I’ve always been quite independent. I was an only child until I was 8 years old and often cheerily waved goodbye to my family, flying to both New York and Kenya in my teens on some rather adventurous school trips. Yet in the 25 years I’ve graced the planet with my presence, I’ve never been abroad completely alone.
I’ve always wanted to embark on a solo trip. From Wild to Eat, Pray, Love; the stories of lone wanderers had always enticed me. But I’d felt hesitant. What would I do if something went wrong? Who would I share the memories with upon returning? How would I get those perfect ‘plandid’ Instagram photos?
It wasn’t until I started to take travel blogging seriously that I gave a solo adventure some real thought. With my wanderlust only growing, I began looking at last minute flights on a weekly basis, only to close the app when I realised that I had no one to accompany me at such short notice.
But then an opportunity arose, a short but sweet press trip to Hamburg, a city that was crying out to be photographed. Armed with my new lenses, casual clothes I didn’t care for capturing and a brand emergency whistle, I arrived in a new city where I truly knew no one.
During those 2.5 days of independence, I learned (approximately) 10 things about solo travelling…
1 | You’ll have more to say
I’m not exactly an extrovert. I can come across as shy to strangers, not because I actually am but just because I struggle with the small talk. I don’t want to discuss the weather; I want to know what your most embarrassing moment is.
But that said, after spending a couple of days in my own company, I latched on the chance to chat to a stranger (apart from the weird guy who asked if he could add me on Facebook on a tour bus). From the hotel staff to my catch up with Allyn, I had so much to say about my experience after not talking about it all day. I think my blog posts from Hamburg are probably some of my best because I basically spent the weekend narrating to myself as I was there.
2 | You’ll notice the small things
With no one to bug you about where to go next, you’ll have more awareness of the smaller things going on around you. I became obsessed with people watching; capturing affectionate moments and the life that breathed through the city.
3 | You’ll be forgivingly selfish
It goes without saying that solo travel means you can pretty much do as you please. No waiting around, compromising on restaurants… you can see whatever you like, spend what you like and eat what you like without any complaints. More importantly for me, it gave me a chance to properly practice my photography without being aware of someone waiting for me.
4 | You’ll have more time to explore
Sightseeing alone generally means you’ll do it faster, without waiting for a group photo or someone to look at every painting. I was able to see far more than I thought I could in Hamburg, knowing that I could wizz through the parts that I wasn’t as bothered about and therefore have time to hang around the harbour and scenery with my camera.
5 | You’ll get a real sense of the locals
Sometimes when with others I notice less of what’s going on around me and that includes other people. Being alone in a restaurant, I sat watching fellow diners, and on my tours I took in the human presence as well as the scenery. It gave me a true sense of the local community, a family friendly place, proud of its culture.
6 | You’ll (probably) overcome a fear
Don’t like eating alone? Well now’s the time to face that fear. It’s actually rather lovely, take a book or edit some photos if you need a distraction.
Don’t like heights? Well I’m afraid no one else is going up there to take the photo for you so come on, up you go.
Hate being alone? Okay maybe this isn’t one for you. Or maybe it is... go onnnnn.
7 | You (almost) won’t get holiday blues
Even though my Hamburg weekend zoomed by, I was so happy to come home to Allyn that I didn’t have holiday blues upon returning. Instead I was excited to talk all about my trip and catch up over pizza.
8 | You’ll feel less like a tourist and far more independent
You’re going to be alone, so only you can ask for directions, order your meal and be in charge of your passport. I felt even more free in Hamburg just because I had to do it all myself, like an actual adult. Alongside my new found independent traveller attitude, I found confidence in not feeling like a dumbass tourist who didn’t know what she was doing. I planned out my routes in the secrecy of my hotel room and then off I went. Some may have even mistaken me for a local?!
9 | You’ll learn not to panic
On route to the airport I had a serious wave of panic, what if something went wrong? Who on earth would I turn to in a foreign country? The first thing I realised (after making sure I had every piece of paper I needed) was take a deep breath and gather some self-reassurance.
‘Eppie – it’s Germany, they have everything you could need… including wine (and doctors). There will also be maps.’
During the trip I had mini spouts of ‘oh shit’ but I learnt to just let my wise side overpower it.
10 | You’ll be more inclined to return
During my trip to Hamburg, I had many moments where I would think ‘ooooo Allyn would love this!’ … ‘Here would be such a lovely place to bring my girls!’ etc. Because I experienced it all alone, I felt more inclined to go back with friends or family in tow, showing them the best parts and taking them to the restaurants I’d been dying to try out.
Have you ever travelled solo? What did you learn?
This post was written as a part of the monthly travel linkup. If you have an idea around ’10 things’, just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st - 7th August 2017), add it to the link up widget found on SilverSpoon London, Follow Your Sunshine, Adventures of a London Kiwi or on the blog of our lovely guest host Erin at Erin Out and About from the 1st.