Initial Thoughts on Traveling Solo

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Initial Thoughts on Traveling Solo

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In just 4 short weeks, I’ll be landing in Bangkok.  Bangkok will be the starting point of a nine month journey around Southeast Asia…all by my lonesome.  This trip marks many milestones for me : my first real trip to Asia, my first solo trip and my first long-term trip.  Talk about lots of emotions going on.

Obviously, I’m beyond pumped for this trip.  Over a year ago is when I started planning it and started A Southern Gypsy.  At that point, 15 months seemed forever away.  And, I’m super impatient.  So, when I say I’m leaving in 25 days now…it’s become a bit surreal to me.

Holy shit.  Is this really happening?

Am I going to get over and freak out and have to come home?  I hope not.

Am I going to get over there and do exactly what I expect of myself – have the best time of my life and hopefully kickstart my dream career?  I think so.

But, anything can happen.  Which is kind of what made me plan this trip in the first place.  Anything can happen, and just about everything has happened in my life.  So life is short.  Life is what you make it.  I’m making my short life fabulous.  (I’m so excited…I’m actually using the word fabulous in a completely serious manner).

To say I’m not terrified would be a lie though.  I am.  But, just because I haven’t said enough cliches in this yet…

Usually the most terrifying things end up having the biggest payoffs.


 

Because this is my first solo trip, I wanted to reach out to some of my friends who have already traveled solo (and survived) to see how they were feeling leading up to their first solo adventure.

Stephanie – The World As I See It

I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever travel solo, but then again there’s been many a things I thought I’d never do and have, just goes to show you ‘never say never’!  But then I read a line in a Paul Theroux book, “I hate to travel alone…But if I am alone I see more clearly.”  Strange, I know, but it got me to thinking could I really see more clearly?  I thought of all the possibilities this could afford me.  With seeing more clearly I’d be opening up all my senses, living truly in the moment and maybe even become a better writer for it.

Though I admit I was anxious, it was quelled by my determination to accept my nerves and not let it cloud my experience before and during my trip.  I turned a deaf ear to rumblings from friends and family on their fears, this was my life and my journey and I had to feed the burning desire to travel and see the world.  I couldn’t wait for someone to be available to come with me, life is too short! I knew that if I was going to see the world I just might have to go it alone.

initial thoughts to traveling solo

Sammi – Wanderlustin’

Solo travel builds your confidence, it’s empowering, it’s freeing… but it’s also terrifying. The first time, at least. Solo travel kind of accidentally fell in my lap, I’d had a long year; my boss insisted I take a week off & go somewhere- anywhere! So I did just that, booked the cheapest flight from my closest airport for a weekend in a city I’d never been to before. It seemed so easy, book a flight, book a hostel, and just go! I was so excited in the short time running up to my trip, I couldn’t wait to see all these new places and meet new people.

It was about a week before that the nerves hit, my stomach tied itself in knots. People kept asking me if hostels were safe, if I thought I’d be safe in Amsterdam travelling alone as woman? I cheated a little, as it turned out an old friend was living in the city & I went out with her in the evenings. During the day tho’ I hopped on and off trams, wandered to different parts of the city, meandered around Vondelpark. Since that trip, I’ve been to countries I’d barely heard of two years ago, it turns out that once you take that first step, it’s not so terrifying, it’s incredible & I am forever hooked…

initial thoughts to traveling solo

Mandie – Rambling Mandie

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the plane on the tarmac that I felt my first real jolt of pre-travel panic. Probably a little late, I started to question what the hell I was doing with a one-way ticket, a backpack, and a loosely-defined goal of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.

True to form, I had very few concrete plans for my trip. I was going to volunteer for my first month, but then it was an open-ended adventure. I was jumping into this long-term solo travel thing without a safety net. I should have been terrified, but strangely all I felt was peace. Maybe there’s a confidence that comes from knowing you’re embarking on a journey that’s about to change your life, even if you have no idea how.

The pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Okay, ladies & gents, let’s go to Ireland.” All the calm I had felt during the months leading up to my trip flooded back into me. This was it. I was taking a step towards the life I’d always dreamed of. “Yeah,” I smiled. “Let’s go to Ireland.”

initial thoughts to traveling solo

SJ – Chasing the Donkey

I am reasonably well traveled. I think the last count was country number 23 and goodness knows how many cities. I spent all of 2010 on the road exploring Europe and have flown on planes big and small. Taken buses, taxis, and booked maybe a hundred of rooms.

