I’m fresh off the plane from Southern Europe and I’m currently doing everything to avoid looking at my bank account. You know ”The Fear” you get after a night out when you know with every fibre of your being something went down, but you don’t know what? I have the same feeling towards my bank balance. I’m convinced I’m going to get a Whatsapp from my bank saying ”Lol, let’s talk about what you did last week…”.
On a happier note, Barcelona and Lisbon were vibes. I was in Barca with friends and I travelled to Lisbon by myself. It’s not my first time travelling by myself, but it was the first time I felt comfortable with it. The first time I travelled by myself, my legs were like jelly as I walked towards the plane and as it started to take off I had to stop myself from shouting ”I’VE CHANGED MY MIND! I WANT TO GET OFF!”. Luckily, I didn’t force an emergency landing and get myself arrested and I had an awesome trip, but I was definitely pushed outside of my comfort zone.
Travelling alone, particularly for a woman, flies in the face of everything society has taught us. We are essentially sociable creatures who crave to belong to a community of some sort, so to arrive in a new country with no support network and where you likely don’t speak the language is pretty unnerving. From a woman’s perspective, we are brought up to believe we are vulnerable and are taught we must always be wary of ”strange men” and reduce the risk of being raped by not wearing provocative clothing or getting too drunk or walking alone at night (There’s more advice given to women on how not to be raped than to men on how to not be a rapist). Females travelling alone is becoming more common, but it’s still considered relatively unusual. Personally, I think everyone, but women, in particular, should travel alone at least once in their life. It’s empowering. You learn so much more about yourself and are much more open to people and new experiences (Figuratively speaking) Things I’ve learned personally are:
1) You become your own best friend
When you are an introvert like me, the opportunity to spend time by alone is welcomed. However, travelling solo for an extended period of time is a whole different ballgame. It’s completely different to spending a few hours alone reading, watching reruns of Sex and the City in your pyjamas or going for a long walk. Travelling alone is much more than being able to tolerate your own company, you must have or be able to quickly develop an unwavering faith in yourself. You have to become your own biggest cheerleader and mentally shake your pom poms and do a high kick everytime you get lost or are close to throwing the ticket machine across the hall. You need to be completely at ease with yourself and believe strangers do want to talk to you, spend the day with you and go bar hopping with you. You need to channel the same confidence Rupaul has when he’s strutting down the runway to ”Cover Girl” in all his drag fabulousness, which can feel completely unnatural. However, yourself is the only companion who will be with you every day from the beginning to the end of your life, so you have to be your own best friend.
2) It’s much easier to blend in
It’s much easier to blend in when you are travelling alone. Of course, it’s dependent on the country, I’m never going to blend into the crowd in China, Korea or Japan, but across Europe etc it’s relatively easy for me. For example, I can spot a group of British girls a mile off because A) They are usually wearing little clothing in order to catch a tan B) British girls have a distinct way of doing their make-up and C) They are usually drinking. When I’m by myself it’s much easier for me to go incognito and avoid tuk-tuk drivers and men selling souvenirs (Either they think I’m not a tourist or I look poor, but the first one is much more flattering) Depending on which country I’m in, around 60% of the time I’ll be spoken to first in the local language (everywhere from border control, restaurants, to public transport) which makes me so proud until I see their face when I butcher the phrase ”Do you speak English?”
3) You can have contacts from all over the world
The best thing about solo travel is that you are much more open to meeting new people, which means you have friends from all over the world. It’s a nice feeling to know you can arrive in a different country, send a Facebook message and know you have someone to have dinner with/show you around. Of course, you may never see each again, but you will always remember those nights in the bar at 02:00 am where you discussed everything from politics to religion despite only knowing each other 24 hours.
4) Avoid pub crawls
I’ve been on a few pub crawls, and the only decent one was in Rome. All the others have been average to terrible for a variety of reasons. I started to reassess my stance on pub crawls when someone offered to squirt water into my mouth with a dildo. Of course, it’s completely dependent on the person, but I found pub crawls were too much like a meat market with people looking for an international shag (Nothing necessarily wrong with that). The best nights I’ve had abroad were with a small to medium sized group of people from all over the world and learning about each other’s countries. The last bar crawl I went on I was taken to a club, which gave you a card which you gave to the barman every time you wanted a drink and he’d mark it up, then at the end of the night, you’d take it to the till and you’d pay for the drinks. If you lost this card then you had to pay 150 euros (!!!). It was the most bizarre system I’d ever encountered and reinforced my belief that bar crawls don’t take you to the best clubs or offer the best experiences.
5) It makes you better at life
Samantha Jones once famously said ”Who we are in bed is who we are in life, I never met a man who was bad in bed and good at life”. Whilst this bold statement is certainly debatable, I think being a solo traveller certainly makes you better at life. We live in a world where many people think having thousands of Instagram followers, a 100 likes on a new profile picture, having a drawer full of Mac make-up or an uncracked iPhone screen is a sign someone is good at life (although the last one is pretty impressive) However, the problem with using social media or material goods to measure how good we are at life is the fact they provide a temporary high, which we eventually come down from. Travelling provides you with patience, resourcefulness, open-mindedness which eventually contributes to organic, long-term confidence. The most successful people have the most confidence, Steve Jobs didn’t create the Apple empire without believing he was the complete and utter shit. Ultimately, that solo trip to Thailand may give you so much confidence that you decide to write that book you have always thought about but never started or learn the language of a country which has always fascinated you which enables you to eventually go live there or launch a campaign which helps bring about a change you’ve always wanted to bring about. Confidence is the gateway to a great idea coming to fruition.