You step off the plane in a new destination, and feel that liberating yet terrifying feeling sweep over you as you realize you are in a new country and completely alone. Without a gaggle of friends to flank you on either side, or a companion to hold your hand and watch your bags, you eventually learn to tap into your inherit street smarts and embrace the beauty of being solo. Whether you’re backpacking through Asia, spending a week in Argentina or passing through London, the following 10 things will happen to every solo traveler:
1. You Will Get Lost
You may have a map fused to your hand but despite your best efforts you will get lost during your travels. A winding street will take a sudden turn leaving you wondering when exactly you crossed over to a new part of town; when this happens, simply breathe and get oriented. Getting lost can be a wonderful thing while traveling as it can introduce you to charming cafes, cobblestone streets and lovely parks you might have otherwise missed.
2. You Will Question Your Sanity
There will come a point where your brain will whip around, face your heart and ask “WHAT were you thinking?!” It might be on the flight as the engine revs up for take-off or it could be upon landing when trudging through the airport but you will question your sanity for solo traveling and wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea. Give it time. Solo traveling reveals itself to you slowly, blossoming in all its emotional intricacies as a truly life changing experience.
3. You Will Have Some Sort of Financial Mishap
You’ll exchange money and misjudge the currency exchange (the rate was what!?) or you’ll leave for the day with less money than anticipated and find that your handy mathematical skills have failed you. The best advice is to be aware of your belongings and surroundings as you’re traveling sans family and friends to watch your back. Never leave with all your money, never exchange all your dollars and only take the money you need for each day when going out.
4. You’ll Do Something Completely Unexpected
While I was solo traveling in Argentina I booked an impromptu flight to the Brazilian border and flew later that day to the Iguazu waterfalls; it was the most spontaneous trip I have ever taken and ended up being an experience that I cherish dearly. They say life is what happens when we’re making other plans, so leave room in your schedule for serendipitous encounters and fortuitous events!
5. You’ll Fall for Another Traveler
There’s something about travel that is incredibly conducive to romance – the heady high of being abroad, the rolling accent of an attractive stranger and the shared passion of seeing the world will throw glitter in your eyes. Meeting someone on the road is both wonderful and devastating because the nature of travel means you’ll be there today and gone tomorrow, giving romance an inevitable shelf life. If you can, keep romance in perspective while solo traveling! On your soul adventure, the last thing you’d want to do is be listening for the melodic ping of a Whatsapp message and diverting your attention to someone else.
6. You Will Get Lonely
Loneliness is a necessary evil of solo travel and while you could spend an incredible day exploring, loneliness will eventually catch up to you like a debt collector expecting payment. Like all the emotions experienced while solo traveling, loneliness is just one color on the spectrum that should be embraced and understood. There is a strength to be derived from comforting yourself, cheering yourself up and making yourself smile when lonely.
7. You Will Meet Amazing People
It could be a group of backpackers making their way through South America or a travel writer on assignment to cover the food scene but you can expect to meet truly interesting people while traveling solo. Perhaps you’ll swap stories over cold beers and maybe you’ll share travel tips in your hostel’s common area–at the end of the day you’ll walk away feeling inspired and richer for having met like-minded travelers exploring the world.
8. You Will Revel In Asking Yourself “What Do I Want?”
With our lives often scheduled to the minute and overwhelmed by responsibility and commitments, it can be a revolutionary question to ask yourself, “what do I want?” Whether that answer it to spend the day in a cafe, roam through a museum, wander the city or board a ferry to Uruguay–the beauty of solo traveling is the freedom you have to live by your own rules.
9. You Will Have a Hell of a Time Getting a Decent Picture
As someone who detests the art of selfies, solo traveling threw me head first into learning how to take pictures of myself. You can ask around for a photo–some people may oblige others won’t–but at the end of the day you’ll get comfortable with blatant selfies, outstretched arms and funny angles for the sake of capturing a photo.
10. You Will See Yourself in a New Light
Perhaps it’ll happen when you’re confidently dining solo or maybe you’ll feel it when you easily make friends with that group of backpackers but there will come a point where you’ll realize just how strong you can be on your own. It is a beautiful discovery to know you are savvier, wiser, stronger and more confident than you’ve given yourself credit for; and solo traveling will undoubtedly reveal all facets of your personality to you. When there is no one there to hold your hand–quite literally–you will surprise yourself by how you’ll approach new people easily, strike up conversation effortlessly and venture out alone proudly.