Since writing this piece, I’ve now completed my trip to Seattle and Vancouver and I’m currently taking 3 days of me time, solo travelling parts of the Baltics, Latvia and Estonia.
I’m currently planning a visit to America and Canada travelling solo for the first week in Seattle and Vancouver and then eventually meeting up with Ernestas in Yellowstone National Park for the second week. Whilst I’m enjoying the planning that goes into a trip like this, I’m reflecting on travelling solo and why it is important for me. Below are paragraphs battling out for and against solo travelling.
Building Independence VS Feeling Unsafe
At 21 I decided to take up an Au Pair job in Paris for 3 months. I remember flying out to Paris by myself for the first time, feeling nervous but excited. Although I did miss home when I was there, I think this is where I really realised I can do things myself. The parents of the Au Pair family worked in casinos during the nights, sleeping during the day. I nannied the children during the night and took them to school in the morning, unless it was the weekend where I would take them to the park until the parents woke. The children were bilingual but I spoke no French. I still managed to navigate my way around with the children, passing on messages to the school, buying food from shops and cafes. I used the metro system and independently explored Paris by foot, I walked so much of this city I still have dreams where I am walking down narrow Parisian lanes. I remember when I came back to the UK thinking to myself ‘I did that’ ‘I can do anything’. It really does give you a sense of achievement, a sense of independence and it only drove my curiosity to see and experience more of the world.
However, travelling alone can make your travel more dangerous or at least appear or feel like you are in more danger or bring a sense of vulnerability. A solo person can be seen as more of a target, I felt this walking back to my hotel in Downtown Orlando after eating out. Orlando has many people living on the streets, it also has dive bars where people were hanging outside a little worse for wear on alcohol. Although I am used to seeing this in London, being in a different environment intensifies the feeling of danger. Travelling alone can make you feel like an easier target but in these tricky, risk filled situations you learn to adapt, think and rely on yourself. I also got in a sticky situation after landing into Orlando airport, where my debit card was canceled and I didn’t have a working phone. When situations like this happen and you are with another person you feel more supported, secure and safe that you have each other to rely on. But being alone calls for you to think for yourself and this is not a bad thing however scary it may feel at the time. We can learn more about ourselves and our capabilities when placed in these risky situations, we are resilient independent beings.
Having your own time VS Feeling lonely
After long periods of travelling solo you might get lonely, there were 2 nights in New York that I felt lonely. I think it’s about recognising this feeling and the reasons for it and then making changes to this. Learning to adapt my plans and also independently placing myself into new social situations was a great learning curve for me. It definitely made me more confident as my trip continued and I had some wonderful experiences because of this.
My circumstance in New York when feeling lonely for 2 nights was because I was in a hostel room with only one other girl who was working for the month in the city, so I barely saw her. This made me learn quickly that I needed to put myself into travel situations where I could be more sociable. In Miami I stayed in a party hostel ‘beds n drinks’ which I highly recommend. Most of the people I met there were travelling by themself and wanted to make connections and see the city. The first night I stayed here I went out with the girls from my dorm into the nightclubs of Miami, Space and E11even. The following day, 2 of the girls from the dorm caught a cruise over to Bimini, Bahamas and asked if I wanted to join. Of course I wanted to go! We ended up having an awesome day exploring the island on a golf cadi.
Later in my East Coast Trip I joined a group for a tour in Cuba, I met some fabulous people and we even have plans to meet up in London again soon. These kind of experiences helped me to get over any loneliness I might have been feeling for those two nights in New York.
In comparison I do also enjoy my own company and like ‘me time’, time to think and chill by myself. This might be whilst going for walks and runs around new places or having a coffee in a different city by myself. I enjoy a good book and going to museums by myself, usually because I take longer than most people when walking around these- I have this thing about reading all the descriptions! When travelling alone you get to do things you want to do for yourself. If I had decided to not go to the Bahamas as I just wanted to chill and read on the beach that would be entirely up to me. For me, the pro of choosing things for yourself outweighs the con of occasionally feeling lonely. It’s also about getting a balance between the two- meeting new people but also enjoying your own company and time.
Travelling with friends VS Being on your own schedule
I love travelling with other people. I fondly remember my holidays to Spain and Jersey with my friend Charlotte, we had such a laugh and so much fun. I also love to explore and travel with Ernie. However when travelling with others you have to make compromises. Now I’m a compromising person, but this means that within these compromises you may be missing out on doing or seeing things. When I’m travelling with Ernie I can still sometimes do this for example during our recent road trip to Amsterdam I wanted to go to the Anne Frank House and he had other ideas so we had the afternoon apart and were both able to achieve what we wanted. Travelling with some friends you may feel like this is not possible, that you need to be doing things together as you have planned this journey together fundamentally missing out on doing things you wanted to do.
I’ve had friends in the past who have said let’s go here or there together but it’s not always been the best time for them to go. For me ( however selfish this might sound) I cannot wait. If I want to go somewhere I’m going to plan and go there. If you do not plan and go you might find years go by and you haven’t been to any of the places you have dreamed about and they ultimately become just that, dreams. Making dream destinations a reality is something I want to achieve so if it’s not the right time for a friend or a partner to be coming with me then I’m not going to let that stop me from going.
Wrapping it up
I’m not saying that travelling solo is the be all and end all or that it is for everyone but if you want to go somewhere then go, even if that means going solo. I appreciate that I can have these solo experiences that allow me to think for myself and be independent. I look back and think parts of solo travelling were hard but I overcame barriers, became more independent, self-reliant and resilient all whilst having a hell of a time!