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My first solo travel adventure was a 3-month backpacking trip around Europe when I was 21. I set my budget goal and worked hard to meet it, and within 6 months I was on a plane. It was the craziest (and scariest) thing I had ever done and it felt invigorating!
Since then, thanks to that experience, I’ve traveled solo all over the world and I’ve learned so much about myself and life through my experiences, and I wanted to share some that with you.
1. Take the Leap!
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tsu
The first step is always the hardest. Waiting for the perfect timing, or the perfect circumstances, or the perfect travel companion will have you waiting a VERY long time! In the end the initial leap is up to you. Choose your moment and jump! Your choice and the actions that follow will bring all the right things into your life. Once you make the commitment, the rest will fall into place.
2. Always trust your gut. Always.
Your intuition is your best friend in life, especially when you’re on the road in unfamiliar territory. It will tell you when something isn’t quite right. When you’re traveling and you don’t speak the language, and you don’t know anybody, your intuition is your best friend. It will keep you out of uncomfortable situations, away from shady characters and hopefully tip you off when someone is trying to rip you off. Trust it!
When I took that first solo trip to Europe I took a detour to Morocco. When I dismbarked from the ferry I was approached by an 17-year-old kid who offered to tour me around the Tangiers. Despite my insistence that I didn’t need (or want) a guide, he followed me around for two hours while I waited for my bus out of town. I had this uncomfortable feeling and as I went to board the bus he pulled a knife, saying that I owed him money for the “tour.” Whaaaaaat?!! I wasn’t going to pay someone for creepily following me around for 2 hours! Thank goodness the bus driver was nearby! He instructed me to board the bus and he handled my “tour guide.” I’ve trusted that uncomfortable feeling ever since.
3. You Can Only Truly Count on Yourself.
Everyone is on their own path, and you cannot expect others to understand or follow yours. There are always reasons (excuses?) that stop people from taking that initial leap. If I had waited for others I would have missed out on so many experiences. I’ve learned that I can’t rely on others to fulfill my own dreams. All I can do is believe in myself to create the life that I envision and live it.
4. Fear Is Part of the Deal.
Traveling alone is scary! But my theory is that if you’re not scared you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not scared then you’re not playing a big enough game. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere you’ve never been. It takes a brave person to be able to venture into the unknown, especially on your own. These are the opportunities where you will learn the most about yourself and grow. Don’t let your fears stop you from having an incredible life! Get out of your own way and FACE those fears. You will surprise yourself when you realize there was actually nothing to be afraid of, and you will feel a sense of pride for what you’ve accomplished.
5. I’m Not Running Away!
I always let myself believe that travel was my way of running away from real life. I’ve come to realize that I was never running away from anything, but instead I’ve been running TOWARD a dream! I’m creating an incredible life with every step, every flight and every new place I explore, and new person I meet. I’m seeing the world and experiencing new things and photographing it all! I’m living a life that so many only dream of and I’m so grateful for the choices I’ve made to make it all possible.
6. Roll With It.
Travel always comes with frustrations and mishaps. No trip or adventure is ever perfect. The unexpected happens and things will not always go as planned. There’s no point in getting upset when it happens though. Getting upset isn’t going to make it go away, it will only frustrate you and affect your experience and your memories of it.
I’ve had my share of travel mishaps including lost luggage in Russia, food poisoning in Indonesia, and floods delaying trains in Thailand. These things used to stress me out, but I’ve learned to roll with it. Getting upset isn’t going to get my luggage to me any faster, get the food poisoning through my system any quicker, or make the floods clear the tracks any sooner. I’ve learned to adjust my plans and make the best of unexpected situations over which I have no control. And, surprisingly, I’ve found that these adjusted plans tend to make for some amazing adventures and the best travel stories!
7. You Will Get Lonely, but You’re Never Alone.
Traveling solo isn’t always sunshine and lollipops, and can be lonely at times. Sure, I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, but at the end of the day everyone goes their own way. It can get lonely when you have no one to share the experiences with, no one to have those “remember when” conversations with, and no one to share your meals or a cocktail with. But loneliness comes and goes. When this feeling hits, I remind myself that I’ve chosen to be where I am, to live a dream that inspires and excites me. How many people can honestly say that?
We have so many tools at our fingertips (eg. Skype, Facetime and Facebook) that staying connected while on the road is super easy. I travel with a laptop and an iPhone and most hostels and hotels have free wifi, so when loneliness hits I hit up the internet and the next thing I know I’m enjoying a glass of wine and a laugh with a friend.
8. Follow Your Heart.
If you have a sudden inspiration to do something, DO IT! Don’t wait! Set the wheels in motion! Don’t allow yourself to come up with all sorts of reasons (excuses?) not to do it. I’ve had many regrets as a result of those internal conversations talking me out of doing something, usually leading to a lot of “what-ifs” and missed opportunities.
The way I look at it now is that if I’m in an amazing place with a chance to do something that I will likely not have again (like zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest, or diving the Blue Hole in Belize, or playing in the river with elephants in Thailand, or hiking a waterfall barefoot in Bali), then I’m going to do it! Who knows if I’ll ever be back in these places for a second chance? If I have the inspiration and opportunity to do something, I do it! It reduces regrets, leaves me with a lot less “what-ifs,” and a lot more wonderful memories and stories.
9. “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can conceive.” ~ Napoleon Hill
My recent trip to Russia proved this to me when I was successful in raising the funds for the trip through a Kickstarter campaign for the Olympic Spirit Project. I raised $7300 in 25 days! It took a lot of work , cold calling and self promotion, but it was all worth it because it got me to Russia for the 2014 Olympics! I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. All it takes is the decision and commitment to do it and then put in the effort to make it happen.
If you have a dream, chase it! You will come up with all sorts of reasons why it won’t work, but you need to focus on the reasons that it WILL work. If you can come up with the idea, and envision yourself making it real, then you can. It’s really that simple. Then you set the wheels in motion and the universe will deliver what you need.
It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it!