As some of you will already know, I’ve just returned home (a matter of days ago) after two amazing weeks spent travelling in Japan.
This holiday was not only my first solo trip abroad, but also my first time travelling abroad full stop, as a lone female traveller in a foreign country.
Needless to say, the experience of solo female travel was an incredible one, and I have learned a lot from it!
So with no further ado here’s my list of 10 Things I’ve Learned From Solo Travel!:
1. It Really Doesn’t Matter How You Look
One very important lesson that travelling has taught me is to step back and not worry so much about how I look.
Being without access to my make up and hair straighteners for two weeks made me realise that not only do I not need those things, I don’t actually really want them either.
It is an inescapable fact that we live in a very image-obessed society, where there is a great deal of pressure to rule out all and any ‘imperfections’ in our appearance, and to consider ourselves ‘on show’ socially at all times.
Before I set out on my travels I would wear make up most days, and would also obsessively straighten my wavy, frizz prone hair as well. Not really because I wanted to do so, but more because it was a routine, and felt like an expectation too.
But being prevented from doing these things for the period of my trip quickly made me realise that I didn’t actually need to do any of these things, and I am perfectly content without them.
I am generally happier without makeup than with it. I am sick of battling with my hair, and I really enjoy just being able to roll out of bed in the morning, shower, dress and get started with my day.
How you look really, really doesn’t matter. Forget the pressure to be perfect. Despite what we are made to expect, in reality nobody is actually going to judge you for how you look, and if by rare chance someone was to do so, screw em’!
You are perfectly fine exactly the way you are.
2. Small Acts of Kindness Will Be Noticed, Appreciated And Often Returned
One really feel-good lesson that I received in Japan was the power of small, random acts of kindness.
The power of kindness is a universal thing, and it is seriously the easiest thing in the world to do. And whats more – as I came to experience myself – not only will small gestures of kindness usually go genuinely appreciated by the people they are extended to, they will often be paid back in full as well.
To use a moment that stands out in my own memory, while catching the bus to the Ghibli Museum, I invited the young mother queuing behind me to get on the bus first, while I rummaged about in my purse for the fare.
Seeing me obviously struggling to work out the correct yen, after settling her little boy down on the bus, the mother, to my surprise, actually then got off the bus to come over and help me pick out the right change.
Little moments like this may seem small from the outside, but when they happen to you they are incredibly powerful, and actually really quite touching. Kindness is completely free and usually very simple, and can really benefit you as well as other people. Never miss out on the opportunity to be kind. You’ve got nothing to lose from it.
3. It’s Okay To Enjoy Your Own Space
Humans are very sociable creatures, which is probably what has led to the idea of any moment being spent outside of the company of other people as a negative thing.
But in reality, there are many people who enjoy spending time outside of the company of other people. And I am one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I like people. I have a close group of friends, and I love my family, and I do enjoy meeting.
But at the same time I also find being around people rather tiring, and I genuinely enjoy the time I can find to just enjoy my own company.
Time spent alone gives you so much freedom, so much opportunity to experience things and explore places without distraction, or to enjoy things without interruption, and it is something that I find just so relaxing and restful.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to spend as little or as much time with other people as you want.
Enjoying your own space is not a negative thing, and doesn’t make you ‘antisocial’. It’s alright to recognise and embrace your limits.
4. You Are Your Own Best Judge
Seriously, when you are venturing alone to a foreign country, you are your own best judge of situations, places and people.
Trust your instincts. Because they are usually right.
Especially as a woman, we live in a society where we are often advised (for better or worse) on how exactly we should go about judging strangers, places, or scenarios. And this advice can sometimes be unrealistic, patronising or downright contradictory.
Take, for example, how we as women are taught by society to react to unwanted male attention. We are usually advised to remove ourselves from these kind of uncomfortable situations, and to try to get out of them as soon as possible.
At the same time however , society also teaches us that we shouldn’t be ‘unfair’ and to these creepy strangers, and should still remain ‘nice’ and ‘friendly’ in the face of unwanted attention, lest we perceived as – horror of horrors – a ‘bitch’.
‘Escape from the situation – but do stick around long enough to be nice’. Rather contradicts itself doesn’t it?
