Today I went out for lunch. A seemingly normal thing to do I know. The café was busy, and an elderly lady asked if anyone was joining my table. I said no and that she was more than welcome to sit there. She returned with her husband and we had a friendly conversation. But, it all began with her saying this:
“Oh, you’re travelling on your own? That’s sad, I’m sorry”
There’s no need to be sorry and its not sad. What is sad is that you think it’s sad. I’m sorry that you can’t understand that I would rather travel solo than not travel at all. You asked me if it was safe for a young girl to travel on her own. Yes, it is, if you keep your wits about you just as you would if you were travelling with friends then it is safe.
This wasn’t going to be the next blog post I was going to write and hit publish on. I had already started writing a different one when instead I decided to write this. It seems I need to explain why on earth I would choose to travel by myself. Why I decided to fly to the other side of the world on my own without planning more than my first 4 nights in the country.
This one was sort of easy, as soon as I returned from my year working in the USA I knew I wanted to go away again. New Zealand had been on my agenda for a while, it seemed to be such a picturesque place; mountains, waterfalls and beautiful beaches. To add to that, my best friend Rachel studied in Auckland, New Zealand last year when I was finishing my last ever semester of university. So, the wanderlust to travel to New Zealand only grew stronger with every picture that she posted on Instagram.
With the destination chosen all that was left to do was save up enough money to go. I worked hard over the summer, did my fair bit of overtime to save up money for flights and spending money whilst out there.
I seem to be at a different stage in my life than most of my friends. I’m single, don’t have any real commitments and have a much stronger desire to travel than most people I know. 2 weeks holiday in 1 year is just not enough for me. I need my whole life to be a holiday. By this point, I knew I would be travelling on my own, but I was okay with that. I decided to leave in the new year, so I could enjoy Christmas with my family. Of course, I love and miss my parents, but they also love me enough to know that this is something I needed to do.
What to Expect from Friends and Family:
Before you leave you will likely get a lot of questions along the lines of:
“So, you’re going alone?”
“Won’t you be lonely?”
“Are you scared/ nervous?”
“You don’t know anyone?”
Just remember that they all mean well. I personally didn’t feel nervous about travelling solo until I was asked the very question. It made me feel like there was something I should feel nervous about and I found the whole thing unsettling. Solo travel isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. But it can mean that some people have more questions about it to try and understand why you are doing it. The answer is yes, I probably would prefer to travel with friends (hurry up and graduate from university Rachel!). But, travelling on my own is certainly better than not travelling at all.
I have now been travelling solo in New Zealand for 4 weeks. I have skydived in the Bay of Islands, bungy jumped in Taupo, hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, attended Napier’s annual Art Deco Festival and seen many more beautiful mountains, lakes and beaches.
Dealing with Feelings of Loneliness:
I haven’t felt lonely for a while now, I’ve been having too much fun. These feelings mostly creep in when I first arrive in a new place, am still dealing with jet lag or when I’m in a place where I am surrounded by other couples. That last one seems to be the worst. I’ve found the best thing to do is to just get out and start exploring. Remember the reason you chose to travel solo in the first place. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Embrace that and go and see the beautiful place that you have travelled to. I also find watching the sunset to be quite therapeutic. Wherever in the world you are watching from, knowing your loved ones are watching too is always a nice feeling.
Overall, I enjoy travelling on my own. Possibly the worst thing is not getting too many pictures with you actually in them. But, that problem is easily solved with the small tripod gifted to me by my dad before I left (after initially forgetting I had it). I have now started using it and can photograph to my hearts content. Staying at hostels is a great way to meet people, but sometimes I also stay at Airbnb’s for a homelier stay for just a slightly higher price.
Maybe this has helped a few people to understand why I travel solo or even helped someone else to go for it too. I know I will continue to meet people like I did today that can’t understand why you would ever want to travel on your own. But as long as I continue to enjoy travelling like this then you can be sure I won’t be returning home for a while – sorry mum sorry dad.