April 25th, 2018
Solo travel is incredibly popular right now. Social media sells it as a rite of passage to millennials that are already being stretched in every which direction and are encouraged to rise to yet another challenge - one which is possibly the hardest option out there.
Giving it all up to 'get on the road' is invigorating, exciting, marvellous, and hands down the best thing I have done.
But it's also draining, unforgiving, challenging, and scary, and hands down the hardest thing I have done.
If you're looking to leave the routine behind and give this 'solo travel' thing a crack, GOOD FOR YOU! Here are some abstract and soul-searching tips about how to keep sane in doing so.
1. Have an open mind and expect your morals to change.
This sounds so cliche, but it has honest value in it. You cannot go somewhere and experience it fully, without having your morals questioned. What do you believe in? What do you stand up for? How is a place changing your mind about certain things? What are you okay with? What makes you frustrated and angry? For me, I have these whole-out-of-body-philosophical-and-all-consuming-mental experiences on the daily, usually when I am in the supermarket. For example, if, like me, you care about a) reducing plastic packaging and boycotting unecessary general waste, b) the importance of being conscious of animal products and thinking about avoiding them c) eating fresh produce and getting your nutrients and d) eating on a budget... you're going to have these conversations with yourself often. If you can't tick all four boxes, which one do you sacrifice first? Your wallet? An animal's life? A whale that's gonna end up with the plastic in its tummy? Or your bloodstream that desperately needs some vitamins? It's okay to spend time thinking about these bigger picture things, and so you should.
2. Be relentlessly positive.
Things can go wrong, full-stop. Even when they don't go wrong, they can go 'unexpectedly'. Embrace it. I used to be the kind of person that would need to know how I'm gonna get from A to B and have faith in the plan... Now that I carry everything I need on my back, I just have faith in the universe and my abilities and capabilities to work out the complete unknowns, and enjoy them at the same time. If a day ends with me tucked up in bed with a full tummy, warm feet, and good health, it has been a good day. Whether during the day you missed a train, got snowed on, lost your way, had an uncomfortable situation - if you make it to bed with a roof over your head, you're doing better than a lot of people. Sometimes just seeing a kettle can make my day, and I completely let it. I'm not embarrassed to get excited over small things. If you notice enough small things and be consciously grateful for them, your attitude can take better care of the big things. If you practice expecting nothing, then everything that comes your way or works out is a pleasant surprise and you take nothing for granted.
3. Be careful with your social addiction.
You're used to seeing a highlight reel of everyone's travels, right? And now you're travelling too and it's not the same? Don't be disappointed. Just come to understand that the perfect photo you saw on Instagram was 1 second out of a day of 86400 seconds. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but Instagram doesn't show you the real situation. It makes me sad to see people taking *literally* hundreds of takes in a 'natural' pose, demanding that their travel buddy take another one, every time. Don't be the kind of person that 'does it for the gram'. Be the kind of person that puts your phone away and sits on the edge, mindfully eating some fruit and having a good look. Go to a place because you want to learn about it. Don't go a museum that you have zero interest in just because it's in the brochure. Seek places that you've never seen photos of before. Go somewhere not because anyone told you to, but because you are personally curious. Take time to watch the bees. Watch a sunset without posting a picture of it. Sit at the top of a hill that noone knows you are at. You don't need someone else's acknowledgement to validate what you are doing.
4. Understand that loneliness is different to boredom.
I read this in a blog post recently and it perfectly put into words what I didn't know I had been struggling to define. When you travel by yourself, you'll meet loads and loads of amazing people, but you will also spend a lot of time on your own. If you can acknowledge, think about, and then start to understand - that you can be lonely without being bored, and bored without being lonely, you can start to look after yourself in the right way. You don't need to be 100% busy all the time, but you need to know how to be in your own company and recognise what makes you tick and when. When there's noone else to look out for you, you'll get pretty good at doing it yourself, and being able to separate these two is essential.
5. Know yourself, but let 'YOU' be fluid and developing.
Whatever age you are, when you say "I don't like olives", you actually mean "I don't like olives right now". Even though you never imagine that you will ever, in your life, begin to like olives, it is actually a distinct possibility (yes, this recently happened to me). Understand that your identity is fluid and constantly developing, and this is why you travel; to grow yourself, broaden your horizons, and let unexpected things shape your character. Travelling doesn't necessarily make you happy, but it makes you a better person, for sure. If you start to think about issues that are bigger than yourself, like plastics, over-consumption, animal consumption, homelessness, trafficking, lack of education, and empowerment (just to name a few) you are developing into a human being that will contribute a lot more to society than you once would have done. And when you climb into bed at the end of a long day with your full tummy, warm feet, and roof over your head, you will seriously struggle NOT to feel grateful for these simple, but incredibly comforting things - and love the very essence of your life to the core. How can you not?
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