8 Unexpected Things I Learnt About Myself While Traveling Alone

No one was available to come on the trip of my dreams, so I did it myself.

I was going crazy.

Due to job changes and restructures I hadn’t actually been on a holiday in three years. Heck, the most leave I’d taken was a week, and that was spent moving all my worldly possessions to a completely different state. I needed to get away BAD, and soon.

Then I got offered the work trip of my dreams: a trip from my home in Brisbane, Australia to New York City and a chance to write about it sounded too good to be true. The problem was no one else was available to accompany me on such short notice. But why should that stop me? I was a grown woman in my (very) early 30s, I could travel overseas alone, no problem.

Or so I thought.

See, there’s a lot of soul searching that goes on when you’re on the other side of the world, in a totally different timezone from everyone you know and love. I had to rely completely on myself, which meant I learnt some really interesting things about myself…

1. Being alone can be hard… but rewarding

I’m a very social person, so the idea of being alone has always sort of terrified me. All that time to yourself means the little voice in your head usually drowned out by all your friends can get VERY loud. There were times when I was walking down the street at night where I felt so alone I thought the pavement was going to swallow me up. And I couldn’t even call anyone because everyone I knew was asleep on the other side of the world! But going on holiday alone forces you to learn how to REALLY be with yourself. I didn’t have the option of other people’s company, so I had to get used to loving my own pretty quick smart.

2. Long haul flights are more fun alone

I thought surviving a long-haul flight would be torture without someone to help me pass the time, but to be honest it was the most relaxed I’d been in a long time. With all the stresses of work, home and family creeping up on me every day, I needed to just sit and do nothing. And anyway, I had my computer loaded with binge-worthy TV, a sleep mask and I had a personal servant* to bring me snacks whenever I wanted. (*May been a flight attendant and not my servant at all, but it was fun to pretend).

3. People won’t stare if I sit at a restaurant by myself

I’d always thought that sitting alone at a table in a restaurant would cause me to spontaneously combust from the heat of people’s judgemental stares. Turns out, I actually enjoyed it. I began to think of it it as taking myself out for a date. I wined and dined myself so hard, I even offered to pick up the check. I was almost certain I was going to call myself in the morning.

4. I am the type of person who uses a selfie stick

I had sworn off these ridiculous things as soon as they came out, but holidaying solo, sometimes your arm isn’t long enough to take the shot you want. I became shameless in my selfie stick use, whipping it out at every opportunity when I wasn’t in danger of whacking someone with it. However, I did resolve only to use it on holidays. I had to keep some dignity.

5. I can do whatever the heck I want, whenever the heck I want it

This was the greatest thing about my solo trip. No companions means no compromising with anyone else about what to do. Want to lose a day reading in Central Park? Done. Want to have two lunches plus dessert because I missed breakfast? You got it. Want to see a Broadway show every single night and wait around in the freezing cold to get cast autographs? Who’s gonna stop me?

6. I can see a lot more when not arguing about what to see

Think about your last holiday. How much time did you waste trying to plan what you wanted to do? I only found out I was going overseas two weeks before I went, so there was no time to plan. Usually this would mean a whole lot of to-ing and fro-ing trying to decide on what sights to see. Holidaying alone meant no one to argue with about any of that.

7. Not everyone is out to get me

Before I left for New York, my mother put the fear of God into me about walking around by myself late at night along dark streets. At first I was kind of freaked out, strapping money to my body instead of carrying a handbag, only walking during the day and second-guessing everyone. But gradually I learnt it wasn’t so scary. Some of my fave times were walking back to my hotel after seeing a show late at night, just thinking and watching and walking.

8. I need to do this every year

I never thought I would be an alone type of person before going solo overseas, but for the first time in my life, I felt at ease with me. I began to love my own company, and the freedom to be myself. And you wouldn’t believe how much of a time-saver not doing my makeup every morning to impress my fellow travel companion was.

It sounds cheezy, but I felt like I went on a spiritual journey with myself on that trip, and as I boarded the plane to begin the long trek back home, I knew I needed to do it again. I’d gone from being terrified of being alone to basking in the glory of my own company, and I resolved to make the time each year to do it again. My own yearly pilgrimage to find myself.

Images via giphy.com and tumblr.com.

Comment: Do you relate to these experiences of holidaying alone?