When I set off on my travels at the end of 2016 I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
A trip that had been months in the making with a close friend suddenly went to shit and a team of two became just a one. Having invested so much time, energy and money already I made the decision not to call off the trip. Two weeks later I set off out in to the big bad world travelling alone and to say I was anxious would be an understatement.
It was one of the most hectic periods of my life.
Within the space of a weekend I’d moved out of my flat, handed in my master’s dissertation and then to top off I was catching a plane to Bangkok.
As I get older I’ve begun to realise that things always have a way of working out the way they’re supposed to. Worrying or stressing about them won’t change the outcome. Of course, I’m still human so, yes, the occasional freak out has and will continue to happen!
After nearly two years of travelling alone, I feel I’ve learned SO much. But as we all have lives to be getting on with I’ve condensed them down into my top five lessons. I hope you get as much value from them as I did.
Plans will go to shit
I’m an organiser. I love a good old itinerary. I’m the type of girl who will pre-read the menu on the way to a restaurant so that when I get there I’ve already narrowed it down to a top 3 dishes and maybe a wildcard if I’m feeling frisky.
When I’m travelling all of that goes out the window.
Yes, because it’s very difficult to find the menu of a street food stand online, but also because I truly believe that one of most the beautiful things about travelling is throwing caution to the wind.
There are so many different ways to travel; with friends, alone, package tour – I’ve done and enjoyed them all. But some of the best memories for me have been when things haven’t quite gone to plan. Whether it’s missing my flight to Australia due to the Thai lantern festival or spending NYE in a hostel basement in Amsterdam.
Organise the essentials in advance
That being said there are some things you need to have organised. Flights, passport, and money being the obvious. However, some things, at least for me anyway, are not as easy to remember.
I was about a week away from leaving when I realised I hadn’t had any vaccinations. Despite the fact most travel injections are free on the NHS, because I had left it so late I couldn’t get an appointment and had to pay for a private travel medical.
I also ended up buying my travel insurance the morning of my flight. Neither of these things required a lot of time or effort on my part, but both were pretty damn important and to think I could have forgotten them entirely has made me ridiculously organised going forward. I also always make sure I have a copy of my passport and travel insurance on my emails.
Rest is important
When you’re exploring a new place you there’s a tendency to be go go go all the time. You don’t want to miss anything because you know there’s a chance you might never come back and might never get the chance to experience the opportunities you’re given again.
I’m a huge advocate of getting out and about and exploring, but I’m also a big advocate of rest (adults need naps too!)
There will be times you just don’t feel up to it whether it’s because you’re tired or homesick or genuinely ill. Yes, sometimes you just need to force yourself through it with distractions, but burnout is a real thing and travelling can really take it out of you if you’re not mindful of how your body and your head are feeling.
It’s okay to say no
I’ve always found that even when I’m travelling alone I’ve rarely ever been completely on my own. When I first started travelling I felt a lot of pressure to drink alcohol because that’s what everyone was doing and to be fair bonding over a beer bong or a flaming limbo is a great way to meet someone. Mentally though constantly drinking heightens my anxiety and I get the worst hangovers.
Same goes for hiking. Anything within the region of two hours, I’m fine, any longer I feel trapped and start planning exit routes and Googling statistics of mountain deaths. I’ve learned there’s a balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and tempting a nervous breakdown. Do. What. Feels. Best. For. You. *clapping hand emojis*
One of the best things about travelling alone is that you are completely in charge of your own trip. You can change it up or come home at any moment should you choose to.
Spend more time in fewer places
I saved this ‘til last but it is arguably one of the most important and I cannot stress this enough.
When I first started laying the foundations for my trip although nothing was set in stone in my mind I had planned 2 weeks for Thailand, 2 weeks in Cambodia and 2 weeks in Vietnam.
On paper it sounded great. When it came down to it I spent a month in Thailand and 2 weeks in Vietnam, then ended up going back to Vietnam for 2 weeks a year later because I didn’t feel like I’d spent enough time there.
Coming from the UK it was so hard for me to conceptualise the sheer enormity and size of the places I was travelling to. Not only that, but you have no idea what the transport systems are going to be like.
I came to realise that the less time you give yourself to spend somewhere you really are shitting on your own experience so to speak. It is 100x better to save something for another trip than to rush around and not get to take in the scenery or the culture.
I hope you guys gained some value from these lessons or enjoyed laughing at my mistakes – hey we’ve all been there – sometimes it’s fun to delight in others misfortunes I’m not judging!
What about you guys? Do you have any tips you would add? What travel topics would you like to learn more about?
Let me know in the comments!