I travelled solo for the first time just after my 18th birthday. Solo travel can be scary, especially if you are a young woman. Not going to lie, I am still not in the “old” category, but over the years I have managed to gather more courage and knowledge about solo travel.
Solo travel opened my eyes
In March of 2009 just before my birthday I saw a sale for flights to London. I was at the time planning to go study in Scotland and thought that this would allow me to see London and Scotland during one trip so I purchased the sale tickets slightly to my mothers horror. In April the same year I packed my bag and sat in a plane, alone, for the first time in my life. I had been on trips in Finland alone before that but this was different. I was now in charge of everything on my own.
The beauty of solo travel was that it really proved to me that I could do this. It gave me confidence that only the experience could have given. It made me believe that even if I had no friend to do things with I would be okay which has since had an important effect in my life as a whole. I remember how scared I was in the tube of London for the first time, how intimidating the sheer size of the city was, how horrendous the experience in the Christmas opening of Harrods turned out to be and how lonely I felt in the hostel surrounded by all these people. My first days in London were defined by my inability to relax. Once I caught the Megabus towards Edinburgh I finally started to open up. I spoke to the person next to me, made a friend in the hostel in Edinburgh, toured the city and the university with excited eyes. Glasgow’s rain did not bother me and even though the dark streets of the city scared my small town girl’s heart I survived. I failed at counting my days properly and had to leave Glasgow early and buy another bus ticket but that also taught me that when I travel alone I have to fix my own failures.
The more you travel solo the better at it you get
Since those days in 2009 I have moved to Scotland for university without any familiar faces and travelled to cities around alone and with friends. After my studies I moved to Nepal for three months to a remote town and survived that experience alive as well.
The more I travelled alone the more I learnt. Especially of myself. When you strip yourself of the comfort of familiarity you are forced to get to know your truest self. I have learnt that I need a plan quite often, even in the faintest of forms. I know that I can be social but also need moments alone and if I feel uncomfortable I cannot make myself talk to others. I have learnt that being told to do something makes me instantly say no if it is something uncustomary for me (being told to dance in front of people in Nepal for example). There are many ways in which solo travel has really helped me grow into the (relatively) functioning individual I am today.
Even though I think everyone should once experience solo travel I am a firm lover of traveling with people. The benefit of solo travel is that you can do it whenever you want. As a young woman solo travel has also shown that world really is not that scary, as long as you are smart and do things the way you feel comfortable. The world rarely is as scary as you think it is, but also I have needed to learn to be smart about it.
Solo travel has also shown that regardless of wherever you are, in a tiny town in Finland or traveling in big cities around the world your mother (and father) will never worry less about you. So be mindful, let them stomach your solo travel with time and the more you do it the easier it gets for them too. When I told my mum that I was going to move to Scotland to study it took her and my dad few months to get used to. Now if I tell them that I am traveling somewhere I get an “okay, just be safe”.