Travelling alone. What did I learn from it? Quite a lot. If somebody asks me if they should dare to travel alone I’ll always say yes. My first solo trip was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and you’ll soon see why.
In September 2017 I decided to travel to South America all on my own. To Chile to be precise. I wanted to go farther away and South America was a good option to realize my plans. I also wanted to experience another culture, a completely different way of living. Something I wouldn’t be able to experience if I just went around in Europe.
So, the decision was made and I prepared myself for a 24 hours flight across the ocean. First, I landed in Atlanta, USA, where I had to wait 8 hours for my connecting flight to Santiago, the capital of Chile. I’ve never flown that far away from home before, it was my first time crossing the Atlantic Ocean. And I’m so glad I did it. If I had listened to my parents or my grandparents who told me it would be “too dangerous” and I should at least travel with someone else. I didn’t listen. In fact, it even secured my decision to go by myself more. It’s so crucial to listen to yourself sometimes.
Once I landed in Chile, everything was new, I had to adapt to other habits, to another language. And you have to be more careful then back at home as well. I, for example, got ripped off a lot of money when I took my first taxi from the airport to my hostel. That was my first lesson right away – don’t trust everybody right away, even if they seem super nice. I tend to always believe the best of people which didn’t change at all, but I learned to be more careful on my way. So, except for having a little less money than before, this event effect my stay.
During my travels I mainly stayed in hostels and the first one I went to was quite big, which might not be the best option if you want to meet new people. It turned out fine for me though. In the afternoon, I was just sitting down on the couch in the common area and there would always be someone to talk to. So, even if you are travelling on your own – you will never be alone – unless you want to. I certainly didn’t.
Most of the times I made friends with the workers of the hostel, as they were there permanently and had the best tips where to go and how to get around the city. They were always around to talk for a bit as well as some other guests. The common area was rarely empty. So, even if you are not the most talkative, outgoing person you’ll be fine on your own. In the beginning I wasn’t that outgoing as well – but I slowly learned it. At first, I waited for people to come to me – and it worked most of the time. If not, I was forced to sit down at another group and introduce myself to participate at the conversation. While just joining a group of strangers randomly might seem weird in everyday life, it’s completely normal once you’re travelling.
Another perk of travelling alone is that you have complete freedom of deciding what to do and what not to do. You can choose where you want to go, what you want to see and you can take your time doing so. That’s something I really enjoyed when I went to the Atacama Desert where I did a lot of tours that really interested me and on each tour I got to know some other travelers.
If meeting new people everyday gets to much you can always take a break. That’s what I did as well. I was meeting a lot of people every day for 3 weeks, then I went to the Easter island. An island in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by nothing but the sea which is calm and beautifully silent. Even though it is popular among tourists, the island itself is still quiet if you move away from the most popular tourist spots. There I just rented a bike and explored the island on my own for a while. That’s when I noticed that, no matter how much I like socializing, I eventually need some time on my own as well. Like really on my own. All alone. Just for a day or two, but still. It’s always good to take time for yourself when you feel like you need it. And after three weeks of being on the road constantly, I definitely did.
So, if you’re coming up with a travel plan, I would strongly recommend scheduling alone time as well. Interacting every day and every night can be fatiguing after a long period of time. If you take some time off afterwards, you’ll make the most amazing discoveries about yourself, because you will be able to focus on yourself a lot better. You’ll also have time to process everything that was going on during the weeks before – which should be a lot as travelling always leads you into some new adventures.
Be open for everything. That’s a crucial thing as well. Don’t plan too much in advance, plans always change. Maybe you meet a nice group and want to join them for a bit – travelling spontaneously is the most fun thing ever – you’ll never know where you will end up the next day.
So, if you love travelling, don’t be afraid to do it on your own! I guarantee you won’t regret it.