For as long as I have ever known, I have always wanted to travel the world. I guess in my mind, I didn’t really ever believe I would ever muster the courage to travel it alone, and that it was just something to sit at my desk and dream about when things got a bit quiet – and I still kind of thought that way until around a year ago. I don’t think it really helps that I work as a travel agent – so I already spend 8 hours every day dreaming up itineraries for my clients to exotic (and sometimes not-so exotic) destinations all over the world such as Dubai, Mauritius and The Far East. Inside I was secretly DYING to dream up an itinerary of my own.
I had nearly 3 weeks of time off my job to use in November, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. I remember practically begging every single one of my close friends to come away with me, as I REALLY wanted to go back to Thailand and I point blank refused to spend my 3 weeks off in cold and dreary England. I got the same answers from all of my friends.. “But I can’t afford it”, “I can’t get the time off work”, and so on and so forth.
It was on one of those drunken, bottle of wine at home kind of nights when, filled with dutch courage, I decided I was gonna do it. I stumbled upstairs to grab my laptop, seeing double from all the Chardonnay I had drunk, flipped the screen open and booked a return flight from Manchester to Bangkok flying with Emirates. (To this day I am still extremely surprised that I managed to spell my own name correctly on the ticket.)
I woke up the next day absolutely horrified, looked at the terms on the ticket and realized it was non-refundable, and that’s when it began to sink in. I was in this for the long haul, no pun intended. I was finally going to do this. How was I going to cope? Naturally I am quite a shy person, I always try to hide in the background, and always seem to let other people do everything for me. How the hell am i going to get myself to Asia and back in one piece ALONE!? This was going to really push me, and push me hard.
Slowly, over the next few weeks before my trip, I began to scour the internet for advice on travelling alone, reading travel blogs every day. I remember coming across Never Ending Footsteps, and feeling like a light had been switched on in my brain. If this girl, also from England, who suffers with crippling anxiety, and can’t seem to go from A to B without some form of disaster happening to her can do it, then so can I. (If you ever see this Lauren – Thanks so much for giving me the inspiration and confidence to go it alone!) Anyway, off I went, scared sh*tless – paranoid I was going to get mugged, scammed, robbed, murdered, blah blah blah.
Was my trip awful? No, in fact that first trip alone taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to do it again and again. These solo trips alone were some of the best I’ve ever had, and it was amazing preparation for my round the world trip next year, and here’s why.
Travelling alone forced me to learn to do things for myself
Checking into hotels and hostels by myself, going to get my own drink from the bar, struggling to communicate with a local, asking for directions. This might sound ridiculous but i’m so used to other people doing these things for me that I just didn’t realize I could do these things for myself. I used to be so scared of asking people for help, but travelling alone helped me to get over it. It definitely helped me overcome being shy, and improved my confidence in my own abilities ten times over.
I am in control of my own trip
No compromising, I was in control of everything. It felt so good to just do whatever I wanted without having to consider anybody else. Travelling alone taught me to live my own dreams and nobody else’s. Last time I was in Thailand with my best friend, she didn’t wanna take a day trip to KL… The second time I did it (Alone), off I went to Kuala Lumpur, which was one of the places that has been on my bucket list since forever. You can read about my experience in Kuala Lumpur here.
Making new friends
When you travel as a 2 or part of a group, you tend to stick within your own little bubble and don’t make any effort to make friends with new people. Travelling alone is completely different, your happiness and enjoyment of your trip DEPENDS on you making the effort to go and talk to someone. I’ve met the most awesome people on my trips from having the courage to get my backside up and make the effort to talk. It still scares me to get up and talk to a complete stranger, but throwing yourself in the deep end and doing exactly what it is your scared of is the only way to get over your fear.. And if that fails, just get drunk – because socializing with strangers is a lot easier when you’re drunk right!?
You don’t have to feel guilty
Absolutely knackered from that long haul flight? Sleep in. Can’t be bothered traipsing around temples? That’s fine – Read a book on the beach. If you’re travelling alone you have nobody to impress but yourself. I loved just doing what made me happy with no pressure from anyone. I come across as quite an outgoing person when actually, sometimes I’m perfectly happy just having some me time. If that makes me miserable then so be it.
You will grow as a person
I remember when I arrived back from my 3 weeks in Thailand, and I came back a completely different person. I became so confident talking to new people and wasn’t so conscious about what other people thought of me. There are opportunities to make new friends EVERYWHERE, even at home. Talking to a stranger at the train station for an hour when the train doesn’t turn up? Absolutely no problem for me anymore. I even made friends with an old lady from Canada a few weeks ago – who gave me her address and offered me a place to stay if I was ever visiting Nova Scotia. In fact, she is the very first person I told I was considering starting a travel blog, and she is the one person that inspired me to finally follow my dreams. Marg from Nova Scotia, if your reading this, it was lovely to meet you on your holiday in England! Hopefully one day i’ll make it over to visit!
You’ll have a better shot at learning the language
I don’t know if this is just me, but I am always too embarrassed and self conscious of making a mistake, to try speaking in the local language if I have company. I guess it’s just a self confidence issue. But travelling on my own, I feel a lot less anxious about this, and I’m perfectly happy saying Swat-dee kap khun noy to the hotel receptionist. (In Thailand, if you use the persons name from their badge when saying hello – you will more than likely get a room upgrade for trying to talk in Thai – even if you say it wrong! – I have had room upgrades twice in Thailand for using this trick).
In short, travelling alone has improved my self confidence massively. I am definitely nowhere near as shy as I used to be, and I learned that it OK to be selfish sometimes and to prioritize my happiness over others once in a while. I have made many friends from travelling alone that I still talk to now, and because of that, I’ve always got a place to crash if i go to visit, and I am no longer scared of doing things for myself.
393 days to go until my year long break from England! Counting down the days!
Do you prefer to travel alone or as part of a group? Let me know why in the comments below.