How I fell in love with travelling solo

One of the best ways to get you out of your comfort zone is to travel on your own.

Travelling solo forces you to do so many things by yourself: to approach people, to figure out where you’re going and how to get there. And because you’re fully responsible for how your trip goes — you can’t blame your husband or friends or family if the trip ends up sucking — you will likely make sure you have a great time. And you’ll feel incredibly rewarded for the effort.

In future posts I will delve deeper into the reasons why everyone should travel solo and blog about the ways you can get out there and travel on your own.

In this post I’m going to share how I started travelling by myself. 

Go alone or stay home

I started travelling solo because I didn’t want to let a golden opportunity go to waste: My dad was working for United Airlines, so I was able to fly standby for the cost of some minor service fees and taxes. Throughout my teens, we would go on family vacations to places like New York, Niagara Falls, Maui and Disney World. When I was in college, I continued to travel with friends and family members to places like England, Mexico and Australia.

It was only when I was out of college, living in Los Angeles and working and planning my own vacations that I decided there were places I wanted to go, where my family members or friends didn’t have the time, interest and/or the money to join me. So I realized if I wanted to go there, I would have to go on my own.

Fireworks over Miami Beach

The first trip was  Independence Day weekend in South Beach, Miami. I flew into Miami with fireworks in the night sky. Daytime temperatures were well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and it was Florida humid. I had such a blast.

I met a group of five really cute, hunky young guys on the beach my first day. I thought one of them was particularly cute, and I went way out of my comfort zone by approaching them. They welcomed me into their group, and we ended up hanging out all afternoon and went out to dinner with a female friend of theirs who lives in Miami Beach.

We pre-partied and partied and nursed our hangovers the next morning at breakfast and slept it off on the beach until they had to catch their flight back home. If I hadn’t made the effort to talk to the guys, I would not have had such a fun bunch to spend my first solo trip with nor would I have had a vacation fling with the guy I’d had my eyes on. It was probably the best introduction a girl could have to travelling alone.

From desperate to leave to missing my flight

Half a year later, during the Christmas break, I went to Puerto Rico for a few days. This trip started out far less ideally than I had hoped. In fact, my first impressions were that it felt downright scary to be female and alone there — I was hounded by catcalls, rude comments and leering stares just waking the couple of blocks to the beach in broad daylight.  It was also way more expensive than I’d expected. I really thought I was making a huge mistake and would have turned right around and gone home if I could.

But I’m glad I didn’t. I pushed through my initial discomfort and ended up enjoying myself. The young couple from New York who was managing the hotel where I stayed introduced me to a guy travelling by himself who was staying at the same place. We went out one night to check out the nightlife and met a local girl who showed us around.

On a snorkeling trip (plenty of swimming and sunbathing and no catcalls), I met a Philadelphia family with two college-age daughters and a son a few years older than me. He was astonished that I was travelling on my own, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself.

The day after, visiting the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, I literally ran into a friend of mine from college who was in Puerto Rico on a trip with her family.

And at the airport, I ran into the family of five from my snorkeling trip and had so much fun hanging out with them in the airport bar that I missed my flight. (Luckily I was able to get on the next one just half an hour later.)  So all in all, it worked out despite the shaky start.

American Football virgins, Kiwi experience and more

My third trip was back to Miami about a year later. This time I went for a crucial UCLA football game. I’m not a huge football fan, but I was a big fan of UCLA, my alma mater and then employer. Staying in my hostel room was a young South African veterinarian and a guy and girl from Europe. I took them all to the game at the Orange Bowl with me
— their first-ever American football game — and explained all the rules. Although UCLA lost — the first lost in a stellar season — I actually had a great time and was able to appreciate with my new friends when the plays were good, regardless of which team was making the play.

The fourth trip was to New Zealand the following autumn. Whereas all my previous trips were only for a long weekend, this was my first real vacation alone: a whole two weeks. I went with the hop-on, hop-off backpacker bus Kiwi Experience and again had a fantastic time. I met so many other young people, all of whom seemed to be on an extended backpacking trip around the world: coming from South America and going to Asia. Coming from Australia and on to the U.S.. Next stop: surfing in Bail, Fiji or Hawaii. I was literally the only one who would be heading back to the office come Monday morning. After that trip, I was sold. It wasn’t long before I would quit my job and travel solo around the world.

Now that I’m married with two little children, I rarely get to do much of anything, let alone travel, by myself. But I know what it’s like to travel solo and I appreciate that I’ve experienced it. I appreciate that now I don’t necessarily have to do it, which is a nice feeling, too. And I appreciate that one day I will do it again. To find out more about why it’s important to travel solo and how to do it, stay tuned for the next posts in this series on travelling solo.

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