My time home has been amazing. I’ve been catching with old friends and making new ones. The one thing I get told a lot is how “daring” or “brave” I am for deciding to travel alone. But here’s the thing, it’s really not that scary a thing to do.
If you follow my blog, the one thing you’ll realise is that I began incredibly scared but then stopped talking about how scared I was as soon as I hit the road. And it’s because I’ve realised that there were a tonne of other things worth spending my energy fretting over, like where I would sleep the next week.
The more I reflected on my life (I mean, it is that time of the year to be all sappy) the more I realised that I had been practising independence for a long time and this was a natural extension of that.
So if you’re thinking about embarking on a solo adventure this 2016 but you’re not sure if it’s the right thing for you, here are 5 things to put yourself through to figure out if you can handle travelling solo.
1. Go out for a meal or get a drink on your own
I honestly don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s so nice to just sit by yourself and not be bothered with small talk, being able to order anything you want and really enjoying what you’re eating.
But here’s the catch, you’re not allowed to bring a book or “check” your phone or do anything to distract yourself from your own company.
Why? Because you learn to enjoy the insignificant moments, like the smell of your freshly cooked meal or the laughter from the kid sitting at the table opposite you. It sounds terribly cliche but it is honestly the best part of travelling alone – noticing the small things. It makes the journey that much more magical.
2. Get lost and enjoy it
Getting lost and wandering around aimlessly just because you can is such an underrated luxury. The number of hours I spent wondering around the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg introduced me to the place in a new way. I noticed the architecture, the hipsters who walked past me, the signs on the roads, the loud honks from cars… It was great.
Take an afternoon to get lost in your city, it’s truly is eye opening. If you want to push yourself a little further, get lost alone, let your senses take over and let your mind wonder.
3. Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger
This is probably the most nerve-wrecking of them all, at least for me it was. I find it impossible to walk up to a stranger (or a group of them) and literally start talking. My mind runs off into a million different directions as I figure out what to say, how to introduce myself, do I look okay, oh my god I smell bad, great stuff.
I found this a lot easier to do in hostels where backpackers are intentionally making friends and are in the mindset of meeting new people. But here are a few other instances when I’ve chatted with complete strangers, like speaking to the guy seated next to me during the interval of a play in Dublin, speaking to a barista at The Grumpy Cyclist (they have very cute baristas every now and then *wink wink*), chatting to an English teacher on a bus from Oslo to Copenhagen, striking up a conversation with a girl who was in a bar alone (whose friends I ended up hanging out with as well), meeting tonnes of people on free walking tours and having them take nice photos of me at all the tourist-y spots.
There’s no perfect recipe for striking up a conversation with a stranger, you just have to go for it. I mean honestly, what’s the worst that could happen?
4. Try something new by yourself
Sign up for a new exercise class, a hipster coffee tasting class) or try an online class of some sort. Just try something new and give yourself the chance to discover who you when faced with unfamiliarity. You’d be surprised by what you find.
5. Go on a short trip alone
Before I backpacked around Europe, I had taken a few short trips around the UK and Ireland on my own. I really enjoyed them and the freedom of being able to do what I wanted whenever I wanted was so self-indulgent.
It was good practice as I went through the motions of planning for the trip, researching and comparing accommodation and transport options, learning to depend on myself and trusting that I had planned everything correctly. On my first few trips alone, I was constantly worried that I had miscalculated the number of nights I had planned for or misread the ticket for my train since all those had happened before. I guess I learned to just shake it off and get over it.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Remember to check in with yourself and ask yourself how you feel every now and then. If you find yourself enjoying it all, travelling solo is something you should definitely do.