I see more and more articles encouraging people to embark on solo trips of a lifetime, or giving tips on how to stop working and backpack around the world for only ___ dollars. As I read these articles, I felt a need to write my own view… It didn’t seem right that people are trying to package wanderlust into a simple one-size fits all solution that can improve your life. Yes, you do change a lot from travelling and living in different countries, but it’s not for everyone.
In my recent solo trips, I’ve had both good and bad experiences… but I’ve learnt to take it into my stride. The old me would have freaked out and wished I had never decided to travel on my own, but right now, I’ve reached a point of emotional maturity to handle tough situations. (That, and the grace of God who is always watching over me and protecting me in the weird situations I find myself in) While I can look back and laugh at the good and bad experiences, I can name friends who would have been so miserable when faced with the reality of solo travel… which can be quite different from the rose-tinted picture we have painted in our heads.
I’m no expert, but I think I’ve travelled enough on my own to be able to give some advice, that would hopefully help! Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I’ve had the privilege of visiting various countries in 6 out of 7 continents (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia… maybe I’ll make it to Antarctica one day, although I’m not too keen on that). In my recent travels, I’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot, and I want to share with you the reality of traveling.
Travel is wonderful, and you meet all sorts of lovely people (and some weird ones to balance it out). You get to try new food, and you feel more empowered than before. Perhaps it’s the air, or just the fact that you’re away from home… whatever it is, you have a new courage to try things you normally wouldn’t do. You probably have read about all the wonderful things about travelling on your own or with your friends… but there is the harsher reality to travel too.
Travel is not all roses as it has been portrayed online. There are days when you will feel homesick, and wish you were back home in the comfort of your bed. There are days when you feel so terribly lonely despite being surrounded by tons of people. There are days when your carefully thought out plans end up failing, (like ending up with a weird host or having them cancel on you at the last minute) and you’re at a loss with literally no one nearby to help you. And did anyone mention that traveling is tiring? But you carry on, and that’s when you grow.
Travel is a privilege. I think our generation tends to take travel for granted. Once everyone starts doing it, it becomes the norm. If you have the privilege to travel, be sure to thank your parents for funding you. They may not say it, but they have to work extra hard or cut back on their own enjoyment in certain areas to let you have your wanderlust experience fulfilled.
Travel isn’t always glamorous. Short-term travel is fun, especially when you have nothing to worry about. You can eat what you want, splurge on shopping and accommodation. But when you do long-term travel and live in a place for months or years, the stress of life catches up to you. Being overseas doesn’t mean no problems, it just means you learn to cope… and that’s how you mature. You become aware of your expenses, you cook for yourself, do your own laundry, clean the house… It’s good training for adulthood!
Travel is about your experiences. There is no right way to travel. You don’t have to go on a solo trip if it scares you to the point that you don’t even enjoy the trip. You don’t have to travel to touristy areas if you hate crowds. Just because you don’t see what everyone has seen doesn’t make your experience count for any less. You don’t have to travel with your friends instead of your family just because everyone is doing that. You do what makes you the most happy. I have had great experiences travelling solo, but as much fun as that is, after my solo trip in May, I think I’m ready to find a travel buddy or just travel with my wonderful fambam. To me, experiences are best shared with those who matter.
That said, this post isn’t intended to scare you off solo travel. If you have the means, please do go ahead! I just want you to be prepared mentally and emotionally for what travelling solo means. It means being responsible for yourself, accountable to your family back home and courageous enough to appear strong and happy regardless of what unexpected situations may come your way.
Travel is being marketed online in a way that makes it seem like you have to leave your country and family and friends in order to grow through new experiences and new-found independence. But you don’t have to. You just have to take the road less travelled.
The more I travel, the more I realise that what makes each experience so meaningful and unforgettable is that the experience is different from what I normally do. It’s the change that makes it special. You can bring the wanderlust right where you are. You just need to look at your home country with a different lens, and find these new experiences. Imagine you’re a tourist. After all, someone flew hours to get to your country for their life-changing experience, why not try to do the same from the safety of your home country? Just because you live at home, doesn’t mean you have to rely on your parents. You can still work to earn your own allowances and help with housework and cooking. The change you want to create in yourself shouldn’t be limited to being in a new country. It doesn’t really matter where you are, the change starts from within.