When it comes to traveling, everyone enjoys a different style. Some like going on a two-week all-inclusive holiday, some like to grab a backpack and disappear for a few months. Some like going with friends or family, some prefer going solo. Personally, I’m a big fan of the latter. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve gone on several holidays in the past with friends and they’ve all been enjoyable. However, they never quite had a similar intensity or impact on me as my solo trips did.
What do I mean by that?
When I think back of those trips, I just remember “being on holiday” and mostly moments and experiences involving my travel buddy. On the contrary, when I think about past solo trips, I remember a bunch of different faces – those of other travelers for example or of locals I met. With a travel companion I normally don’t make a lot of new acquaintances. It sounds mean, but they kind of act as a shield. That is of course not only my friend’s fault – we just feel at ease staying in our little cocoon and don’t actively initiate contact with people crossing our paths.
Got a ride from this group of friends from Taman Negara to Melaka, Malaysia.
Isn’t that basically just you being antisocial?
Haha! In a way: yes. I’d prefer calling it being less social though when traveling with a friend. Since we already have each other to talk to, why should we bother talking to strangers?
So you like solo travel because that way you’re forced to be social?
That’s kind of it, yes! I actually used solo travel as a tool to become more confident and open. As a kid/teenager I was extremely shy and hardly spoke to other kids, let alone boys. I feared rejection, so I kept to myself and waited for others to come to me. I had 2 or 3 good friends and not much to do with anybody else. I envied and looked up to tomboy girls who didn’t give a damn and just went up to people and started talking.
Having dinner with other travelers in Hoi An, Vietnam.
When I changed schools at the age of 14 in 2007, something shifted inside of me. I wanted myself to change. I demanded it of myself. If I were to find new friends, I would have to go up to people and open my mouth. Over the years I became a little more confident and wanted to continue this development when school finished. After this big chapter of my life had finished, I wanted to travel somewhere – alone. At that point I had been living with my family all my life and most of all needed some time for myself I guess! I also felt confident enough to do it.
So I went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I stayed with a host family who didn’t speak a word English. During my stay I went to Portuguese classes, learning crucial words to find my way around the city or to order an orange juice at one of Rio’s many juice bars… I also had a roommate, Ana. She was from Paris and had roots in Cabo Verde, so she knew Portuguese. In order to make this trip worthwhile, I forced myself to get out of my shell, threw my shyness out of the window and just talk to people. It was up to me.
It was up to me to decide: either you hide away and let time go by until you fly back home, or you take the hell action and enjoy your time in friggin’ Brazil!!
Luckily, I took action and Ana and I ended up hanging out together a lot. And although I ended up returning home early because I got homesick, I realised afterwards that I could actually be proud of having put myself into this “uncomfortable” situation. Not only had I not known anybody there, but I had also experienced what being an outsider and a foreigner feels like.
At the beach in Copacabana with Ana.
So I just need to go on holiday alone and I will return super confident?
It would definitely be a great start to get there! Unfortunately, becoming a confident person is a slow process (at least for me it was and I still struggle with shyness sometime) and I went on a lot more solo trips after my experience in Brazil. On each of those trips I learned and grew a little bit more. I’m also not saying that solo travel is the cure for shyness – it was merely one of many tools for me! But how awesome is it to work on your self-esteem and see the world at the same time?! Solo travel to me only has benefits, so if next time you’re having doubts about whether you should really book that flight or train ticket – do it! And then return to this blog post and share your wonderful experiences with us! 😉