“Brave is as brave does”
This is me in 2011.
I had just left my friends and (then) boyfriend, in Thailand, and moved to Shanghai. It was to be the adventure to end all adventures, and… I was traveling completely alone.
When I tell people, that I often take holidays alone, I always get a look.
It’s usually an undisguised look of astonishment, mingled with a hint of judgement.
Then the questions come.
Sometimes they are brazen enough to just simply ask, “why?”
But more often than not, I am asked, “are you single?”
I don’t believe it is something entirely to do with my gender, because I’ve even had men telling me that they’d be afraid to do it.
But why not?
Why can’t some people, just get on a plane, and travel to far-flung places, without the need for a chaperon?
When we think of that solo intrepid traveler, we usually think of: flowing tie dye, with dreadlocks, that can sometimes can be seen with a tambourine or two; jamming with the locals on the sidewalk. Someone like Louis Cole (he’s great by the way, check out his youtube channel).
You know the type I mean?
I don’t fall into this category. But it still didn’t make any sense to me, why other people just like me, sans dreadlocks and body piercings, didn’t travel alone.
It wasn’t until a friend who came to visit me, cut her journey short on account of culture shock, that I really took the time to think about the ‘skills’ needed to travel alone.
The 3 Essential Skills Needed to Travel Solo
And by this I don’t mean ego.
I know many people who are extrovert and charismatic, but who also wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar by themselves. Traveling alone, sometimes means this.
I’m not saying that we should all start heading down to our local pub for a solitary pint; to prove ‘we can do it’. But it is vital to understand that:
“Traveling solo is about having the confidence (in yourself) to be alone.”
This is a tricky one, because it cannot be faked.
It is something that I have had to build up over the years.
Start small…. try baby steps…
No one is expecting your first solo adventure to be an around the world affair, but understand that if you’re ever going to achieve that dream solo holiday, you’ll have to start now.
The next time you have an afternoon to spare, rather than heading down to your usual haunts, hop on a train (or a bus… whatever) and go somewhere you’ve never been before. This may seem silly or awkward but this is pretty much a taster of how it is to travel alone.
Trust me when I say, you will want to try this little exercise into the unknown. It actually kills two bird with one stone, because not only do train your confidence, but also by leaving your comfort zone, you start to understand that being alone allows you to deviate from set plans.
“Language barriers will always exist… People will sometimes get in your way… Transport systems, in many countries, are unreliable.”
These three things are just a few issues, in the sea of problems, that I have encountered on my travels. There are more. There are always more, but accepting that things can go wrong is a crucial step in enjoying your solo holiday.
I’m not saying you should lower your expectations, but it would help if you did.
Think about how things work in the country where you are from.
If they work 100% of the time, give yourself a clap. You are lucky (I honestly doubt it though).
A big problem when traveling alone is that when things do go wrong, we tend to fixate on them. It is a perfectly natural response but it is a fundamental barrier, to getting the most out of your holiday.
In your own country, you encounter problems almost daily, but it does not stop you from leaving your house or functioning normally. So why is it that when holidays have hiccups, some people hole themselves up in their hotel room and immediately want to go home?
And how do I overcome this exactly?
Well, it starts with your outlook.
The next time you are waiting on a train (or a bus…etc) that is late, take a step back and realize how it affects you.
Being conscious of your reactions, however overblown they may be, is a key step into changing them. Just by being aware of how you are in negative situations, in time, when things go wrong, you can start to build the ability to adapt.
Are you the kind of person that takes forever to pick something on the menu, in case you choose the wrong thing? Well, so am I.
That’s not the kind of decisiveness I mean.
Traveling solo means that you have to be your own motivator, planner, and tour guide (unless you pay for one, that is). It’s not enough to fly half way around the world with a lonely planet in tow, but stay indoors because you don’t know where to go.
The way to solve this, I would have to say, is to make more assertive decisions.
For instance: you are presented with the opportunity to attend two fabulous events, but both happen to clash; they’re at the same time, on opposite sides of the city.
Rather than attempting the strain to juggle your time between the two… just pick one.
On paper this sounds silly but I wonder how many times when such a situation occurred, you tried to force everything in, or even despondently ended up not going to any at all.
Decisiveness is important, because when you travel alone you have to ‘trust yourself’.
As my friend showed me, it wasn’t enough to just get to the place you want to go.
Traveling alone is a state of mind.
Once you understand that these skills can be implemented into all parts of your daily life, you’ll realize that traveling alone is not as daunting as it appears to be. It’s natural to be scared or apprehensive, but with oodles of confidence, patience and decisiveness, you’ll enjoy the highs and lows just the same.
Seasoned solo travelers will most certainly argue that more could be added, but this is what I have found to be the top three essential skills needed to travel solo.
What do you think?