I always wondered why anyone would do anything by all by themselves, let alone travel & travel afar !! Whenever I used to see someone at a cafe sipping on their coffee or someone in a restaurant enjoying a meal by themselves, I’d look a bit confused and thought to myself that they either didn’t have a life or they didn’t have anyone for company. It’s only after I started enjoying my own company that I realised how wonderful it actually is than otherwise !! And on that note, I recollect for a long time a good friend of mine always mentioned about solo travelling and how soothing it is. I always doubted and asked her in perplexity as to why would anyone want to do that, at all. Because until this point, I had always ever travelled only with friends and/or family. Any solo ‘travelling’ that I did, used to be work related but even then I would have someone on the other end waiting for me. Whether it was a day or a week I’d be around people I know. Btw in my opinion any work related travel doesn’t even count as ’Travelling’ let alone ’Solo Travelling’.
So anyway, right about this time last year, I had already quit my job, for over 2 months. Quit !! Not a break, not a sabbatical but just Quit !! I was in a dilemma if I wanted to pick another job yet or assess what’s more important in life than the rat race. Mum n Dad were around in New Zealand at the time and we had just finished travelling up and down the country for about a month. And by then I had decided to send them back to India & thought to myself that I should get away somewhere to probably get a breath of fresh air, so I can think about what I could possibly do next, where & how. A friend had just returned from a four week solo Euro Trip and I thought may be I’d do the same and then decided to ! And boy was that the best decision of my life, so far. Within a week of researching and digging around I knew which parts of Europe I was heading to and what I needed to be doing. Believe me, when you don’t have a full time job you feel like you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. And that’s the best feeling ever.
I had taken longer times off in the past with a number 4-5 weeks off work; the most being about 8 weeks in 2015 to spend time in the USA with family as well as travel around a bit. And another one for 6 weeks in 2017, back again in the USA with more travelling this time and more catch ups with family and friends. But in both these situations I knew my ‘job’ was waiting for me when I finish and that my holiday, rather than travels, would end after a certain date; within no time it would become a distant memory. In this case (solo trip) however, I didn’t return back to work for 8 months that year and never wanted to either. It’s such a surreal feeling when you don’t know where you are going, how long you are there for and when you are heading back home. Because when you don’t have a job to come back to, you don’t have to worry about a return date do you 🙂
Given how meticulously detailed & planned my travels have always been in the past, this one was exactly the opposite. The only confirmed ticket I had before I flew out of New Zealand was a one way flight ticket to London from Bangalore. And another flight ticket from Amsterdam to Athens, which was mainly because my Dad was joining me in Greece, for a roadtrip across the Balkans (I’ll write a separate blog post about it sometime). And that’s it. Apart from these two tickets I had nothing else booked. Oh yes I was a part of a travelling group in a couple of places, which had set dates and times but between the group travels I was all by myself and had no plan, until about a day before.
I remember one day when I was just sitting by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, a friend of mine, from my school days, reached out to me after seeing my posts on Facebook and asked if we could meet. I hadn’t met him in nearly 12 years, so I immediately agreed to detour to Brussels, which was not even on my list at that stage. All I had to do was “plan” to spend a day lesser in Prague and book an overnight bus to Brussels just so we could catch up. After reaching & having lunch together in Brussels, my friend’s 7 year old agreed to take me on a day trip to Bruges, on the train. And on our train ride back, I became ‘good friends’ with another traveller of different sorts who was an air hostess from Fiji and we are still connected to this day. The entire experience was just amazing !!
There was another instance, when I was on a bus from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Budapest Hungary where I met a girl from Bangalore who was travelling solo ! And she had just travelled alone within Europe for 3 months. I mean in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Europe who’d expect to meet anyone from the same city as you are. We ended up having a beer and goulash together & she had to leave that very evening to Madrid. Similarly I met a Kiwi dude on the bus while in Bratislava, Slovakia ! He had taken time off from his friend’s wedding in the UK and decided to get away for 2 weeks without a plan. We had so much to talk about, that a lunch over Bryndzové halušky wasn’t enough. A few years ago, I remember the Stratosphere experience in Las Vegas where I met an Australian on the ride who was on it by himself, just like me and we both connected straight away, despite being only on two rides together.
Where am I getting to with all these examples?
Well actually no where. It’s just that when you are travelling alone, you tend to make friends with ease, either because of the situation or out of necessity or simply out of boredom. And when the geography is such that you don’t speak any local languages, any ‘foreigner’ will easily become your friend. Of course all of this, only if you as a person want to get out of your comfort zone to talk to random strangers without scaring them off. I’ve always been a social person and it wasn’t hard at all in any way. In fact I was in a cocoon for a few years and to let myself out like that couldn’t have come at a better time.
Most of us leave the travelling until we are at a later stage in life, running all the life’s races until then. I was the same too; contemplating on ‘to or not to’ and I can honestly say hands down it’s the best thing I’ve ever done all my life !! It was my first long getaway & doing it solo, couldn’t have made it any better. During my travels I made a lot of friends and I met 100s of other amazing travellers who had so many interesting stories to tell, some happy ones some sad; some of them had been travelling for upto 12 months while others only for a few weeks. Meeting so many different people from different countries with such diverse backgrounds and hearing each ones’ stories made it all feel how very little I have achieved and how whatever problems I may have in life is so very minuscule compared to some of their’s. Anyway with my 4 months of travelling across Europe, before I knew it I had visited 30 different countries along the way –
UK, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Vatican City, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzagovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Russia, UAE & Hong Kong.
Today I’m a total advocate of Solo Travelling. And I know I’ve been partially responsible for at least two of my friends heading away on their first solo travels. If you haven’t done it, you definitely should do it !! Whether you are single, married, have kids, have commitments etc etc irrespective of your situation it’s definitely something you should do at least once in your life, be it a few days, few weeks, few months or years, however long or short you must. It teaches you so many things and you discover so much about yourself, that no matter how much I describe it in words you won’t know it until you experience it first hand. I’m already looking forward to a few of my travels coming up and I shall definitely write about them.
So there you go, time to pack your bags and get going somewhere, anywhere !! And when you’ve completed your first solo trip, you’ll probably think about this post and you’ll know why you did it 🙂
Meanwhile here’s a glimpse of where I went and what I saw during the trip !
Click HERE for a full gallery