“One step at a time and deep breaths,” I told myself. But the minute my flight landed in Portugal I freaked, I was alone in a different continent and knew not one person in that side of the world. The thoughts that went running through my head ranged from “Oh God, I can’t believe I finally did it!” to “When the heck is the next flight to the US, I’m going back home!”
I kept telling myself “No, you’re not helpless” and “ You can figure it out all by yourself, right?” eeeeh!! Shaky feelings. After all, isn’t that what this trip is all about? — Feeling empowered and independent.
Traveling alone for the first time was something that was completely foreign to me and truth be told I was terrified. I desperately wanted to prove to friends and family that I meant business when I said I was perfectly capable of figuring it out by myself. That’s what drove me to take the trip in the first place but in the end, I got so much more than I expected out of it.
I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just needed to go enjoy life, learn from my experiences, and most importantly get to know myself better.
Here is some simple advice from my first time solo:
If starting small seems more comforting, go ahead and start small. I had never travelled alone before so of course I didn’t want to throw myself in the middle of a huge city. Working my way up would be best for me.
I chose a city that through my research seemed pretty easy to get around, laid back with easy public transportation and warm. I wanted warmth. I thought the warm temperatures would help me feel more adventurous but those were just assumptions because it was freaking hot! Anyway, Portugal seemed nice, so I went for it and booked a one way ticket to Lisbon.
Lisbon was my first choice as an easy and relaxing stay. It was vibrant, colorful and most definitely stole my heart but it was also my first stop so of course I was in awe of everything. The people were friendly, the food was delicious and I was able to explore on foot, which was exactly what I wanted. I highly recommend it for solo female travelers. ;)
A funny assumption I made before my trip was thinking that because I spoke Spanish I would be able to understand Portuguese and because of that it would all go so very smoothly. No, I was not able to understand any Portuguese but I was pleasantly surprised at how everyone speaks English in Europe.
The hardest part of traveling for me was how exhausting it became to figure out accommodation and transportation every few days. Use any and all resources available to make this not be a problem for you.
I still remember standing at that weird restaurant in Croatia for three hours waiting for a bus that was supposed to take me to Zagreb. The bus eventually came, but I kept beating myself up for not planning ahead and for not being certain the bus would actually show up.
Doing your research ahead of time will save you lots of money and headaches. Plan ahead so you don’t find yourself in a place where everything within your budget is fully booked. You should book your transportation in advance too. I once tried to take an overnight train from Sicily to Rome without making a reservation only to find myself waving goodbye to my friends because the train was full. There’s nothing sadder than not being able to go where you want to go.
While one of the things I loved most about my trip was being by myself, traveling solo allowed me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends.
I would have never considered myself as an introvert, but I do admit that it took some getting used to and lots of courage to start conversations with people I didn’t know. Talking to strangers just isn’t something that we do everyday, but it is one of the most valuable social skills I learned while traveling solo.
Being without the comforts of a group will open you up to meet others. You will meet individuals from all walks of life, people who are there to experience the same things you want to experience. It is both exciting and refreshing to be around new blood.
The number one fear of solo traveling is well… being solo. Specially if you’ve never experienced the freedom being alone can bring.
It is important to understand that no one is out there to get you. No one cares if you're alone having dinner at a restaurant and no one is looking at you while you’re walking in a museum by yourself. Don’t let being alone stop you from doing the thing that you want to do.
Getting lost in your own mind is the best thing you can do to figure out whom you really are.
Get comfortable with YOU, get to know YOU. Allow yourself to have silly thoughts and laugh out loud at all the crazy experiences you’re having. No one will understand, only you will know the special feeling of owning that experience.