I was 20 when I was preparing for my first solo trip overseas. I had booked flights almost on a whim, unsatisfied with the rut of uni and part-time work I was stuck in and increasingly impatient with my friends who kept saying they wanted to go travelling but doing nothing about it.
That’s how I found myself scared and lost at an airport that summer, about to embark on a backpacking trip through Asia. Until then I had always travelled with people that were far more responsible than myself and this had allowed me to take the back seat when it came to planning and logistics. But now it was just me and I had to navigate these things on my own.
I was worried about making mistakes and it costing me time and money. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything fun to do on my own. But by far, I was worried about feeling lonely and regretting the choice to isolate myself from all the people I knew on the other side of the world.
Luckily, all these fears I had about travelling solo were misconceptions and, widespread as they were, it was silly of me to let them get the better of me.
The thing about backpacking- especially throughout popular trails in Asia and Europe- is that there are loads of people doing the same thing as you. People go on trips for that sense of adventure, and that includes the thrill of meeting new people and making new friends. In fact, there are entire establishments that exist to facilitate the meeting of strangers, from hostels to tour companies to strange bars with all-day happy hour.
Of course, there are people that genuinely prefer to be alone and will actually seek out isolation on holidays, and that’s fine too. But for the rest of us, travelling solo usually comes with the expectation that we’ll find some travel buddies along the way.
On the second day of being in Asia, I met one of the people I would end up spending the rest of my trip with. I was still nervous as all hell, but all it took was heading to the free breakfast spread at my hostel and running into somebody that happened to have the taste in juice as me, or something just as trivial.
As it turns out, when people are thrust into new environments they tended to latch on to people more easily and more intensely, and this made for exciting friendships on the road.
However, sometimes we just don’t run into the kind of people we get along with during a holiday, and that’s both unavoidable and not our fault. In these times, it’s important to remember that the best company you can have is yourself, lame as that may sound. It’s true, though- when you’re on your own, who’s going to complain about your food choices or sleeping in or spending hours at the museum of selfies?
You’ll be setting your own schedule doing only the things you want to do and learning to be confident on your own is an important skill to have, no matter where in the world you are. Plus, if it does get bad, technology means that our friends and family are only one Skype call away.
The thought of travelling solo is definitely terrifying to a lot of people- you’d have to be a cocky bastard for it to not. But like most things in life, it always seems impossible until it’s done, and doing a trip on your own will undoubtedly be one of the best things you’ll do in life.