Travelling alone? It sounds scary and sometimes it is. But most of all, it’s an opportunity for growth.
“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” – Cheryl Strayed, Wild
When I decided to leave for my first big adventure, right to the other side of the world, I didn’t even think about travelling with someone else. I somehow knew I wanted this to be my journey and I needed space and independence. Working in an office for three years, I was bored by routine and my self-worth was low. I had always dreamt of New Zealand, but it never seemed to be a possibility or that’s what I told myself because every move out of the familiar, no matter how miserable that might be, is scary.
It also depends which country you are going to. New Zealand was a pretty safe choice for me, even though it is so far away from home. It is a relatively safe country and I knew I could communicate in English. So why did (and most of the times still do) I enjoy travelling on my own so much?
- You get a new chance:
Nobody knew me in New Zealand. They didn’t already have an opinion about me. So when I arrived, curious and so enthusiastic about my adventure, people told me I was such a positive person (and in Germany, people told me I was pretty negative which made it worse every time I heard it).
- You are independent:
You can go wherever you would like, change your travel plans when you feel like it or stay for longer if you want to. I love walking discovering a new town or going on a walk, but sometimes I just want to sit in a cafe and enjoy the view. I can listen to my heart and follow my own rhythm.
- You meet locals and fellow travellers:
Often if you just travel with a person from your own country, you might not be as open to talking to locals or talking in their language. I am a rather shy person, but especially at the beginning I had to ask people for advice or help. You will be impressed by how many people are kind. You can get to know another culture and stay open-minded. Especially in New Zealand, locals approached me, asked if I needed help and were interested in my story. Also, I didn’t travel by myself the whole year – first, I met an Australian guy and we ended up travelling together for a bit (and met again later in a different country). A few months later I met my favorite French travelmate and we bought a car (Charlie!) together with which we travelled through most areas of the South Island.
- You get to know yourself and might even come back stronger (or, not come back and just keep on travelling 😉 ):
This is a big point for me. Even though I was more mature when I started travelling (I was 25), I had some serious trust issues (meaning I did not trust life to support me). In the last year before I went on my trip, I sorted out my life a bit better (I was living by myself, had gotten over a breakup and was not looking for someone new at all, got creative again, had saved up some money), but I struggled a lot in school and in my apprenticeship. When I was in New Zealand, I noticed that once things ‘flowed’ and I trusted that it will stay like that, things always worked out. Yes, I was sometimes lonely and scared and even desperate, but life always supported me with a solution. Since then, my view has changed. I think more positively and I know that even bad moments will pass or that exactly those will be an opportunity to grow. I got to see myself from another side and try to let ‘garbage thoughts’ about myself pass by. Make yourself a cuppa, go for a walk or look out the window and enjoy the journey 🙂
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”
– Virginia Woolf
What if you feel lonely after all?
There will always be moments where you will feel lonely in life. There are different options to deal with this feeling.
- Meditate and sit with your loneliness.
Meditation always sounds like a big word. But it could just be you sitting on the beach and listening to the waves. I’ve learned that if I ignore a strong feeling, it usually gets worse. So try not to stress, and know that this feeling will pass again. Accept that you feel this way right now and keep breathing. Often I think about what I am grateful for and it makes me feel better immediately. Or grab a pen and write down everything that’s in your head. I bought a mindfulness book with audio that helps me a lot. I struggled with loneliness and a skin disease in Canada – walks to the beach as well as a fun job at a tea shop helped me. I also went to free yoga classes, listened to Louise Hay a lot (and yes, I also cried a lot – but this time helped me be gentle and take care of my body better) and shared talks with an English woman who lived in my hostel (oh, and we went to Christmas carols :D).
- Go to local events or start a course.
There are often free events in cities. Maybe a guided tour, maybe a cultural festival. When I lived in Perth for six months, I signed up for a yoga and a ballet course. I loved it – yoga balanced me and ballet was so much fun, especially once I got to know everyone in the group.
- Find facebook groups and read inspiring blogs.
There are lots of facebook groups on all sorts of topics. You can find people to share your thoughts with online or someone to meet up with (if you are an Au Pair for example, find out if there is a meeting group in your town). It really helps me to read inspiring blogs or watch youtube videos with a positive message. Then you can start off again and plan your travels.
- Find a travelmate.
If you find that travelling by yourself is not for you or you need a break from it for a while, find a travelmate. You can meet people in hostels or online. Just make sure that you want the same out of the trip and you’ve got similar interests.
- Follow your passions.
I love writing and taking photos (even though I am nowhere near professional with my photos) as well as nature. So I would wake up, have a healthy breakfast (if I could afford it), then go for a walk (or find out the attractions in the area – museum, botanical gardens,…) and take photos. Later I would send an email with my photos to my family and write my diary.
If you love reading, here are travel and inspirational books that have really helped me when I was lonely:
* Cheryl Strayed – Wild
* Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic & Eat Pray Love
* Susan Duncan – Salvation Creek
* (German) Anna Benitz & Wibke Foerger – Neuseelandsuechtig! Als Frau allein unterwegs mit dem Working-Holiday-Visum
* Hape Kerkeling – Ich bin dann mal weg / I’m off then (both available in English and German)
* Heather Ellis – Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa
* Cheryl Strayed – Tiny Beautiful Things
* Bronnie Ware – The Top Five Regrets of The Dying
* Alison Wright – Learning to Breathe
…and there are so many more.