The Unspoken Truths About Solo Travel
If I told you I didn’t cry during my first solo travel experience, I would be flat out lying. The fact is, solo travel can be hard, overwhelming, and leave us wondering “what the hell did I do”. Regardless of how many hard moments I have faced during my solo travels, I would never change nor do I regret any of my experiences. This post is not to turn you away from traveling solo however, I feel it is extremely important to be real and share the unspoken truths about solo travel. Basically, the sh*t no one talks about.
You will cry, laugh, and everything in between.
From missed train stops to discovering that your lodging is not actually as it appeared online, things can and will go wrong while traveling. It’s all about how you react to the situation that can make or break your experience.
When I took my first solo trip, I went to Greece. At the airport, hailing a taxi was the most overwhelming experience I ever had and I was from New York City. With it only being 5 minutes into my trip, I was already saying “What the F did I get myself into.” I felt like a piece of meat in a dinosaur pen. Every cab company was trying to solicit a ride and they were extremely persistent. Thankfully, I bumped into a guy who was a frequent traveler to Greece. At home I would have been hesitant to accept his help, thinking he had an ulterior motive. But, he noticed my stress and well, I was desperate so, I was very grateful when he helped direct me to the appropriate area where I can get a car without being pressured or taken advantage of as a tourist. From there, things started looking up – or so I thought.
When I got to the hotel they had the wrong room reserved for me, I had forgotten to notify my bank that I was traveling and so my card kept getting declined, and I was just ready to throw in the towel with all the little things that were going wrong. I tried to chalk it all up to being an inexperienced traveler but, the defeat was taking its toll on me. Luckily in a few days I would be meeting up with other travelers who were probably going through similar experiences and we could laugh and share stories.
Ultimately, the trip ended up being the experience of a lifetime. I made amazing new friends, saw all the sites I read about in my mythology and history books, and I realized solo travel was the ONLY way I wanted to experience the world from here on out.
Being your own support system is harder than you think.
Now, at the time of my first solo travel experience, I had been living on my own in NYC for 8 years. So, when it came to solo travel in no way did I think I would struggle with depending 100% on my own devices. I was my own shoulder to lean on, in charge of every activity and experience I would have, had to watch my own back, and it was just exhausting. Thankfully, I planned large corporate events for a living so, creating itineraries and overseeing plans was my speciality. I enjoyed being able to do what I want, when I wanted to do it. The hard part was not having anyone to turn to at the end of the day to laugh with, cry with, get excited with about the next days plans and, well, calling home wasn’t even an option due to the time difference. This is when I decided to journal and document all my experiences. I wrote down everything I wanted to share with a travel companion in hopes that one day, I could share these stories and inspire others. Now, 7 years later I am doing just that.
Not everyone has bad intentions.
In the current world we live in, it is hard to really trust that someone has the best of intentions when offering help, starting a conversation, or really anything. And of course, you will come across people that have ulterior motives – that’s just life. However, I have found in my experiences that more often than not, the people I meet along my journeys are good, true and honest people. Ones who just want to help, show you their beautiful cultures, and possibly make a new friend.
I know “stranger-danger” is a thing and you should always trust your instinct and keep a bit of a guard up. However, don’t have that guard up so high that you miss out on amazing experiences and connecting with incredible people. If I did that, I wouldn’t have some of my closest friends.
You don’t have to jam-pack your itinerary to have an amazing experience.
My favorite thing to do when traveling is to grab lunch at a cafe, head to a park, and people watch. Not in a creepy way but, in a way that helps me learn more of how people in different places interact with each other, spend their time, and enjoy life. It doesn’t mean I don’t see the sites, or do touristy things once in a while but, I will always make time to slow down and take in my surroundings.
Often times, especially Americans, we jam-pack our itineraries to the point we don’t fully experience the culture of where we are. We forget to slow down and enjoy our meals and savor the taste, have conversations with locals that last hours, and dance in the street to the music of the city. We live in this world of go-go-go and let everything important pass us by. If solo travel has taught me anything, it is that being more immersive in the culture is what will truly create a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you ask me my favorite experience while traveling solo, it’s not seeing the Acropolis or stepping into the Sistine Chapel. Although both of those things are amazing, my favorite moment is when I went to Crete and visited a family vineyard. I was able to see how they ran their business, chat with them about life in Crete over a delicious meal, can my own kalamata grapes, and learn (or try to) how to Sirtaki.
You will leave your first solo adventure a more empowered, confident, and independent woman.
Time and time again I have mentioned on my podcast and in blog posts, how solo travel enriches your life in a multitude of ways. From helping you smash cultural stereotypes to improving your mental health, the list is endless.
After every trip I take I find something new about myself. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that I truly can do anything if I have the passion and determination to do it. So can you.
I am not the most confident person in my appearance and strength. So, when it came to trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as the trip approached I doubted myself more and more. I would read stories of those who were the definition of physically fit, not complete the full trek. Even though it was due to an uncontrollable reaction to the altitude, I would find myself saying “If they couldn’t do it, no way in hell could I.” But, guess what? I did it. It was hard AF but, my will to complete was much stronger and overshadowed any pain I was feeling. My body was acclimating to the altitude wonderfully so, there was NO excuse. I had to, and I was going to finish. Now, when I am faced with something I find challenging, I take it head on.
I thank my experience solo traveling for that.
For all my experienced solo travelers, do you have any other “sh*t I wish I had known” topics to share? Sound off in the comments.