A few weeks back I wrote about the pros of solo travel. But as I’ve mentioned before there are some drawbacks. Although going it alone is my preferred form of travel, there are always moments that make the experience not so perfect. For me, it’s a learning experience not only to soak in every detail of the places I’m in but also a form of learning and growing as a person.
I figured it wouldn’t be fair to sit here and talk about only the glitzy, beautiful side of taking off into the world with nothing but a backpack and the balls the travel by yourself. I can’t help it, I’m a romantic. Especially someone like me who tends to have a lot of anxiety, it forced me to deal with so many situations without the safety net of someone else.
I tackled my first solo travel experience head on and needless to say I was terrified. Oftentimes I still will get crippling anxiety thinking about certain travel situations. Here are a few aspects of travel that aren’t so bright and shiny for me, especially traveling alone:
Taking photos: I’m still working on the logistics of how to take photos with no one to hold your camera, and not the “closeup-of-my-arm-hair-selfies”. I tend to get paranoid about someone running off with my camera. I learned to realize that at some point I’ll need to trust a stranger and to use your best judgement when approaching new people.
Haggling: I always want to support the local community wherever I go and always try to shop local. One of my absolute favorite pastimes is to wander around local markets and buy unique items that always have a story. That being said, I can’t barter to save my damn life, I get anxious and eventually just want to pay whatever the price is and leave. When I have friends with me, they will often be more likely to speak up and I slowly creep into the background.
Restaurants and Bars: Now I mentioned before about how nice it is to hardly ever wait for a table or a seat at the bar when you’re a party of one. However, sometimes it’s nice to eat with someone else. Not that I ever mind delving into a good book for a while.
Side note: Going out at night with a new group of people can be a great way to break down some of the social barriers and get to know new people. However, having a trusted buddy to watch your back (and your drink) or split the cost of a taxi home can be a huge perk.
Homesickness: A few months into my time in Australia, my parents and my best friend both came to visit me (although not at the same time) and it was much needed in so many ways. I asked my mom to bring me peanut butter and my best friend to dish on all the gossip from back home. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and I think my trip would have changed drastically if they hadn’t come. It was a sort of reprieve from having the same “Where are you from?”, “Oh, like Washington DC?”, “No? Oh Seattle like ‘Sleepless in Seattle” conversation over and over with new people each day.
I learn so much about myself and make huge strides with my ability to handle situations whether away from home or not. A big part of how I view a new job or a new place to live is due to my ability to fend for myself abroad. I read pages and pages of travel blogs detailing how to bargain or how to travel solo and I may not be able to waltz in and negotiate the price for a new scarf, but I’m working on it.