Life Lessons From The Diary Of A Solo-Traveller

I’ve always kept a journal. Whether entries were for reminders, general thoughts or recommendations, you could say I’ve significantly doodled over notebooks during my travels. You see, I’ve been travelling on-and-off for 8 years. The bulk of that? Solo. It just feels right. Although, I understand solo-travel is not the norm for everyone. When it comes to social media, people express curiosity towards my experiences through questions. The type I needed to ask when I took my first solo trip, back in 2014. Topics along the lines of ‘what is solo travel really like’, or ‘do you feel safe’, or even ‘how do you budget’. At the time, I was winging all aspects of life. Whilst I didn’t have the answers, my journal entries did…

You’ll Ditch The Second-By-Second Travel Guide.

Until you arrive to a location, you’ll have no idea how you’ll feel. Plans will shuffle around, and that’s okay. Heck, you might even ditch the itineraries altogether and choose to eye-ball your trip instead. The bottom line? Expect to become more spontaneous with every location you visit.

Hostels Will Bring You Life-Long Friendships.

If you let them. You need to make the effort. Whilst this may be daunting, most people in a hostel will welcome communication. I mean, that’s what hostels are all about! Meeting other travellers from across the globe will be amongst some of your best stories. Yes, you might miss the glamour of a hotel but you’ll appreciate the human connections. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for their contact details or social media handles.

Say ‘Yes’ Often.

You need to get caught up in the moment. Don’t overthink to the extent you find yourself regretting saying ‘NO’. By all means, be street-savvy. However, just think about how saying a simple ‘YES’ to something can lead to unforgettable memories. When I moved to the US alone, I was so focused on studying. Looking back now, I wish I lived on a day-by-day basis rather than fixating on my future. I wouldn’t say I blew my college experience, but I definitely didn’t take advantage of student life.

Go Minimal.

When it comes to packing, get everything into a backpack. Don’t let luggage be the reason you’re held back. Want to wake up one morning and travel to the next city? Do it, without carrying 3 different bags. This is a direct dig at my former self. I really used to carry hairdryers, a mini iron and multiple shoes for a short trip. Never again.

Oh, And Here Are The Items You’ll Really Need…

The most basic items will shape your solo travels. Trust me. Don’t leave without a pen. Writing directions? Check. Completing paperwork at 1 am? Check. Using as a security doorstop? Check. You’d be surprised how many people don’t have a pen when they need it the most. Next up, we have clear plastic bags. Yes, the ones you can pick up at the airport. The uses are endless. Lastly, a lock. Why? Simply because you’re never certain how secure a situation is, until you’re there.

Strangers Will Help You More Than You Think.

Don’t underestimate the goodness of strangers. I’ll give you a few examples. One time, I was feeling emotional in the middle of Barcelona so sat on a bench to cry it out. A few minutes later, a group of girls came over and explained they were heading to the beach. The girls asked if I wanted to join them, prompting me to forget about my stressful morning. Another example is when I didn’t have exact change to get a bus pass, so an individual behind me offered to get my ticket. These types of interactions restore faith in humanity, no matter how small they are. However, not all strangers will have your best interests at heart. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. When it comes to scams, trust your gut. I’ll add my article on the topic here.

Approach With An Open Mind.

Whilst some cultural differences may surprise you, you’re not there to judge. You’re a visitor in someone’s country. Soak up new atmospheres to the fullest and embrace differences. You’ll gain a richer experience.

You’ll Budget Without Even Thinking About It.

It goes without saying, solo-travel forces you to accept responsibility. For this reason, you’ll start to naturally base decisions around your financial means. One of the easiest ways to budget on solo trips is by dividing money into envelopes. You’re more likely to stay in control with spending when you’ve got a certain amount of cash with you.

Major Realisations Will Take Place.

You might find yourself day-dreaming about your future or sobbing because you don’t know what direction to follow. You might even choose to completely change your current lifestyle. I don’t know why, but travel seems to fuel these thoughts. These realisations come when you least expect. Mine arrived when I recognised I didn’t want to become an attorney, at least not yet. So far I have no regrets on this.

Take Pictures Of Everything.

Oh man. For many memories, I’ve got zero photos. Sure, I still remember certain moments but a visual would help! So ditch the shame and push away the insecurity. Take photos of everything. Your future self will thank you.

This post isn’t suggesting everyone should have the same outlook on travel. Quite the contrary. The featured life-lessons represent the thoughts of one solo-traveller, out of millions. However, this post is here to provide comfort. There’s no magic formula. Many people will relate to the above points, but some won’t. That’s why, if you have any tips for someone new to solo-travel then pop them in the comments below! Sharing is caring, after all. I’d love to hear your reflections!

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  1. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was around eight years old. I document my quotidian life, along with my travels. However, I’ve noticed in the past two years, I only really write in my journal if 1) I’m traveling, or 2) I have major life updates to talk about. I agree with you that I’ve meet some great people in hostels (and Couchsurfing), and I still keep in touch with them to this day! Wishing you safe travels, wherever you go next!

      1. I definitely have! I go back and cringe at how many spelling/grammatical errors I made, and how childish I was (although it’s understandable, because I was a child!). I have an international trip planned later this November, but time (and COVID) will tell if it comes to fruition. Fingers crossed! xx

  2. Love this, totally agree with all of them! Especially taking photos – I went through a phase of not taking many and I totally regret it.

    I’d add a couple of extra things to the must-haves – painkillers, plasters and a portable charger! I’ve definitely handed out more plasters to other people than I’ve used myself, because they never thought to pack any lol.