Traveling solo evokes a roller coaster of emotions – it’s fun, and scary, and lonely, and self-fulfilling, all at the same time. Your mistakes, as well as your triumphs, are your own. You indulge and educate yourself. You live by your own rules, at your own pace and at your own time, and no one’s going to judge or pressure you.
If you’re traveling for the first time on your own, here are 10 beautiful stages you’d love to embrace.
“I’m free, finally!”
You feast your eyes on the scenic, unfamiliar landscapes outside your small window. You have that liberating feeling as soon as you step off the plane – in a new country – completely alone. You actually feel good about being independent. You start envisioning your itineraries. You can’t wait to dump your bags inside your hotel room, see the amazing sights and dive into the foreign land’s diverse culture all by yourself. You’re excited to take pictures and write in your journal as if you’re the wordsmith of your own story.
- AMAZEMENT AND DISCOVERY
“Just. Wow” *jaw drops*
You finally see the places you’ve only seen in travel catalogues. You say “wow” to everything, from the elaborate baroque ceilings of the cathedral to the cheap knick-knacks sold in souvenir shops. You try to document every single thing you see. You also find treasure in the smallest of things like restaurant napkins, bus tickets, and a pile of dust. You try to blend in with the locals, but everyone knows from the astounded look in your eyes (and your obvious love for selfies) that you’re a tourist.
- GETTING LOST
“I lost track … but it’s okay.”
You have a map and a list of sights and activities in your hand but you may still get lost during your trip. It may be due to the town’s winding roads, or due to your own curiosity; to go on a mini-expedition to the hidden corners of the city and learn beyond what has been taught.
Getting a little bit lost can be a wonderful thing – you’ll discover lovely streets and parks, cool underground cafes and shops, interesting people, and basically experience more.
- CULTURE SHOCK
“Okay, the fact that ‘I don’t belong here’ is sinking in.”
“Oh no, they can’t understand English.”
“So… gazpacho is a cold soup. Wait, cold soup exists?”
“Are you serious? The cubicles don’t have toilet papers! How would I…”
Apart from local language barriers, the country’s alien culture may leave you with an experience you can never forget. But look at the brighter side – you’re able to learn new things.
- QUESTIONING YOUR SANITY
“I’m freaking ALONE … what was I thinking?”
Now here’s the terrifying part – when the feeling of independence and victory wears off and you start questioning your sanity. Like, why did you think traveling alone is a good idea in the first place?
You may encounter problems, like financial mishaps, horrific language barriers, or worse, violating the foreign land’s law. Some possible worst case scenarios like getting mugged and losing your valuables like your wallet, phone, passport, and visa, or getting harassed in the streets may also start to circle your mind.
“I wish mom and dad were here.”
Or my best friend. Or my dog. Or even my ex. Whoever.
The idea that you’re in a different country and you have no one to rely on and talk to will leave you upset. You could be spending a great day exploring the city but you’ll just lay on your hotel bed, feeling down. No matter how beautiful the place is, boredom is inevitable. You may also feel guilty and selfish for not inviting your loved one to your trip. You comfort and cheer yourself up, and start finding small ways to make yourself smile.
“I shall ditch the map today.”
Solo traveling will lead you to do the unexpected. You’ll be thrilled to go on spontaneous and impromptu trips somewhere, taste local, exotic dishes you haven’t had before, or dare yourself to do the things you find uncomfortable (but worth the try). The new sights and experiences will either be a hit or miss, but whatever that is, you’ll surely bring home unforgettable stories you’d cherish.
- NURTURING HUMAN INTERACTION
“Socializing seems like a good idea.”
Over time, your love for introvertism will subside and the next thing you’d want to do is to interact with an actual human being – to swap stories over cold beverages with interesting strangers. It may be a group of like-minded backpackers you meet in the busy street, a local barista who made your morning coffee, an old lady who shares with you the city’s underground cafes, a friendly tourist next door, or even a charming stranger you share stories (and love affair) with.
- EXISTENTIAL CRISIS
“What’s more to life?”
Solo traveling may leave you with a mild existential crisis and it’s normal. You’ll revel in asking yourself what you really want. You wander the city, sit by the river, roam around a museum, or simply let the time pass in a cafe, reflecting on what you’ve done in the past, what you’re currently doing with your life, and what you’re going to do to seize the best of life – something you cannot do when you’re too busy keeping up with work commitments.
“I’m wiser now.”
After discovering new sights, meeting good (and not so good) people from different walks of life, and learning a lot of things, your mind opens up. You gain a new perspective. You begin to appreciate different religions and traditions, and understand why people behave in such a way. Even world issues have become relevant to you.
Lastly, traveling solo allows you to not only discover new places. It allows you to discover yourself.
Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Holiday Inn Parramatta, a modern hotel in Western Sydney known for their exceptional accommodation, service, and location, which appeals to travellers in Australia. She has always been passionate about giving in to her wanderlust and collecting mementos from different places.
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