There was one thing I was terrified about when embarking on my first solo travelling adventure back in 2011. Was it that I was flying into Egypt shortly after the Revolution? No. Was it that I might get mugged and lose all my stuff? No. Was it that I would run of money? No. Well… maybe I had slight fear for those things, but the overwhelming thing was… I was scared of being lonely because I was convinced no one would like me.
In my then-group of many acquaintances and a few very good friends, some were connected to my childhood, and a lot of the rest were also my brother’s friends. What if no one actually really liked me, they just liked my brother, or were just stuck with me having played as kids?
What if I had to spend four months travelling completely on my own?
I set my trip up to pull people to me. I started with tours back to back and moved on to Busabout in Europe, which was a great option to get mashed together with people without being on a ‘tour’ as such, so still being afforded some freedom.
And guess what I quickly discovered?
The backpacking trails were overflowing with people just like me. There were solo travellers looking for friends and small groups happy to include another addition. And despite me being in my 30s already, there were plenty of older backpackers, and the young ones just did not give a toss how old I actually was. We were all the same – we were all travellers.
I spent the first weeks participating in every single activity I could find to be near people. To force them to be near me. I discovered the perfect number for a dorm room (4 was sometimes too few people to find a match, 8 was more likely, but more than 8 increased the chances of sleep disruptions). I joined a beer tour in Munich, even though I hate beer. It was an epic night. I just wanted friends. And I found them.
Come mid-way through my trip I was completely exhausted. I was sick of people. I desperately wanted some alone time. But people kept showing up. And they seemed to like me. Unthinkable!
When I got to Cinque Terre I stayed for a few nights in the peaceful coastal village of Corniglia – one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was the first time I was actually alone. There was a scattering of people around, but for the main part I ate alone, I walked alone and I spent some good quality time with myself.
Then I threw myself back into the churning backpacking cog and I lapped up every fellow traveller and every experience that I could… safe in the knowledge that I was going to be more often with people than not.
When I set off for my second solo travels, I planned things a lot differently. I trained and bussed around on my own, with no fear that I would get lonely. Sure, I spent much more time alone on that trip, but it was usually time that I chose, not forced on me.
In the end, my greatest fear was unfounded. I probably should have spent more time worrying about the Revolution and having stuff stolen, but in the end, being prepared is all you can do. I was lucky – I managed to be mostly in the right places at the right time. Sure, it wasn’t all perfect, but it gave me the confidence to keep travelling, solo or not, and I can’t get enough.
I had such a similar experience but I thought I was socially awkward. From solo travelling, turns out I’m not actually that bad socially. The last trip I did was solo but in a group tour which I had never done before and was also alittle worried about. Turned out fine too. I hope you didn’t get mugged on that trip!
The things that you learn from travelling solo… usually a pleasant surprise. I always thought of myself as shy, and while I’m still more of a quiet, introverted person, I think I can safely say I’ve grown out of shy! No mugging for me – I did have money stolen from a hotel room but I didn’t realise until after the fact. And it didn’t dampen my spirits too much!
I think getting to meet new people too means that you don’t have all these assumptions in your head about how you are perceived by people you already know.
You’re so right about that! It’s amazing how with new people, many of whom you know you’ll never see again, you can feel empowered to do things differently than you might otherwise!
Therapeutically, you can travel within yourself with the Ganzfeld Effect Toolkit. You can learn more about your fears.
I will have to google this – certainly sounds interesting!