Fun Fact: I’m scared of literally all pets! No, the cutest little puppy also freaks me out big time and so does that harmless house lizard. Darkness still scares me and heights freak me out. I can only swim enough to save my life and I still dont have the courage to jump into a pool, even though I’ve been pushed into it a couple of times. The fear just does not go! Now that I read this again, I can, quite embarrassingly, fit myself into the adjective of a ‘chicken’. “Don’t be a chicken” does not apply to me, because I have all phobias you can possibly think of. Oh and did I miss out, my bucket list does NOT include sky-diving! Sweet Jesus, save me the horror of jumping from the plane when I cannot jump into a pool!
When I told people I travel solo, they’d associate me with the word ‘courageous’. Me, and courageous? Do you really think so, after you’ve read the above description?
For me, travelling alone did mean to do things which scare you. Moreover, below are the reasons which made me travel solo, and I think you should too.
Getting out of my comfort zone
My first night ever ever ever alone was in Amsterdam. I was too finicky about staying in this particular hostel no matter what dorm I get, I just HAD TO live here because it was in the best possible location. Oh, as luck had it, I got a bed in the 32-bed dorm, RIGHT NEXT TO THE DOOR. Which also means, when I’m sleeping and say hypothetically only one person opens the door for just one trip, that’s me hearing the door a minimum of 64 times! This was my first night ever, alone, in a different country I don’t know about. How was I supposed to even feel safe? (Thank you for that, Indian culture, you have taught us to feel unsafe even in the safest times -_-). Okay, it wasn’t bad at all and I slept like a baby the next two nights after spending my entire first night in anxiety. Now, did I imagine to be that comfortable and settled on my first night? No way!
I went to Prague with a childhood friend and we had an absolute blast. Comparing this trip to the others, I could compare how confined I was to a few things and how comfortable I was because I had her around. The comparison being, when I am on my own I am more alert to things and more open to people and experiences (for e.g. talking to strangers at breakfast, hanging out with random groups during the day, long meaningful coffee conversations with a person coming from a country you cannot point on the map), however, my comfort confined me to her and ‘us’. It’s about what we do, how we plan our day, and of course its fun but I’m speaking in terms of contrasting the two.
Getting lost, and finding my way back
City: Berlin; Time: Midnight
I was living in England this time and England, similar to India, has the driver on the right side and the same lane-system on the road. Now Berlin, was the opposite (like the USA). Berlin was my first destination of my 18-day-long solo trip and I thought I knew it all with all the transport passes and knowing what to take where. I get out of dinner, enter a bus, and realise I’m going all the way in the opposite direction! The bus didn’t stop for a good 15-20 minutes and at midnight at probably three degree celsius, I reach the Central Station. Now I wasn’t in the station but on the main road which was isolated, with my hands frozen when I take off my gloves to use maps. I walked around to find the next bus or whatever I could to go back, and ultimately paid about EUR20 (Rs.1,625 approx) to Uber my way back.
City: Budapest; Time: about 8pm
For personal security, I try to be at my hostel when it gets dark and go out in the evening with a group of hostellers. Now this day, I could see my phone battery drop down because of constantly pairing my phone via bluetooth to my tripod and clicking my own pictures, and again, my condescending head thought I’d be able to make it home effortlessly. You guessed it right, my phone died and I lost my way home. Stopped at cafes to charge my phone and walked back in the dark, cold, and not-so-populated streets (I’d use the word isolated but I don’t want to make this experience sound more scary than it is).
Getting to know myself better
In the moments that you’re alone, sipping your coffee in a cafe or spending time in the Jewish museum getting a better insight on the holocaust- you don’t just learn about what you see but about yourself. I never knew I can push myself enough to make this happen, I didn’t know I can stand my own company entirely for so long and be perfectly alright, I didn’t know how much I like 3-hour walking tours or how comfortable my selective-social self feels partying with 50 random hostel people. I didn’t even like museums, until I started travelling! And now, museums are my me-time during trips, something I prefer to do entirely on my own. I never even knew I can walk 20 kilometres and eat 7 hours later because I forgot about food and time when I was exploring!
Learning about places the local way
Hanging out with a local Berlin-er to see the streets where the locals go, siting down with a local Parisian and picnicking between other French locals while we munch on cheese flavoured chips with French goat-cheese next to the La Seine river and oh and did I miss out, sipping on wine. This is as local as it gets, because personally, I like being as non-touristy as I can ‘feel’ the city when I see it from a local’s eyes and experience it the local way. This is something you can do only alone as when you’re on your own you are more open to these experiences without anybody influencing you in anyway. I would rather be a Parisian in Paris and enjoy this than sit in an Eiffel-facing restaurent, and be a Hungarian in Budapest while I find my way to tiny streets to get local coffee.
Go out there, learn about yourself and all that surrounds you- and you’d be flabbergasted at how big the world is and how much there is to learn and take in. It’s a playground waiting for you, and there’s nothing to be afraid of! 🙂