Back in May I was lucky enough to be asked to write a guest post for Flat Earth Magazine. These guys are such an inspiration for anyone interested in travel. They moved to Australia from the UK and have been lucky enough to explore, live and work there for over a year now. In return for my article they wrote one for me which is an absolute must read so take a look after you’ve read this post I wrote for them about solo travel…
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau
Female solo travel seems to be a taboo subject. Many people think that a young woman travelling on her own is a dangerous and lonely experience but in reality it’s the complete opposite. I’ve been on several “solo adventures” and have found them to be both liberating and exciting. When I started to write this article I had a look on the web to see what other people said about solo travel and Google suggestions came up with “solo travel is the best”. You know what Google, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I wasn’t someone who was born with the travel bug, it just sort of crept up on me one day. I went from not holidaying at all to someone who now goes abroad at least once a month! It’s both a hobby and an addiction. My soul craves unfamiliar places on a daily basis, and I have no power to stop myself succumbing to the travel bug. I feel compelled to seek adventures from every corner of the earth, my curiosity is never satisfied, and my bucket list is ever-growing. Be it a blessing or a curse, I cannot think of anything better to be infatuated with than the world.
The first time I went backpacking I couldn’t comprehend doing it alone. Along with a university friend I went backpacking around America for 4 months. I was so worried about being away from home and I relied on the support of my companion to adjust into the traveller lifestyle. However, after several months on the road I had met hundreds of travellers and I began to see solo travel in a different light. The people I met could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted and this sense of freedom was compelling to me.
It was a matter of weeks after arriving back on British soil that the urge to travel hit me. It was a spur of the moment decision but I decided to book a solo trip to Amsterdam for New Year. As much as I would describe myself as a sensible person, I have an impulsive streak that sometimes takes over and I had my heart set on going to Amsterdam so I was determined to go, with or without companions. As it turns out, Amsterdam was the best decision I ever made. I had an amazing few days and made a nice group of friends who I frequently travel with even to this day. This was the beginning of my “one country a month” challenge I set myself back in 2015.
I’ve since been on 3 solo trips, including two weeks interrailing around Europe. I’ve been fortunate on my travels to have met amazing people, so there has rarely been a chance for me to be bored – let alone lonely! I’m not saying solo female travel is all fun and games though. You do have to keep your wits about you and make sure you’re keeping yourself safe. I always make sure I give people back home my itinerary and I try to check in once a day so they know I’m okay. I’ve found people tend to watch out for you a bit more when you tell them you’re a female travelling by yourself. First and foremost you need to look out for yourself, but it’s always nice when someone else has your back.
So far I haven’t found travelling alone has held me back at all. If anything, it’s given me confidence in myself to analyse situations and do what’s best for me. Depending on the travel companion, I’ve found travelling with someone can inhibit some of the choices you make. You tend to adjust your decisions to satisfy the party as a whole, rather than the individual, and this is no good for a curious soul. Don’t get me wrong I love travelling with other people, there’s nothing better than having someone to share the memories with, but spontaneity can sometimes go out the window when there are several people to factor into decisions.
Being alone on the road doesn’t make you antisocial, in fact I’ve found my social skills have flourished during my solo trips. In general I would say the backpacking community is full of like-minded, friendly people who are all just looking for the same thing – to see the world. Sparking up a conversation in the hostel with someone has frequently lead to mini adventures and new friendships for me. Take Oktoberfest for example. I went in October last year as part of my interrail trip. I was by myself in Germany and in all honestly, slightly nervous about visiting Europe’s biggest beer festival on my own. However, as luck would have it, I met Sarah at the hostel check in desk. She too was by herself and it took minutes for us to strike up a friendship. We spent the entire 4 days together dancing on the tables in our dirndls make toasts with other newfound friends.
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” — Albert Einstein
Being by yourself may seem daunting to some, but the relationship you have with yourself is the most important one in your life and you need to keep that relationship healthy. I think your twenties are the years where you grow most as a person. I want to spend this decade embracing change, grabbing every opportunity I have and exploring as much as I can. I’m at a point in my life where I have the intention to travel as far as my funds will take me. If people want to join me on my adventures I’m happy for the companionship, but I won’t delay any plans if the only thing holding me back is going by myself.