In an age with so much exposure to amazing destinations through social media platforms such as Instagram, facebook, pinterest and blogs about travel our eyes are open to places we never dreamed of visiting before.
Once you get bitten by the travel bug it is a never ending feeling of wanting to see and do as much of the world as possible, (I think they call that Wanderlust) but not everyone has unlimited funds or the lifestyle that permits years of endless travel and adventure. So the key is to try to make the most of the time you have within the means that you have. Learning where you can save money, how to tick things off your bucket list and come home with a sense of self discovery and personal growth.
My obsession with travel came in 2012, I was embarking on a 5 week adventure to the United States with a handful of friends to celebrate my 35th Birthday. Well at least in my head it was all about my birthday celebration. However, I wasn’t an avid traveller compared to my experienced companions and I quickly realised that travelling in a group can lead to lots of issues and misunderstandings and people on different paths.
It was the first time I had travelled overseas in 15 years and after this trip, I then became a solo traveller. I wish I had done that in the first place to be honest. Since I wasn’t as worldly as my companions I didn’t have the confidence to go out on adventures on my own at first. Once you realise that you all don’t want to do the same things and the last day you are in a city you look at the list of things you wanted to do, and you have not managed to tick any of them off because you have been a passenger on someone else’s journey the entire time.
I ended up separating from the group on my last week of the 5 week adventure and having the time of my life and it redeemed a thus far disappointing travel experience. Sidenote: Only friends with half of the people I went away with now, so if you travel with friends be prepared for that to happen. Travelling on my own I was more approachable to locals because I wasn’t in a cluster of Aussies, I had my eyes open to everything around me and I got to do EVERYTHING in that last week, that I wanted to do!
I came home from that holiday with a thirst for travel and doing it on my own, so I could meet more people, see everything I had on my bucket list, not have to worry about anyone else and if I wanted to have a day where I do nothing, I don’t have to feel guilty about that. Sometimes you just need to take a breather!
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you are in a mystical part of the world and you experience something amazing and you wish you had someone there to share it with. The kind of feelings and emotions that photos can’t capture. For me, the first time as a solo traveller I felt that it was on Mount Fuji, where you are literally above the clouds and it is a surreal beauty and feeling that does not translate in a photo. When I share that story I always have goosebumps come up my body from the sheer memory of that experience. That feeling is why I travel!
With the new social apps out there such as Couchsurfing where you can find other solo travellers in your current city to connect with to share stories and plan outings, solo travel has taken on a whole new level or enjoyment. Connecting with like minded people and sharing some awesome adventures together. Then at the end of the day, you go back to your own little world. The benefits of these dalliances is the chance to split the cost of a rental car, meal, hike with somebody rather than taking off solo into the wilderness. So it has a safety aspect as well. Just always make sure that the person you are connecting with has a few references. I learnt that one the hard way. That is a story for another day!
Trying to stay healthy whilst travelling can be a challenge. Depending on what style of accommodation you have, you won’t always have access to a kitchen to prepare your own meals, and the temptation to try everything on the local cuisine can be overwhelming, especially if you are travelling in a group. This is another time when solo travel can be beneficial. You decide what you eat and when to eat. If I do plan on having a local delicacy which might break the diet, I then aim to spend the day doing a lot more walking, getting off the subway a few stops earlier and exploring another area. You quickly burn any of those calories you are going to gorge on.
Depending on how long you are travelling for that might not be an issue. If you are on a short break, 7-10 day, go for it! Your body will be grateful when you get back to your usual daily routine at home and you come home knowing that you lived to the fullest on that experience. However, when you are travelling for extended period that is the last thing you want to be doing, bad food can affect your energy levels, moods, health. So try to be conscious of what you are putting into your body.
For example, I travel for long periods at a time, often staying in accommodations that have kitchens. On the first day I arrive at the new location I go and do a big vegetable and meat shop and figure out my meal plan for that week. Usually I cook up a big batch of vegetable soup and freeze it for use later in the week. So between the occasions when I eat out with new friends or want to try the cuisine, The next day I will be eating soup loaded with vegetables and vitamins and helping my body recover from any alcohol or food related damage. Your body will thank you for the respite from the heavy foods and keeping your immune system strong from any local elements.
I am currently travelling across the USA trying to visit all 50 states whilst I work remotely. When I first arrived I found a gym network that is 24 hours a day and located all across the US. So I attempt to get to the gym at least 3 times a week, if there is one close by, sometimes you need to commute for an hour or so to get there, so you weigh up, should I commute for that hour, or just spend that time walking around exploring the local area, going for a hike or a swim?
Having access to a local gym is also great when travelling because they have great shower facilities so if you are on a road trip and feel like freshening up you can hit the gym for a shower, with or without a workout. If you are a camping kind of person this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
So many great ways to make life on the road easier and it takes less of a toll on your body.
Recently I have started taking painting classes in various cities I visit, with the goal of one day being able to recreate the scenes from my own trips for a gallery of my travels. This is a great way to meet locals whilst learning a new skill.
When we are at home, we all have hobbies and sports that we play, but when we travel those things go by the wayside. So instead of dropping the ball, adapt your hobby into your travel and that way you also meet like minded people who can add to your experience.
So go ahead, take the leap, many people are scared to take the leap into solo travel… I know I was, but taking that step to travel on my own, was the best life decision I have ever made!
In the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!