Sports Editor Claire Thomson explains the merits of solo travel for improving your trips and your confidence.
Travelling alone may seem an extremely daunting and scary concept, but it has the power to be so rewarding on many different levels. So many people often view solo travelling as either dangerous and making yourself vulnerable, or boring and lonely, but it's the complete and utter freedom that is attracting more and more people to this way of exploring the world. Recently, I embarked on a year of a lifetime as I travelled solo to live in Germany for the next year as part of my university course. Whilst I was apprehensive at the beginning, I have quickly discovered the joy of solo adventures, and can already see the advantages reflected in myself.
Before moving abroad, I was the type of person who would get stressed out easily at disorganisation and always liked to be almost far too early for everything. Basically, I was a nightmare to make plans with, but that's where travelling solo absolutely matches my personality quirks. Whilst some may think that it's too much organisation to sort it out yourself, so far I've found that it's barely any at all. It's complete selfishness, and I mean that in a good way. You have all the freedom you could wish for, and the world really does become your oyster. Every weekend I pick a place no more than two trains away, do some research on the journey there and then go and explore. I do what I want to do when I want to do it. The only planning I need to do and the thing that I must rely on is the train times. I'm not saying going on adventures with friends and family isn't a lot of fun, and it's amazing to share the experiences with others, but to truly appreciate a place for yourself and all it has to offer, I've discovered that alone works best.
"It's complete selfishness, and I mean that in a good way."
That said, it's not just what you can do, it's who you can be or become. You learn to trust yourself a lot more and get to know yourself better. One thing I've never been very good at is staying calm when things don't go to plan, but I've quickly found myself panicking and worrying less over small things. I've learnt that what'll happen will happen and that I have to rely on myself to deal with problems, making me more independent and ultimately stronger. Right from the start, I have told myself that I want to get as much out of this year as I can, and that has forced me to travel alone. I don't want to look back on my year abroad with regrets because I was too anxious to go somewhere or push myself out of my comfort zone. Solo travelling gives me faith in myself and allows me to live my life to the fullest.
"You learn to trust yourself a lot more and get to know yourself better."
If money is an issue, travelling alone is definitely the best way to see the world on a budget. I am very lucky that my year abroad is heavily funded through various grants, but I'm still conscious of what I'm spending. The idea is simple and goes back to my point before, you only do what you want to do, so you only spend what you want to spend. There's no peer pressure to eat in a specific restaurant or stay in a fancy hotel, the choices are entirely yours to make.
Yes, there are absolutely disadvantages that can't be denied, but I'm managing to find my own ways to make these seem less impactful. For example, for me personally, I would never go out for a drink or to a club by myself, but I've found that not being able to do this spontaneously makes the times when I go out with people something I look forward to and get excited about. Similarly, at times you can feel rather lonely, but you'll find that when you're halfway up the side of a hill (the number of hills I've hiked up recently…) that other people in the same boat that'll happily chat away to you. There's only one thing that I could do with finding a solution for, and that's taking photos that I’m in without them being a selfie. Nine times out of ten, I just can't get my phone to balance in a good place for a timer photo. Any tips really would be appreciated there.
So, solo travelling; not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but definitely something I would recommend giving a shot if you're interested. You'll discover so much about the places around you as well as yourself, and at the end of the day feel so much more confident. Whether it's a big or small adventure, the sky's the limit to what you can achieve.
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