Right now, I am in the middle of a solo road trip. I have seen friends along the way, and they’ve even joined me for a few days here and there. But for the majority of this trip, I’m by myself.
I have traveled solo a few times before.
The first time was in Europe. I was 21 and very intrigued by the idea of traveling solo. I thought it looked so cool and so badass. I wanted to be that girl. I remember being so nervous. It felt like a huge scary thing, but I booked tickets and forced myself to swallow my hesitations.
I couldn’t enjoy it. I was still struggling so hard with anxiety, and I hadn’t given myself any training wheels. I hadn’t given myself any cushion or safety net. I would dread the time that wasn’t scheduled– I found it difficult to go through my day without a plan, and found it even harder to make that plan for myself.
The next time I traveled solo was in Thailand. I was 24 and had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years. This time, I was prepared. I knew I would have to overcome my anxiety. I knew I would struggle with being lonely. And I also knew there would be an emotional piece to the whole thing. Because I was prepared, that trip was so good for me.
A year and a half after the Thailand trip, I decided to head out by myself again.
I did not decide to travel solo with the intention to have a fun, carefree vacation, to get cool photos, or to look like a badass. I did not decide to travel solo because I think it’s the “best” way to do it.
Here’s why I did decide to travel solo.
So much comes up when you spend all of your time by yourself. You laugh, you cry, you feel great, you feel hopeless. For me, I experience all of that in a span of approximately five minutes.
Sometimes it’s really hard to not have another person to vent to, or someone to distract me from whatever is going on in my head or heart. But what I have come to love, is that I’ve gotten really good at identifying my feelings and working through them, whatever they are. Even the messy ones. Even those feelings that, at home, I’d avoid by distracting myself with issues that seem more urgent.
Here, by myself, driving or hiking, I’m alone with my thoughts. The only option: truly listen to them and work through it all.
I’m a pretty indecisive person. I usually don’t really care what to eat for lunch or what to do this afternoon. Being on a road trip solo forces me to be decisive and to get stuff done.
When I had a boyfriend, I would rely on him constantly to take care of things. I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, he would. If I didn’t go food shopping, he would. I never worried or stressed about things because he was the back-up plan. He had things pretty dialed-in and organized.
Traveling alone, I am solely responsible for my safety and comfort. If I don’t go food shopping, I’m gonna be hungry. If I don’t research a place to camp for the night, I’m gonna be uncomfortable. If I don’t decide what to do on any given day, I’m gonna be sitting twiddling my thumbs without direction.
Solo travel forces me to make deliberate decisions.
I have always struggled with anxiety and still deal with it now.
Because I’m by myself, I am the only one who can communicate my needs. There may be times when I need to ask a neighbor at a campground to borrow something, or I might need to approach someone to ask for directions, or I might need to ask for a wifi password. Maybe this seems extreme, but all of that would have made me unbelievably anxious a few years ago.
In situations where previously I would have relied on someone else, now I only rely on myself. Because I have to. Because I have put myself in this situation.
In short, I travel solo to learn. It’s often uncomfortable and rarely easy. But I have always come out of it stronger and wiser.
Solo travel will always be a part of my life. It will always be a way to learn. Will I always travel solo? Do I “prefer” it? Of course not. Solo travel is a completely different experience than traveling with someone else. There is a time and place for it, and it might not be appropriate for everyone.
Solo travel has taught me how to trust my gut and listen to myself, but it’s also taught me how to be resilient. It’s taught me about time management, menu planning and finances. It’s taught me about balance and happiness.
So that’s why I’m doing it.
I don’t hope this inspires you to try solo travel. I hope it inspires you to do something that teaches you about yourself, whatever that is.