Today I am really excited to introduce a new series here on Stylishly Zen. As some of you may know, I love to travel but until a few years ago travelling was just a dream for me. I had been holding myself back from going out and exploring the world because I was single and felt that I needed to have someone to travel with. All of my friends were in serious relationships, getting married and having children while I remained single, patiently waiting (ok maybe not that patiently) to meet someone that I could explore this world with. Finally, after a rough few years of dealing with things in my personal life I was in dire need of a vacation, but once again I was faced with the dilemma of not having a travel companion. At my whits end, I decided that I no longer wanted to just sit on my couch dreaming about exploring far away places, I was getting on a plane and taking my first solo trip. Having decided this, I faced another hurdle – how to plan a solo vacation. There are a number of travel companies that cater to the solo traveller – the majority of these companies offer group trips with fellow solo travellers many of whom were in the same position as myself. While I can see the appeal of joining a group tour, it was not the type of vacation that I had in mind. Other solo travellers prefer to plan their own trips and stay in hostels in the hopes of bonding with other solo and like minded travellers but once again this is not what I had in mind. I was dreaming about checking into a cool hotel in a foreign country, immersing myself in the local culture all the while enjoying a few extra luxuries along the way. I wanted to travel on my own terms and that is exactly what I intended to do. Once I had made up my mind, the thought of being lonely never occurred to me nor did the notion that what I was doing would be viewed as strange by so many people that I met along the way. Having spent so much time hiding out on my couch solo, I have naively failed to understand that many people still viewed being single or solo as something negative. I thought it was just my own personal neuroses holding me back, it turns out those neuroses were deeply rooted in how society views single women. Thankfully over the past few years things have evolved, and while there is still a stigma associated with being single in particular with solo travellers in some parts of the world, more people and businesses have become more understanding and open minded and solo travel has increased exponentially.
Here is the truth about my first solo trip – it was not perfect. I was a nervous wreck when the time came to actually board that plane to Barcelona, but I am so happy that I did. During that trip I made a few missteps, let my anxiety get the better of me a couple of times, had some incredible experiences and and found a new level of confidence that I never thought that I would discover within myself. I have since taken five solo trips (and I am currently planning my sixth), each experience has made me stronger, smarter and incredibly proud of my ability to follow my explorer dreams. I truly believe that other people can benefit from taking a solo trip, regardless of the stage of life that they are currently in. It has nothing to do with relationship status. The rise in solo travel is not just due to the single people wanting to get out there and explore. People in relationships are also choosing to take a trip on their own and explore on their own terms, to challenge themselves or as a new form of self discovery. Whatever your motivation is to take a solo adventure, I strongly encourage you to do so.The purpose of this series is to share my experiences and to motivate you to plan your own trip, especially if it is something that you had previously considered but had not yet taken the proverbial plunge. I will focus on the different cities that I have travelled to, where I have stayed, places that I have eaten and the various sites that I have had the privilege to see and experience in person. I will also give you recommendations throughout these guides for places that happily accommodated solo travellers and made my journey just a little bit more welcoming. For today though, I will leave you with what I consider the biggest benefits of solo travelling:
- You are not obliged to stick with anyone’s itinerary but your own. I like to have a plan and I tend to get very uncomfortable with “just winging it”, so of course on the first full day of my solo vacation I had a schedule that I felt that I absolutely had to stick to. That is the only way to travel right? So after a couple of hours spent by the hotel pool, I dragged my exhausted self out the door and headed towards Sagrada Familia – one of Barcelona’s most famous sites. Along the way I made a wrong turn and got completely lost. After wandering around in the scorching heat for what felt like hours (but in reality about 30 minutes) and being too shy to ask for directions, I found myself sitting on a bench exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated. That was the moment that I realized that I was being ridiculous – why did I feel that I needed to sightsee immediately? I was taking this vacation to relax and explore on my own terms, to give my health both mentally and physically a much needed break and I needed to give myself just that – a break. Shortly after this realization, I thankfully figured out where I was and headed straight back to my hotel to continue lounging by the pool. I eventually saw Sagrada Familia and it is a magnificent building, but I will never forget the lesson that I learned on my first full day of solo vacation – to get out of my own head, stop holding myself to made up obligations and to give myself what I need in that moment. Solo travel is about travelling on your own terms and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- A common question that I am asked about solo travel is if I ever get lonely. While there are moments when I feel that I would like to have someone with me, most of the time I am to busy enjoying the experience to feel lonely. Another cool thing that I learned about solo travel is that it is a great way to meet amazing people – you don’t have to join a travel tour group to experience this. I have met people from all over the world in the most random situations, from airport coffee bars to culinary experiences and food tours. While you always need to be cautious when travelling alone, don’t let your solo status hold you back from meeting new people and engaging in great conversations with truly wonderful people whom you never would have met otherwise.
- I touched on this earlier but I truly believe that this is the biggest benefit of solo travel – confidence. I have never been a very confident person, aside from my own personal neuroses about my physical appearance, I frequently feel less then and unfortunately put myself down more often then anyone should. While building my confidence is still a work in progress, I owe a lot of the confidence that I do have to travelling solo. I learned that I am brave and capable, I am able to stand on my own two feet to figure things out. And even though I may make mistakes that doesn’t mean that I am an idiot, it just means that I am human and that I made a mistake. To figure it out and to keep it moving. So while I never thought that solo travel would help me with an issue that I have struggled with my entire life, it has and for that I am forever grateful. We are all capable beyond our wildest dreams, so why not show that silly little voice in your head what you are really made of?I look forward to sharing my adventures and experiences with you through this series and feel free to share any comments, thoughts and questions that you have about solo travelling in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then Bon Voyage! XXS