10 Lessons I Learnt While Travelling Solo

Solo travel was one of the most intimidating things I ever attempted, and it wasn’t even my decision. I was thrown into it at 19 years old, across the world in New Zealand. The woman who I was travelling with left me alone, and I was far too stubborn to go home after only being abroad for a week. Why would I? My ten month trip turned into five months, and I learnt a lot of hard, but important lessons.

  1. I learnt not to deal with fake friends. This was difficult because in the beginning I felt very alone while travelling solo. It was often easier to surround myself with people who didn’t really care about me, and not everyone I met would trigger a deep connection. Through trial and error, I learnt who my real friends were, and to not deal with people who treated me poorly.
  2. I learnt how to say ‘no’ and own it. This was an important lesson that I wish I had learnt sooner. It can be relevant to anyone moving out on their own for the first time, my experience just happened to be abroad. I shouldn’t have to feel obligated to go to the bar when I don’t feel like it. I should be able to refuse a price I am given and walk away if I think I am being ripped off. It is important as a woman especially, to be able to say no and stand by your decision. It was a long process for me, but learning how to say ‘no’ really helped me step into my confidence and helped prevent people from taking advantage of me.
  3. I learnt to trust people. I had always been an independent and private person, but there are situations that come up while travelling where I had to rely on the kindness of others. These situations would potentially make me feel uneasy, not truly knowing who was helping me. Though I am always attentive to who I am with, it is still good to be able to let go and trust someone. This ability led me to my next point.
  4. I learnt to not be afraid to ask for help. Not only did I learn to not be afraid, but not feel ashamed. I don’t know why it took me so long to get this one, perhaps it was because I used to be so shy, but I would get confused and wander around airports totally lost. It took until I nearly missed a flight for me to buckle down and ask for help. I actually asked four different airport employees in the span of twenty minutes because their directions were all so poor! But in the end, I made it on my flight and I tackled my pride.
  5. I learnt to question things. Travelling gives us the perspective of how people live in another country. Depending where we travel, there are different norms and guidelines on what is culturally appropriate. When arriving in New Zealand I thought the Maori native culture was so interesting, but when I saw a very large framed man with tribal war tattoos on his face, I found myself intimidated. I found myself questioning why I felt that way. This man wasn’t harmful, it was just his culture. Afterwards, travelling to countries such as Morocco, where women are treated differently than men, this part of me has continued. We should never stop questioning the things around us or our reactions to what is different than us.
  6. I learnt how to take care of myself. This one took longer. Throughout my childhood, I had denied my mother’s pleas to teach me the basics of how to cook. When arriving in New Zealand, I was barely drinking age, and it only took a few nights of over drinking and surrounded by newly met acquaintances to realise how dangerous of a situation I was potentially putting myself in. I quickly learnt that if I didn’t have someone I trusted around me, I had to be fully able to take care of myself at all times.
  7. I learnt to value my alone time. Being social can be exhausting, especially when I was already sharing a room with up to ten other backpackers. Some of my most peaceful and enjoyable moments were exploring an unnamed beach on the mellow west coast of the south Island in New Zealand. There wasn’t another person in sight, just me and the elements. I learnt that to keep my mind healthy, I needed to find a balance of time to myself, and time to socialise with others.
  8. I learn to value quality over quantity. When living out of a suitcase or a backpack, I had to be very picky what I carried with me at all times. Even though I got very good at fitting as much as possible into my backpack – rolling your clothes does wonders – I still had to prioritise what I valued the most. In reality, it led me to living a more minimalistic lifestyle, where items with multiple purposes were the most valuable.
  9. I learnt how to be more spontaneous and adventurous. Leaving things last minute is not something I do regularly, but adjusting my life to be a little more spontaneous has led to a more exciting lifestyle. Plans change when travelling, and when I thought I would be relaxing by a lake in Queenstown, instead I was booking the highest bungee jump in the country alone! I was always an active person, but travelling helped shape me into a more ambitious person.
  10. I learnt to appreciate and take pride in where I am from. My mind is constantly daydreaming about bigger and better places abroad that I want to visit. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Though I don’t like to admit it, I used to take the beauty around me for granted. It took until I was telling other travellers about where I was from, to realise my home was a top destination for many people! This triggered a pride that I had been missing, and I’ve been taking full advantage of my backyard while I’m at home ever since.

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    Early Morning at Lake O’hara, Canada

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