I love the world, and I never feel so alive as when I am exploring a new place. My fierce determination to see Croatia and Greece – two countries I had long dreamed about visiting – saw me embarking on a two-week adventure, alone, this past July.
My wanderlust officially became stronger than my fear of traveling alone.
Okay, so it wasn’t actually my first time going it alone. I visited Edinburgh, Scotland, at Easter by myself. Those three days were a good experience, but two weeks? I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew that I wanted to go.
Leading up to my departure, I felt the need to defend my honour. “I do have friends!” my pride would want to yell at people who were openly surprised at my choice to travel solo. Which I do, but none of them had the same budget or schedule as me. I wasn’t going to let that stop me, I couldn’t.
While planning my multi-stop holiday, I had to stop my mind from wondering too much.
Because truth is, I was afraid. I naturally questioned if I would be lonely or unsafe. And of course, would I have fun? Despite my nervousness, I decided to make the most of the trip I had spent months preparing for.
The trip is now done and dusted, sadly, and here’s the advice I would give on traveling solo after that trip.
1. Be friendly and bold
When I was in Edinburgh in April, I remember walking into the hostel common room and reeking of awkwardness, when all I really wanted was to socialise. I should have just said “hi” to the group of people playing cards nearby that I incidentally really wanted to join. Instead, I read my book for an hour, waiting for someone to talk to me. When no one did, I slugged off back to my dorm, discouraged by how hard it was to mingle. The next night I let go of my inhibitions, introduced myself to a couple of girls in a bar and the rest is history! I learned something important that night, and I can honestly say that I couldn’t have been lonely in Croatia and Greece if I had tried. I met so many people and loved making new friends from all over the world.
2. Watch, write and lose yourself in the culture
In other words, be fully present! Embrace where you are. Talk to locals, eat the ethnic food and take notes to go with your pictures. Capture memories, if you will. Sit at a sidewalk cafe and write about what you are seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Relish in the freedom of working to your own agenda. For example, when I go somewhere new I have a priority “hit list” that is easily achievable in the length of my visit. Outside of that list, I embrace spontaneity and see where my feet take me. Essentially, I try to be a traveller instead of a tourist.
3. Plan properly
I have dreamed of seeing the Plitvice Lakes for about three years. My trip to Croatia was basically planned around an excursion to this stunning national park to see one of God’s greatest creations. I decided to “wing” this part of the trip because planning it from home was too complicated. I told myself it would be fine, and allocated a day of the trip to see the lakes without too much thought. Wrong move. I ended up having to give the lakes a miss, which I was distraught about. All because I hadn’t planned properly. If you are going to leave a section of your trip unplanned to allow flexibility and spontaneity (which is so fun!), then give yourself time. More time is always better than less. I would have seen the lakes, had I given myself more time.
As with all things in life, traveling is what you make it.
I wouldn’t outright tell every person I meet to go on a big trip alone, simply because everyone is different. Some people genuinely don’t enjoy it because they want to share the experience with another person, which I completely understand.
However, I would highly recommend it to most people! Especially if the only thing holding you back is not having a companion. With a two-week trip under my belt, I can safely say it’s an incredible experience that has changed me forever.
It turns out that I needn’t have feared a thing.
I wasn’t lonely, I was perfectly safe and I had the time of my life! I love traveling alone and would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m already planning my next trip…
So, what are you waiting for?
Micaela Hollins is a loud-mouth Kiwi chick who currently lives in London. She blogs at theundergroundmicaela.com
*Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan