The ever-elusive idea of solo travel. A trip, alone? Some people’s worst nightmares, others it’s a dream trip. When I really began planning my 17-week solo trip around Europe and Southeast Asia and sharing my dreams and aspirations with others, I found most people saying one of three things to me. The most common thing I heard was, “I would NEVER want to do that, how boring!” (Insert massive eye roll). The second thing I heard on repeat was, “Oh Hunny, go and have fun! When I was your age I wish I would’ve done that!” And that phrase alone was enough to light a fire – you see, I never wanted to be that person who looked back on my life with regret and thought, “I wish that was something I had the guts to do”. And the third thing that I most commonly heard was, “I can’t imagine how peaceful it would be to get away from my husband and children for a bit.” Yeah, I can’t imagine that either. But mostly because I have neither.
When I decided that I wanted to pursue a solo trip, it was for a number of reasons. The first being that I was sick of waiting for my friends to be able to take off work to go with me. As a nurse, there’s such a unique opportunity to be able to explore the world. Only working three days a week there is ample time to travel, meet new people, and come back to the hospital refreshed. Aside from being tired of waiting for my friends to be able to travel with me, I was also tired of waiting around for “Mr. Right” and decided that “Mr. Right” wouldn’t come until I put myself first. And while I knew why I needed to take a trip alone, I couldn’t have predicted the ways that one solo trip would change the course of my life forever.
Are you a nurse looking to maximize your vacation time and see the world? Read these posts to inspire your travels and help you plan!
How Solo Travel Changed Me
It Changed Me Emotionally
Before leaving on my epic 17-week journey that would take me through 10 countries in Europe, and four through Southeast Asia, I wouldn’t exactly say that I was in a good place emotionally. I was quite literally… a wreck. I could’ve cried at the drop of a hat and I overanalyzed everything. The way that people looked at me, the way that people spoke to me, jokes that were supposed to be funny but somehow felt like a personal attack. I was continuously distracted by the thought of almost being 30 and not having a ring on my finger wondering if anyone else noticed or was judging me for it. My self-consciousness was at an all-time high, my self-esteem an all-time low.
It Changed Me Physically
While there is much more to life than being at that *ideal* (oftentimes unattainable) weight, I was physically the most out of shape and heaviest that I had ever been. I was in a vicious cycle of overeating and overdrinking, and I couldn’t stop. While my habits weren’t alarming me at the time, looking back I can’t believe I didn’t recognize it all sooner. I had become a stranger to myself, only to look back on the shell of a person that I was with a deep sense of gratitude and goal to never get to that dark place again.
It Changed Me Mentally
Before my trip, I was not in the right headspace. I felt this constant fog following me around making it difficult to concentrate, learn, and improve. And while I would have still considered myself to be happy… it was just different. I felt unmotivated and lacked direction. I couldn’t quite decide what it was I wanted to be doing both with my life. My alarm would go off in the morning and I’d lie in bed for hours convincing myself that it was time to get up. Mentally, I just couldn’t get there.
Looking Back On My First Long-Haul Solo Trip
It’s only now, years after my first solo trip has come and gone that I can look back and see my life for what it was. Truthfully, I was overly concerned about what society and other people thought of me. The truth is, I had been planning this solo trip for an entire year before I told anyone. I felt ashamed. I was a nervous wreck that people would judge me and think that I was “weird.” I didn’t have the self-confidence not to care what other people thought. I was a slave to other’s opinions.
Now I can look back with absolute certainty and tell you… it is NOT weird to follow your dreams. It’s not weird to love yourself, nourish yourself, and spend time with yourself. In a world where society places all kinds of pressures on us from a young age, it’s important to realize that what society *says* isn’t what is going to make you happy. Starting at a young age you’re told that you have to follow a certain path in life; to grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, and so on. But what if you and I don’t fit that mold? Then what? We’re supposed to wade through life just going through the motions while emotionally, physically, and mentally we get bogged down with the mundane day-to-day? What if we’re destined for more? What if we want more?
Traveling Solo Changes You
If I had been too scared to take the leap into the wide unknown I would’ve missed out on so many incredible and life-altering experiences. I chased the Northern Lights through Finland. I learned the art of driving a moped in Southeast Asia as I witnessed incredible beauty and narrowly missed other mopeds that were coming my way. I ate (sometimes questionable) street food with locals and partied until dawn with other tourists. I experienced utter happiness, extreme loneliness, and intense anxiety. I welcomed these feelings in knowing that in order to heal… you have to acknowledge what you’re feeling. Eventually, that overly emotional part of me that wanted to cry if someone looked at me funny, went away. My self-confidence and self-esteem began to rise. I stopped putting others first and started to put myself first. And without realizing it, I slowly began to fall in love with myself and the life that I had created.
Being Alone isn’t a Sign of Weakness, it’s a Sign of Strength
Being alone doesn’t allow you to hide behind someone or something else. You have to face your feelings head-on in order to move forward. If you embrace it, solo travel changes you from the inside out. While you move from destination to destination you’re also slowly figuring yourself out. Figuring out what makes you so uniquely… you. You start to learn what you like about yourself, what you don’t like about yourself, how to care for yourself, and more. Being alone is like putting yourself under a microscope. You begin to peel back the layers and see the flaws you’d like to change. But you also see the wonderful parts about yourself that you’d like to nurture.
So while solo travel is fun and exciting and an elusive idea of “getting away from it all”; it also allows you to get to know yourself better. Once you peel back those layers and work through those feelings – both good and bad – I hope you find a person that you like to spend time with. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how far you travel, how many countries you visit, or how many things you check off your bucket list. What matters is that you love yourself.
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