My father is an orderly person, very orderly. Since childhood, he has filed in a folder all the documents that seem necessary: administrative papers, report cards, newspaper articles … A large file that is no longer filled now that I have taken off. Few weeks ago, looking for getting busy in my mum’s house, I rummaged in the cupboards and I came across this discolored yellow folder with black felt-tip writing “Emilie”.
Nostalgia tickles and I open the file. I come across a printed email from 2006. I am 19 years old and I am in Peru on a logistics internship at the Peruvian Red Cross in Lima. At that time, on Friday evening I was taking a bus and to go exploring the country & was coming back on Sunday or Monday morning to “work”. I thought it was great and exciting. It was my first solo travel experience!
In this email I tell my family that I have just arrived in a small touristic town and that as soon as I put my backpack in the dormitory of the hostel, I became friend with a Swedish traveler. I explain that hostels are the most economical solution for travelers and that in addition we make international friends easily (who could guess I would end up opening my own hostel 10 years later!)
I’m not going to lie, at that time traveling alone was scaring me. I was not sure I could make shift on my own and I was afraid of loneliness. Once you start travelling, you realize that there are a lot of solo travelers and that you are never alone. I am a shy person, but the community of travelers is very open and caring so my sociability changed along. We therefore have the choice to remain alone or to speak to our neighbor. Also, it often happens that there is no effort to make, solo traveler intrigues in some regions and people come directly to see you to find out what you are doing. This curiosity comes from both locals and other travelers. Friendships are as strong as ephemeral while traveling. I sincerely believe that if I had not been solo, I would have met people for sure but not as many. I will not have taken the road with Florian or John or Luke or Isabel ect .., I will surely not have been invited by Veronica to drink a coffee, I will probably not have had all these small talks with the locals while waiting for my trains, coaches, moto or boat. In short, I will not have met so many people and I will never have opened myself.
However, you must be prepared to have some time alone and you have to know how to manage it. But it’s not bad, on the contrary, you learn to be autonomous, to surpass yourself and to be patient. Among other things, we learn to make choices and make decisions. Most people think that a traveler is enjoying life on the other side of the world. It’s true, but we often forget that solo travel involves constant and alone decision-making. Where will I sleep tonight? which bus do i take? do I walk or take a taxi? How many nights do I book? am I going left or right? It seems trivial, but when you travel, there is no routine. Not having a daily routine is quite confusing because we must think and make choices all the time. Even if they seem insignificant, they must be taken and assumed.
Since you are alone and you decide your own planning, this is an opportunity to listen to yourself and go at your own pace. Think about at what point in our life, we can get up when we want, take our time or not, eat when we want and so on, without anyone being there to judge. Solo trips allow you to find your own pace, the one that suits you best. I discovered being an early bird and be able to wake up to see sunrise. But I also found myself spending the day doing nothing, hanging around. You are bored sometimes, but it is not necessarily a bad thing, it allows you to think and let your imagination wander.
We actually feel free.
You know that exhilarating feeling of being free and proud when you take the car for the 1st time by yourself after you got your driver’s license. When traveling I often feel this emotion. I feel free when I’m on a crowded bus in Malawi surrounded by mamas watching me. I feel free when I climbed a path and have a wonderful panorama at the top. But I feel free also just when I get on my bike and go alone across country fields close to home. Because indeed, solo trip is not necessarily done at the other side of the world, it can be done for a day or a weekend in France, quite simply, the time to find yourself back!
Thanks to these experiences, I had the chance to live unique adventures and meet beautiful people. Traveling is living moments outside your comfort zone, wandering, being bored, exploring, marveling, questioning your choices, spending evenings debating with strangers, learning, having problems, resolving unforeseen events … Everything is not positive in a solo trip but at the end, the stories that we tell the most when we return home are often our challenging moments. What was negative in the present becomes a real adventure to tell!
Finally, I especially understood that I was capable. When we are alone we sometimes find ourselves in involuntary situations that we arrive somehow to manage.
We outdo ourselves and we are proud.