“I don’t get to travel. I have no one to travel with!”
If I had a penny for every time someone said those words to me, I’d be rich by now. Not just a few friends but a lot of my blog readers say that they want to travel more, but they don’t have people to travel with.
Guess what – even I didn’t a few years back. Back then, two of my closest friends were studying abroad and I had no idea who to go with. Thankfully, I didn’t wait for them and booked my ticket when I was between jobs. I had absolutely no idea what to expect but it was an experience that I will remember for life.
Sounds fun? Well, there’s more. So what really happens when you travel solo for the first time? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly so that you can mentally prepare yourself beforehand. If you’re getting ready for your first solo trip and wondering what it’s like, you’re going to LOVE this post. On the other hand, if you have already traveled solo and are on this page, you will totally relate to the points in this list.
What Happens When You Travel Solo for the first time
01 | You will get scared and think you have lost your mind
The first time I traveled solo, I was unnecessarily jittery at the airport. I felt that everyone was watching me because I was alone. I even imagined that some people were pointing at me. Their faces looked familiar – did they know my dad? OMG, were they going to call my family? The fact that I had lied to my parents about traveling solo didn’t help.
I’m not trying to scare you away from traveling solo, but I want to prepare you for scary moments. There will be a moment (or many) when you will wonder what the hell is wrong with you. This will most likely happen before you actually leave but may happen again at the airport or any other place where you have to sit and wait. At this point I suggest you to keep a bunch of travel quotes on your desk for your daily dose of inspiration.
Some of your friends or family members may say that you’re crazy to be doing this. There will be times when their statements will borderline amazement and shock, as a result you may also wonder if you have made the right decision. Some other people may discourage you and tell you you’ve been reading too many travel blogs. Stay away from them.
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02 | You will have to take your bags to the toilet, so pack light
The advantage of traveling with someone is that you have someone to look after your bags when you go to the toilet. So what do you do when you travel solo? Of course, you take your bag WITH you to the toilet.
It sounds easier than it’s done because not every toilet is big enough. It is very easy to do this when you’re at an airport but not so when you’re at a bus station. Make things easy for yourself and pack the lightest bag possible. Your back will thank you and so will your bladder. Invest in a compact backpack that you can easily carry. For information about the best travel backpacks, check out this post by the Broke Backpacker.
03 | You will learn to get creative to get pictures of yourself
Let’s be honest – we all want at least ONE good picture from our travels, no? After all, it is your trip and you should be a part of at least one shot. It’s not always possible to ask someone else to click you. After taking 100 bad photos, you will eventually learn how to get creative.
I absolutely hated selfies when I first traveled solo for the first time and I refused to click a single one back. A few days of traveling and I realized that I had absolutely no pictures of myself. Too shy to ask someone, I tried looking for the perfect spots to balance my camera so that I could fit in the frame along with the view. I finally learned the art of clicking epic pictures of myself when I was alone in Turkey. BTW: check out this post about easy ways to take awesome photos when you travel solo.
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04 | You will feel very lonely at times
Yes, solo travel is about enjoying solitude but there will be times when it will make you feel lonely.
It will happen when you see a spectacular sight and you’d wish you had someone to share that moment with. It will happen again when you get lost and wished you had someone with you.
Loneliness is unavoidable when you travel solo and as long as you don’t embrace it, you will not be happy with your own company.
One of my favorite travel movies of all time is Into the Wild, especially the final scene where Christopher writes – “happiness is only real when shared”.
I did not fully realize the meaning of this until I traveled solo and something exciting happened and I had no one to share my happiness with. Of course, I could later call my sister and tell her, but that was the mo9ment I embraced loneliness.
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05 | You will make new friends.. even if you’re an introvert
If you’re an extrovert then you will probably make friends even before your plane takes off. By the time you arrive at your destination, you’d have already made a little group in the airplane and will share your taxi with them. Before you know, you will end up staying at the same hostel and spend literally every evening together. Doesn’t sound like you? Well, that’s not me either.
Extroverts have an easier time making friends when they’re solo. Over the years I have realized that I’m not exactly an extrovert – perhaps because I’m very selective about my company. If you’re anything like me, you will continue your journey alone because you love your own company. However, you will end up making friends at the most unexpected places. You will suddenly realize that you have a LOT to talk about with your new friend. Your friendship will probably be short-lived but it will bring you a lot of happiness on the road. I’m remembering my friend Eva as I type this, who I met while I was in Turkey.
06 | You will end up having more fun than you had ever imagined
Believe it or not, your first solo trip will be a lot more fun than your other trips. You will end up doing things that you never imagined you could. You will learn to survive on your own and will have a lot of fun doing so.