When travelling you can throw all this stupid bollocks in the bin where it belongs.
Trust your gut. You feel everything for a reason, and your instincts will tell you an awful lot if you allow yourself to listen to them.
If you have a bad feeling about a place, don’t hang around. If your surroundings make you uneasy, stay alert. If someone makes you uncomfortable, angry or intimidated, then get away from them asap.
Don’t worry about being seen as a ‘bitch’. I will happily be a ‘bitch’ 1000 times over if it means I’m able to feel safe.
Never put your safety second to anything. Never.
5. Don’t Miss The Opportunity To Make Connections With Strangers
I don’t just mean starting conversations or seeking out new friends – I’m talking about the little things too!
Wake up the dozing stranger on the train to tell them it’s reached its last stop. Offer to help a struggling parent carry their childs buggy up the stairs. Help someone with directions. Tell someone ‘good morning’ in the local language. Smile at someone.
Obviously never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but you shouldn’t miss out on the valuable opportunity to make those random little connections with other human beings.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Do Things Alone
We have some very weird rules in society about what we can and can’t do by ourselves.
You can’t visit a theme park if you’re not with a group. Restaurants are purely date spots. You can’t visit a museum or watch a movie without someone elses company, or there’s ‘no point’ without another person to share the experience.
Travelling alone is a great opportunity to throw this strange social rulebook out the window.
If you want to visit a theme park by yourself, go for it! If there is a fancy restaurant that you want to try out, then eat there! Visit that attraction you’ve always wanted to see!
Don’t let being by yourself put you off from doing the things you want because you’re by yourself.
Afterall, you’ve already ventured hundreds of miles by yourself! There’s nothing to be afraid of, and you’ll have some great stories and pictures to show your friends and loved ones when you return home!
7. You Don’t Have To Preserve Every Moment In Photo
particularly when you are obsessed with photography like I am, there is often a sense of urgency about preserving every meaningful moment or beautiful location on camera for the sake of posterity.
However, you don’t need to capture every special moment of your trip on film; not every location requires the obligatory photo!
Sometimes the best way to enjoy a moment is to simply stop and savour it.
Afterall, your memory is the best and most precious record you own!
You don’t have to share every single treasured moment with your loved ones. You can save some for yourself too.
8. New Foods Are Great – Try Them All!
Okay, maybe not all of them – I’ll admit that’s a tad unrealistic – but do try as many new foods as you can!
Foreign foods are great! During my time in Japan I tried okonomiyaki, takoyaki, rice balls, miso soup, mochi, gyouza, krokettes, chocolate filled taiyaki fish shaped-pancakes (adorable and seriously yummy), and now I’m back I’m tucking in to the Sakura and cheesecake flavoured Kit-kats I brought home as souvenirs. Yum!
Some people are more adventurous eaters that others, but it’s a great idea to try at least two or three new foods while traveling.
You never know, you may just find your new favourite food!
9. Take Your Time To Explore
Take as much or as little time as you need to explore new places!
If you want to spend a whole day exploring a particular location then dedicate as many hours as you need!
If you are bored of a place you planned to spend the day at you are not obliged to stay there – move on to somewhere else you want to see instead!
That’s the freedom of travelling alone.
You don’t have to stick to a schedule, or plan your days around other people. And that’s not a freedom you have very often. Make the most of it!
10. You Are Braver Than You Could Ever Believe
There is no solo traveler who has set out by themselves who has not experienced self-doubt at some point of their preparations.
Travelling alone – completely reliant only on yourself, and miles away from your loved ones – is scary.
You are going to face difficult moments. You are going to have to handle stressful scenarios by independently. You are going to experience situations you previously believed you couldn’t cope with.
And you know what? You will survive it all.
You will surpass your own expectations and will truly astound yourself.
You are braver than you ever believed, and stronger than you know, and travelling alone will really make you conscious of this fact. And this is one of the many, many reasons why solo travel is awesome!
So whether you are male or female, first time travelers or experienced adventurers, the chance to travel solo is an opportunity you really can’t afford to miss!
You are capable of embarking on this amazing adventure, and you know what?
You are going to love every single moment of it!
What lessons have you learned from your own solo travel adventures? Do let me know in the comments!
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