I always ummed and aahed when it came to deciding whether I wanted to travel alone. To be honest it really terrified me. Despite the fact I had done many trips with other people, and felt I had built up enough common sense to travel alone, it intimidated me, and still sort of does.
I decided to take my first solo trip to Amsterdam back in 2013. I really wanted to go on a trip but all my friends either weren’t very interested in traveling, didn’t have the money, or couldn’t get the time off work or school. I then thought to myself, was I really going to hold myself back from traveling just because I can’t find anyone to go with me? I could go my entire life not traveling outside of Canada because it may never be the right time for other people to come with me. So I impulsed bought a ticket to Amsterdam and away I went completely solo, despite the comments and weird looks I got from other people when I told them I was going to Amsterdam alone.
When the plane landed in the Netherlands, my anxiety skyrocketed. I was entirely out of my comfort zone, and even though Amsterdam is one of the easiest cities to travel to, and one of the safest (yes I did my research before) I was still shaking in my boots. The good news? I’m still standing here today, 2 years later, so obviously I survived!
Traveling solo I learned a lot about myself. I mean, you really spend a lot of your time by yourself, and in your own thoughts. Doing this trip I had a very strange mission. I wasn’t going to purposely stay in dorm rooms where I could meet a million people to tag along with, I wanted to do it on my own completely.
I had a private room in a hostel, and spent the two weeks exploring the country on my own and on my own agenda. That was the best part really. I didn’t need to compromise with anyone. If I wanted to sleep-in, I slept in, if I wanted to spend the day people watching, I could spend the day people watching. There was no one there altering my decision of what we should do, and having that freedom really gives you a travel experience you won’t get in a group or with other people.
As I got over my anxiety after the first few days in a foreign country, I noticed how free I felt. With my flexibility in my schedule, not having to report to anyone, and really if I wanted, not having to talk to anyone, I was completely and entirely free and independent. My level of confidence increased tremendously with each new accomplishment I conquered on my own. Finding my way on the train from the airport to the city centre, getting entirely lost on the canals and eventually managing to navigate myself back on track, and getting over the awkwardness of eating alone. I feel like you don’t realize how independent you actually are until you throw yourself in an unfamiliar situation that allows you to step outside your comfort zone.
When traveling with other people, it is also common to stick to one another a lot more. You do everything together, and really there’s no need to actually meet new people, talk to others and experience things you probably weren’t planning to experience. Traveling alone makes you feel more obligated to meet new people. Despite the fact that I didn’t choose to be a social butterfly on my first solo trip to Amsterdam, on other trips, like my recent trip to Boston, I forced myself to meet new people. I stayed in an 8-bed dorm room, went to a conference where I knew no one, and even had a girl I only met online, pick me up from the airport and be my tour guide. When you open yourself up to other people, you open yourself up to learning so much more about yourself, other cultures, and new experiences, and with a little common sense, what’s the worst thing that could really happen?
In the end, you can say I found myself and my love for travel in my trip to Amsterdam, and if I could offer you one piece of advice if you’re wanting to travel and see the world would be:
Don’t wait for other people, if you do, you’ll find yourself waiting forever, and before you know it, your opportunity to see a certain place, visit a certain attraction, or experience a new culture may be gone. If you want to go, find a way to make it happen! The only thing that’s stopping you is yourself.