It seems like every other travel article in our news feeds these days is telling us to travel solo, but none of them talk about how to go about doing so when the very thought of it gives you crippling anxiety. Had you told me a few years ago that I would basically be working to fund my, mostly solo, wordly travel experiences, I would have given you a seriously questioning look.
I have always been an introvert. When I tell most people in my life who know me, they think I am pulling their leg. Sure I can open up and hold a conversation in a group of friends or colleagues, but when you throw me into a group of people, where I don’t know a soul, you best believe I am not talking to anyone until they approach me first. It’s something that I have always tried to work on, and occasionally I can come out of my shell and say the first words to my seatmate on a plane or train, but my heart is racing every step of the way. It really does take a lot out of me when I put myself out there like that, but it’s usually worth it in the end.
So, how did I start my solo travel journey? The first thing I did was to visit a friend in another city. Sure I wasn’t really alone the whole time, but like I said, baby steps! In 2016, I flew from NYC to Portland, OR to visit one of my good friends. She had spent six months traveling the country with her boyfriend and dog, living out of the Subaru that he had customized for each of their needs. They spent six months traveling across the US and decided that Portland was their favorite, so that’s where they started to lay down their roots. After all of the traveling they did, I knew I just HAD to visit them in Portland and experience it for myself.
So on my way to Shambhala, a music festival in Canada, I spent four days in Portland visiting my friends. They’d spend their days at work, while I would spend my days doing all of the touristy stuff. I basically walked, drank and ate my way through the city, then at night we’d link up for dinner and other nightlife activities. It was the best way to travel “alone” without the dread of actually being alone the entire time.
Next up, doing the same exact thing, but in another country, halfway around the world. In the winter of 2016, I decided to visit a friend in New Zealand, and another friend in Sydney, on my way to a music festival in Fiji. This had the same concept; visit my friends halfway around the world, this time be a tourist in their city while they were at work, and meet up with them when they were finished. Granted this is much easier when traveling to another country where you speak the same language, but remember, baby steps.
Then in the summer of 2017, that’s where the real challenge was. I went on a five-week Euro trip mixed with solo travel, group travel and traveling with friends. My first stop was scuba diving in El Hierro. This was the first time I had been to another country, totally by myself. The airline even lost my checked bag on my way there. Not the best way to start a five week traveling experience, but luckily I always travel with a spare set of clothes in my carryon backpack, so I had two sets of clothes to work with. The people at the dive shop were super helpful, but because I was on a remote island and being a plus size woman, there wasn’t really a place I could really go shopping. In the end, my suitcase was waiting for me at the airport on my way to visit a friend in Madrid. I spent the next four and a half weeks bouncing around between solo travel, linking up with friends in other countries, and even did a four day group travel experience to the Amalfi Coast. It was a perfect mix!
Once you travel alone for the first time, you tend to get this courage where you feel like you could travel almost anywhere by yourself. Sometimes going back to traveling with others is harder and you long to be free to go your own way again, but life is about balance. Traveling solo and with friends, both have their pros and cons, but being able to have the courage to travel alone means that you no longer have to wait for your friends to get their lives together to be able to join you. So what are you waiting for? Book a trip and go find yourself!