The Truth About Your First Solo Trip
Solo travel is meant to be wonderful! You’ve read blogs, talked to solo travelers, and everyone says it’s the #1 way to travel. That may be well and good, but I want to share a truth about solo travel you likely haven’t read about. I want you to be prepared for your first solo trip.
Alright. So I’m only a week in, I’m not exactly qualified to write about solo travel. However! What I am qualified to write about is those first few days.
Shocked? I know I was. No one told me how miserable I’d be! No one told me I’d just want to curl into the fetal position and cry. No one told me my appetite would be so minuscule for so long. No one told me that even visiting a country I’ve dreamed about for months wouldn’t make me happy.
No one told me.
So I’m telling you. This bitter part of your first solo tripisn’t talked about much. At least, in all my blog reading, I never came across anything telling me the downsides. They made it seem great. They made it seem like solo travel was the best form of travel in the world. So I’m here to lay it for you straight and simple. Those first few days, perhaps even the first week, (maybe more!) won’t be pretty. Unless you’re lucky, you’ll feel lost, utterly alone (even if you are with others), insecure, emotional, and even unwell.
But fear not! That phase passes. As I sit here writing, I haven’t cried in 4 days (out of 6). Yes, I miss my husband more than the sun (that I also craved as it was nothing but rain my first few days). And I believe that to be the hardest part for me. This is my first time being alone in general, let alone navigating a new country alone.
This is a plus for you, if you intend to travel as a single person. But if you’re married, prepare yourself. You’ll think you can handle the break, but when all the other pressures and challenges weigh on you, when your daily routine is obliterated, even being apart from them one day feels like an eternity. Yet the upside to this is that you’re reminded just how much you love your significant other. You learn you took them for granted when they were always there. You let little things irritate you when suddenly you’d give anything to put the lid on the peanut butter! This is a huge pro in the end, to traveling solo when you’re part of a pair. It reminds both parties just how much they love each other.
Back on topic. While I still miss my husband so much it hurts, it doesn’t consume my every waking thought. I think of him and smile instead of cry. I’m going out, I’m taking each step head on, I’m calm. My appetite is getting better every day. And my desire to explore grows as well. I no longer feel like a fool for coming. Now this drastic change over only 5 days is quite remarkable to me. I figured it would take at least a week, if I ever recovered. Granted, I’m not 100% as I’m still scared, nervous, and feel lonely. Those however, I don’t think ever truly go away. So I’ll take this…maybe 80%. I’ll take it.
So the moral to the story: it will suck in the beginning. Or it may suck in the middle when the excitement has worn off. But it will get better. Your entire first solo trip won’t suck. Of this I can nearly promise.
Some things to remember and brace yourself for:
Jet Lag is a bitch
It can mess with your sleep, your appetite, and subsequently your emotions. God damn can the lack of food and sleep fuck with you. There are plenty of tips to help with jet-lag. But even doing them all doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid it. So the main thing is to prepare yourself and know jet-lag is a fucker. Sometimes it’s nice knowing why you feel the way you do, even if you can’t fix it.
It helps to be around people
Your first solo trip will be a shock. Especially if you’re used to being around family/friends/significant other/even pets. Because suddenly you’re alone. For many, myself included, this may be for the first time ever. This means either meeting up/staying with locals, joining other solo travelers on the road for an activity, or just hitting up a bar. I’m staying with locals and in the beginning, it wasn’t enough. Being lonely doesn’t mean you’re alone. I felt lonely even surrounded by people. But being with people will help you progress faster. So keep at it.
Sleep & water are your friends
If you’re anything like me, your appetite may be messed up from nerves or jet-lag. So the important thing is to drink lots of water and get lots of rest so you’re balanced as soon as possible. My sleep schedule was wonky as hell, and still is. But I’m certain sleeping at a normal hour and drinking water helped me recover faster. Take care of your body and it will take care of you, as they say!
Find pieces of home
I thought I’d be done with American food/places when I came abroad for my first solo trip. How ambitious, right? I thought I’d only have local food, go where the locals went, etc. You might think the same. Who the hell buys McDonalds in China? But few things made me feel as better as a small french fry (from Mos Burger), wandering around a Costco with my host, and watching an episode of Friends. These things can, if only for a moment, pull you away from the challenging cultural differences and present you with a small familiar comfort. They ground you and are a welcome reprieve. This has become my #1 step. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, I look for a piece of home to ground me.
Join a travel group on Facebook or Reddit
This was where I posted my plea for advice and motivation when I was an emotional mess. The onslaught of support and encouragement made me want to cry all over again. Some of the tips I’ve shared are ones shared by these amazing travelers. So join a community where you can talk all things travel, get advice, and even encouragement when you need it. It will be an invaluable source of support.
Give it time
Not exactly rocket science, but it’s true. Hang in there and you’ll notice each day is better than the last. The jet-lag wears off, the initial shock of your decision wears off, etc. Time fixes these things. If you’ve done the other steps, the last thing is just to give it time. It’s okay to cry, to stay inside until you feel ready, to eat only places from home for a couple days, to ease into the culture instead of jumping in the deep end. It’s your very first solo trip! You do whatever makes you feel better for as long as you need. Eventually you’ll be okay on your own.
Again, seeing as I’m still in the thick of things here, I can’t offer much more advice or experience. But I did want to hop on and share the information that no one shared with me. Prepare yourself. And as someone that thought she’d made a huge mistake and it would never get better, I’m here to tell you I didn’t and it is.
Balance your expectations, anticipate the first few days being less than ideal or totally horrible, and know that it will get better. Happy travels!
What are your fears about solo traveling or your first solo trip? Solo travelers, did you experience the same? What other tips can you share?