When you travel by yourself, the only thing that matters is who you are in each moment. Nobody you encounter knows your story, the parts of your life that create your past and shape who you are now. Nobody knows your mistakes or successes, the things you’re proud of or the things you’d rather forget. You are free to be whoever you are right now, away from the constructs and distractions of home. You are not the car you drive or the things you own, you are just yourself. That’s what I love about solo travel and why I think it’s so incredibly important.
I just finished a 24 day tour of New Zealand with Haka Tours. It was a trip I really needed to do by myself because I had been feeling disconnected from my heart lately. When you’re at home there are a million little (and big) things that take small pieces of your time and attention away from yourself. For me it’s things like remembering to water plants, put on laundry, buy groceries, reply to emails, check on my cat and think about what Matt might need me to do. There are other things too, like paying bills, cooking dinner, running errands and doing all those little tasks that make your life, your life.
But when you show up to the first day of a tour by yourself, none of that matters. Nobody knows if you can cook, they don’t know what you do for a job, if you’re nice or mean, they don’t know your relationship or family history and they have no idea what your likes and dislikes are. They’ve also never seen you get really drunk and do some stuff you regret (yet).
This kind of situation gives you a very rare opportunity to reconnect with yourself in a deep way. For me, having all my home normalities and distractions taken away means I get to hear my inner voice really clearly. I’m not worried about making dinner and feeding the cat, I’m just thinking about what I want to do in each moment. I’m not making decisions for two people and potentially prioritising things over my own needs, I’m just making decisions for me and what I want to see, do and eat at any point.
Solo travel is a chance to be totally and completely selfish, in the best way possible.
The best thing solo travel gives me is a huge reminder than I am not my past. I don’t know about you, but I tend to hold onto the past much more than I should. I re-live old conversations and chastise myself over how I could’ve handled things better. I agonise over past mistakes and wish I could scrub them from my life record. But when I travel by myself I realise none of those things matter at all. The only thing that matters is how I am in each moment.
Nobody I meet knows the intimacies of my private life. They don’t know anything about me unless I tell them. I love that anonymity and the giant reminder that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who you know, what you do for a living, how much money you have etc. You aren’t defined by any of those things. You are exactly who you choose to be, you have total control over your life and the person you are.
I really needed the mental break my tour gave me. Connecting with a group of amazing people helped me remember who I am at heart. It pushed me to step outside my home comfort zone and meet new people, forming friendships I know I’ll have for a long time. It also reminded me I’m very capable of running my life by myself and not depending on others, something that’s really important to me. I can quite often let myself think I’m irresponsible and incapable of being a real adult, but space and time by myself where I’m responsible for every aspect of my day-to-day life reminds me I can do it.
Most of all, the time away reminded me I need to make sure I have a lot of fun in each and every day of my life. While I was away I spent so much time just being silly with my tour mates. We drank too much, too often and laughed a lot and we didn’t feel guilty about slacking off or taking time out at all. We just had fun, with no worries about anything else but each moment.
At home I can often let myself forget to have fun by focusing on my work too seriously, forgetting to connect with my friends and not prioritising fun into my life. That’s something I’m taking away from this trip; to remember to have fun and act my age. There can be so much pressure on people to ‘grow up’ and be responsible and achieve these key life milestones. But, honestly, none of that shit matters. All that matters is how much fun you have in this life, how much you follow your heart and how deep and hard you love everything you do and the people you allow into your life.
Solo travel, in all its infinite wisdom, also gives you perspective on who you are as a person. In the past it’s helped me wrap my mind around relationships and friendships and give me perspective on what I want from my life and career. This trip, I got a lot of perspective on how much I’ve changed as a person from the last time I travelled by myself.
If I think back to the person I was 7 years ago, when I took a solo trip to Europe, the changes are amazing. I quite often think about my past and beat myself up about it, holding present me accountable for things I did when I was in my early 20s. This trip gave me the chance to see how much I’ve grown as a person and I realise the way I behaved back then was okay, because that’s what you do when you’re in your early 20s.
Now, I’m more grown up, mellowed out, confident and a LOT happier with my life and those things really showed in how I noticed myself behaving on the tour. The time away from home forced me to step back and appreciate how much I’ve learned and grown and how grateful I am for those changes in myself. I felt proud of who I am now and the life I’ve created.
Even if you’re in a relationship, I really recommend you find some time to take a solo trip at least once in your life. For me, I want to try and take a solo trip once a year as a way of reconnecting with myself, gaining some new perspective, taking some time out to be selfish, push myself outside my comfort zone and have a big adventure all to myself.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger who believes life should be full of fun and adventure. Phoebe shares practical inspiration to help others enrich their lives through travel. Her fun Vlogs, useful travel guides and beautiful photographs are all aimed at inspiring others to live a life they love and never settle for less.