My first solo trip was the most fun that I ever had in Goa. I did exactly what I wanted to do without having to compromise anything with a travel buddy or a boyfriend. I made a lot of friends and experienced the craziest parties. Yes, those were the days when I was a “party girl”. I woke up when I wanted and slept early on days when I was lazy. There was no need to see the needs of another person and I loved that experience.
Keep an open mind, smile and be happy that you’re traveling. Oh and by the way, check this guide if you’re planning on backpacking India alone.
07 | You will realize you have a “gut feel” and you will learn to use it
Call it your instinct, sixth sense or gut feel, but at times something inside will tell you something just isn’t right. Your instinct will tell you to get the hell out of the place that you’re in, and you should listen to it.
After traveling alone for a while, the reason why you will develop this instinct is because you are all by yourself. You will end up being more aware of your surroundings than how you would have been if you were with a friend.
Yes, solo travel is fun but you should be aware that not all areas in this world are safe. Even if they are, you never know what goes inside someone’s mind. I’m all in for backing your decisions with evidence or data – but at times if your instinct is telling you something, you should listen to it.
08 | Be warned, you will get addicted
Have you ever met someone who traveled solo once and never again? Neither have I.
Solo travel is addictive AF and it is so for all the reasons that I have mentioned above. It will bring you a lot of happiness and will leave you wanting for more.
We all have our reasons to be addicted to things but here is what happened to me. I came back home, ended my relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. I decided to spend more time and energy into learning things (like playing guitar) that I had always wanted. Even though I realized that playing guitar wasn’t really for me, at least I tried for three months and I don’t have any regrets.
There are a lot of things in this world that you can get addicted to. Solo travel is one of the better ones.
09 | You will never be the same again
Yes, I know it sounds cliché but solo travel will open your mind and make you see things a little differently.
It happens because most of us live our lives in an autopilot mode and get into a routine. Many of us don’t shut up and spend enough time alone with our thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with communicating but at times it is important to be silent. Traveling solo will push you to spend time alone with yourself. You will end up thinking about your family, your career, your decisions and life in general. When you return, you will never be the same again.
So have you ever traveled solo? Let me know in the comments section where and why not. I’d love to know more.
I love the point about you having more fun than you imagined. It’s totally true. I’ve done quite a few road trips on my own and I’ve learned so much about myself while I was traveling through various places. This was a great reflective post and I hope to get another chance to travel by myself someday. It’s something that we all need sometimes. Thanks for sharing this.
Hi Carl, yeah solo travel is awesome because it teaches you so much about yourself and the world while being fun at the same time. My last solo trip was exactly a year back and I’d love to travel solo again very soon.
So true about being creative in taking own pictures. this happens even when i am NOT traveling solo as none of my friends or hubby are least interested in taking my pics .. or any pics at all.
Same with me! Not that I want 100s of photos of myself but it is good to have one. 🙂
You will end up thinking about your family, your career, your decisions and life in general
This is exactly what I was doing a while ago.
Typing this as am already in solo travel
Been regularly hiking the Camino de Santiago trails. Loved every minute, being alone and being with company. Being lost and being back on the trail. Eating alone and eating with pilgrims. So much to experience and different every time.
Larry, hiking alone is sounds a lot of fun. 🙂
being alone traveler was very difficult for the first time but after making some new friends was a wonderful and a new experience
Hi Ankush, yes solo traveling is a tad difficult initially but that’s what makes it so exciting. Making new friends always helps and makes things fun. 🙂
Great blog post and sooo true. I traveled for nearly a year to 26 countries and walked the Camino in Spain for 31 days. The only weird part is, that I did this at 57, happily married for 37 years, 3 grown children and a chihuahua left behind that I adored. All, eventually, hugely supportive of this crazy idea that I had 7 years earlier and turned into a reality… Everything you said is so true. I have been home for 2 1/2 years. Happy to be back but longing for the travel…torn between two worlds….a family I love and the adventurous life that sets my soul free. What’s a girl to do? I’m lucky to be married to a man that allows me the freedom to be happy…I’m currently learning balance. My life and work and responsibilities here. Planning for our future retirement and yet also occasionally taking the adventurous leap…I’m planning my next trip next fall…3 years later.
agree…also sometimes we had some bad memories of solo traveling at first time..
I’m at Hong Kong airport on the way to Beijing as I’m reading this I’m nodding, smiling and also a little tear as I remember getting lost last night ha ha but I already feel stronger ! Thanks for the post
Thank you Jules. We really hope you enjoy your time. Getting lost can be a lot of fun, specially when you laugh at it later. 🙂
I used to travel solo a lot when I was younger…
Those were the days. I love the impulsiveness of traveling alone.
But the, as age had overcome me, I think its better to travel in groups, where you have someone to look after you and your things 🙂