You say goodbye to your beloved family and friends. You step onto the plane and you feel excited, liberated yet terrified. You realize that at this moment, you step out of your comfort zone into the unknown. A great adventure is ready to begin. You touch ground in a new country and you’re all by yourself. Without anyone to hide behind, to hold your hand or to make decisions with. It’s just you and your common sense. In the beginning, this will feel a little uncomfortable. But as soon as you embrace the beauty of being solo, you don’t want it to change, ever. During my 6 months solo trip through Southeast Asia, I experienced many things and a lot of different feelings. These are the 5 things I think every solo traveler will experience:
1. You’ll doubt your common sense
Was this really a good idea? Is what I asked myself several times. For example those times when I jumped on the back of a strange man’s motorbike. Every time I asked myself: Why am I doing this? This guy could take me anywhere and rob me or even worse.. Luckily, every time my worries were misplaced and those men always brought me to my hostel or the bus station. And why did I decide to drive from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min on a motorbike without having a driver’s license? Well, in the end it was an amazing experience and totally worth all the stress it caused me.
2. You’ll meet amazing people
Travelling solo doesn’t mean you’re alone all the time. On the contrary, you will meet amazing people who also ‘travel alone’. Travelling solo means the freedom to make your own decisions and the opportunity to make heaps of new friends. It can be the backpackers in your hostel or locals on the street. One time, I had lunch by myself in a restaurant in Ban Lung, Cambodia. A local woman came up to me and invited me to have lunch with her because she didn’t want me to sit by myself. It turned out she was the owner of the restaurant and she made me try the most delicious Khmer food I’ve had. It was a great experience but also an amazing woman who I otherwise probably never would’ve met. Travelling solo makes you realize that there are many open minded people. Whom are willing to get to know you and share their experiences, feelings, food or house with you.
3. You’ll feel lonely
Yes, of course you will feel lonely at some point during your trip. And I have to admit, while ‘travelling solo’ I was surrounded by people almost all the time. I guess everyone likes nice company and to share experiences. I learned that loneliness doesn’t have to mean that you’re alone. You can also feel lonely when you’re around people.
I felt lonely twice. One time I was really by myself, I felt left out because the girls from my dorm went out for dinner without me. The other time I was with a group of other backpackers. I felt down because I just left a great country and some great people behind. I didn’t want to bother them with my feelings because I didn’t know them that well. I kept all my feelings for myself and felt really lonely. But after I cheered myself up, and made me enjoy the trip again, I felt super strong!
4. You’ll fall in love
Don’t fall in love! Everyone back at home told you. But there’s something romantic about travelling. You bond with people real quick. You share a passion to explore new places. You fall in love with nature, the culture and each other. Maybe it’s the sexy accent, maybe the high of being abroad. Falling in love with another traveler can be beautiful but also devastating. Travelling means that today you’re here and tomorrow you’ll be somewhere else.
Luckily I could see things in perspective and I told myself that I don’t want to be in love while travelling. I fell in love though. But it wasn’t that bad and it was more of a whim. It’s easy to get over it because there’s so much distraction.
5. You’ll be proud of yourself
At some point you realize that it takes some courage to do all this by yourself. Stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown isn’t a regular thing to do. Finding your way in a different country is sometimes hard because you don’t speak the language. The fact that you can handle all these things, is a reason to be really proud of yourself. I think travelling solo has been good for my confidence and a great way to learn more about myself.