here in the first place. Feeling lost isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can hinder our ability to see where we’re going. One way to keep your mind focused while travelling is to write everything down.
I have a journal I carry around that I call my “brain dump” book. No, it is not a diary. There is no daily record of my experiences, feelings, or observations; however noting these down wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I simple jot down what’s on my mind. It can be questions, goals, tasks, or notes. Those bits and pieces you put in writing along with way will act as trail markings on your adventure. Like trail blazes on a hike when you’ve gone astray, you can navigate back to your last route.
5. You need help
Chances are If you’re someone who has the courage to travel alone, you possess some very particular characteristics. I know, because I am that person. You don’t necessarily think of yourself as brave, but there are very few things that would frighten you enough to not give it a try. You’re very independent, self reliant, rational, observant, and highly adaptive. With such a strong head on your shoulders, seldom do you feel the need to seek help. Unfortunately the sooner you accept the fact that ‘you will need help’, the easier your journey will be. It is not a sign of weakness. Even through primitive studies and observations, human beings were meant to bond with one another to increase the likeliness of survival. What I’m saying is, we’re not meant to do it alone. As independent as you are, or how much of a solo journey you strive for, be open to accepting help from those who offer.
There are many other challenges when travelling alone and this list will continue to be updated. Although I cannot comment about the physical challenges (because I’ve had it pretty easy), any human being with the strength to wander away from home is in itself brave enough to face them.