Solo travel inevitably means a lot of time in your own head, either relishing the opportunity to get to know yourself better, or frustrated and bored with the same thoughts bubbling up on repeat. Solo travel also provides an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and with incredibly different backgrounds, to create fast-paced friendships while engaging solely in activities that make you happy.
I just returned from one of the most incredible trips to Colombia and Panama and over the course of my journey I was repeatedly asked whether I felt safe traveling as a solo female and was told how gutsy it was for me to go abroad alone. Maybe this is another thing that Peace Corps normalized for me. Certainly I traveled solo pre-Peace Corps, but during service I partook in extensive solo travel and lived my day-to-day life solo to the point that I often feel most comfortable alone.
It’s not to say that my journey these past two weeks went off without a hitch, it didn’t. But I think that’s the universe’s way of telling me that I need to handle uncertainty better. I need to be okay with things changing in the last minute and I need to understand that in my ambitious efforts to see and do everything that I may very well miss out on some stuff. When I travel solo I have the opportunity to dive into my experience and consider the implications of what is happening around me and why.
Maybe I should be less impulsive, schedule in more breathing room and relaxation. Maybe I should prepare for greater spontaneity rather than trying to plan things down to the last minute. Maybe. But also maybe there’s just a learning curve to what traveling solo looks like at this point in time. Maybe I need to think about back up plans for when my flight is inevitably delayed. It might mean that despite all the travel I’ve done in the past two years that most of it was either tour-based or in places that I knew very well thus enabling me to be more free and flexible more easily.
What I do know is that on this trip I stepped wildly outside of my comfort zone. I zoomed through Medellin on my first ever motorcycle trip, got stranded outside of a crappy backpackers and ended up making friends with some Bogota natives who rescued me, and I spoke broken Spanish, English, and Portuguese with some Italians I befriended on a Cartagena beach.
I think the thing with solo travel is that you have to be okay with things maybe not being okay. You have to be okay with relying on yourself to figure it out, but you also can’t be afraid to ask for help. And you also have to be okay with spending time in your own head, with getting to know yourself intimately, and with getting to have the trip of your dreams.