Apart from my very first trip outside Canada (a week-long cruise I took with my mom), all of my trips have been solo ventures. Although today the idea of taking off to a foreign land on my own hardly fazes me, I wasn’t always so nonchalant about travelling by myself. I remember being super nervous before setting out on my very first solo trip in 2013, and my friends and co-workers didn’t help much. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time I told somebody that I was going to Paris by myself for nine days and they responded, “OMG have you seen the movie Taken??” with a look of terror on their face, let me tell you, I would have a lot of nickels. (For the record, I have not seen Taken and refuse to ever watch it.)
But as you can guess by the fact that I am sitting here writing this, I managed to navigate Paris by myself for those nine days without getting kidnapped. Not only that, but I also had a great time and gained a new sense of pride and confidence in myself for accomplishing something that had seemed so daunting only a short while before. Solo travel gives you that “I can do anything!” feeling. Once you realize how easy travelling by yourself really is, you will never again feel like you need a travelling companion when you set out on an adventure.
In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to travelling alone that I feel as if I wouldn’t even know HOW to travel with someone else. I love being accountable for no one but myself. I love not needing to consult anyone else before I make a decision. Solo travel gives you a sense of ultimate freedom like nothing else can, and that feeling is addictive.
Of course, solo travel isn’t all blue skies and sunshine. It definitely comes with its own set of challenges and frustrations. For me, the biggest downside of solo travel is the loneliness that can come with it. I’m an introvert by nature, so I don’t need a ton of social interaction to be happy, but I am still human, and being all alone in a foreign country will take its toll on anybody. Luckily, that feeling of crushing loneliness can easily be avoided when solo travel is done the right way. It took me a while to figure this out, but you can’t just stay in a private room where there is no opportunity for social interaction if you want to have a good time on a solo trip. Even if you are a lifelong introvert like me, you will get lonely if you go for days on end with no one to talk to. For the first couple of years after I began travelling solo, I would always rent a private room in somebody’s apartment through www.airbnb.com. Now, this practice is all well and good if you want nothing more than a place to rest your head after your days spent out and about exploring a city. However, this is not the way to go if you want to meet people and make friends while you’re travelling (which of course you do). That’s why I finally decided to renounce this practice in late 2015, after admitting to myself that in spite of all the amazing sights I was seeing and the cool things I was doing on all of my trips, I simply wasn’t having as good a time as I could have been.
I stayed in a hostel dorm room for the very first time in the spring of 2016. I had always been reluctant to try hostels because I couldn’t reconcile my introverted nature with the idea of sharing a room with 5 (or 6 or 9 or 10) other people I had never met. That pretty much sounded like a nightmare to me. But after hearing the praises of hostels sung on pretty much every travel blog I came across, and after realizing that social interaction was the one ingredient my trips desperately lacked, I bit the bullet and booked a bed at three different hostels in the U.S. (Austin, Los Angeles, and Flagstaff, Arizona).
What surprised me the most was how easy and natural it felt to share a room with so many strangers. At every one of the hostels I stayed, I met cool people to talk to and hang out with. See, the great thing about hostels is that everyone else is there for the same reason you are – to meet new people and socialize – so it’s easy to find someone to talk to. Of course, you still have to make an effort to put yourself out there; you can’t hide under the covers of your bed and expect people to invite you to hang out with them. That’s why it’s a good idea to go with hostels that organize a lot of group activities, like pub crawls, pizza parties, and the like, so that you won’t have to worry about finding people to hang out with on your own. Whenever I’m researching hostels on sites like www.hostelbookers.com or www.hostelworld.com, I always try to find out what kinds of activities they organize for guests. Read the reviews to see what other travellers have to say about the hostel’s atmosphere and how easy it is to meet people there. Hostels are not all created equal, and the last thing you want as a solo traveller is a hostel that feels more like a hotel.
If solo travel is something you’ve been considering but have always been too afraid to try, take it from me: You can do it. You definitely can. Not only that, but you will have oodles of fun, gain so much self-confidence, and learn a lot about yourself in the process. (Plus your Instagram pics will incite tons of jealousy.) Just make sure you choose your hostels wisely and be open to meeting new people and having new experiences. If you do this, you can’t go wrong. So what are you waiting for? STOP READING AND GET TRAVELLING!