What is one thing that I have not done? Gone solo, that’s what. I have always had a partner in crime. And I am freaking out. What I am sacred of? Who will help me with my bags (must learn to pack lighter), who will help me read that foreign street sign? No one, that is who, I will be alone. And while I am not exactly going to be alone at my destination, the thoughts about taking 6 planes and two trains to get there and back are making me anxious….just a little.

intial thoughts solo travel

Adelina – Pack Me To

The worst part of the whole experience before heading out on a solo trip is the waiting. Waiting for departure. Waiting to go. Your mind’s made up. Your bags are packed, you’ve said goodbye and you’re excited to just go, but you haven’t left yet. You’re waiting. And what do you do during that waiting time? You think and freak out. Was I making the right decision? Why am I going somewhere I’ve never been before? What if I’m lonely? So many what if! What kept me going and got me on that plane was knowing that this was right. That I was chasing a dream I’ve had since I was young and I had always wanted to do it. It’s scary, but all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and everything else would sort itself out.

inital thoughts solo travel

Raphael – Journey of Wonders

My first solo trip was back in 2010 and it was from Mexico City to Montreal in order to do a semester abroad. Normally, I didn’t have anywhere to stay since I was lazy enough to avoid booking anything in advance so I ended up in the world’s dirtiest hostel (my first one!). I gotta admit: I was so scared and disgusted that I ended up renting an overpriced apartment the very next day.
What a big difference from today since right now I’m as comfortable sleeping in a 5 star resort than sleeping in a rough cave in the middle of Cappadocia. Travel has truly changed me for the better as soon as I started to follow my own dream at A Journey of Wonders!
initial thoughts on solo travel
What were your thoughts before your first solo trip?  If you’re contemplating a solo trip, what are your questions?
weekendwanderlust


Ashley is the mastermind behind A Southern Gypsy, a travel blog focused on adventure, outdoors and wildlife. After spending five weeks in Southeast Asia, she returned home realizing shorter trips are more her style. Now she is delivering the best of her hometown, Nashville, with plenty of shorter trips in between. Up next | New Orleans + St. Louis Hates mustard & pickles. Needs coffee to function.

35 Comments

  1. Erin of No Ordinary Nomad

    October 10, 2014 at 12:44 AM

    All the best on your solo travels, I bet you’ll have a blast! Southeast Asia is one of my favourite parts of the world to travel in 🙂

  2. Kelly

    October 10, 2014 at 2:24 AM

    What a great idea for a post. I have to say I have always wondered if I would have the “balls” to travel solo. I have done pretty much everything with my boyfriend, but like to think I could do it!! I think you will have an amazing time in South East Asia – I too will be there at the same time! I will be there for 3.5 months! Can’t wait 🙂

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  4. Rachel

    October 10, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    You’ll have a great time! It will be a life-changing experience and I’m sure your nerves will disappear the moment you land in Bangkok.

    Can’t wait to follow your adventures! All the best.

  5. Evanne | Poplar Travels

    October 10, 2014 at 4:07 AM

    I loved reading these! You’re going to meet so many people traveling, it won’t feel solo at all!

  6. Mandie @ RamblingMandie

    October 10, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    So fun to read what was going through everyone’s head before their first big trip. Thanks for featuring me in this, Ashley!! I know your trip is going to be awesome. 🙂

  7. Syd

    October 10, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Awww. You can do it!

    When I was 18, I went to europe by myself with no plans (and no return ticket). People thought I was either crazy or brave. What I actually was was terrified. I spent three first two weeks lying awake at night sobbing over my exboyfriend (we had broken up the day before I left). To be honest, that was probably the most miserable I have ever been. I would have gone home if I could have afforded a plane ticket. But then two weeks passed, I got over it (er, him, lets be real), and had an incredible experience. I never would have been happy with that guy, but I also never would have broken up with him on my own, because I suck at breaking up. Solo travel isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. If something is easy, it’s not going to change your life. So, that might not have been encouraging, but my point is that you can do it, and it went be fun every minute, but it will be worth it.

  8. Carmen @ CarmensTravelTips

    October 10, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Nine months is a long time to be traveling alone, but I’m sure it will be a life changing experience for you. I can’t wait to follow your journey thru Asia.

  9. Katie @WorldWideVegetarian.com

    October 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Ashley,
    YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN!! I took my first solo trip through Europe in 2010, and now I am hooked. I will say, when I first traveled solo, sometimes the loneliness bothered me. As a social 22 year old, it was difficult for me to spend extended quiet time alone, by myself, in a place where people didn’t necessarily even speak my language if I wanted to have a conversation. But after fighting through this for the love of travel, I learned to be more outspoken and make travel companions in hostel around the cities, but I also learned how to enjoy being alone. I learned so much about myself, my interests, and about life in general through hours of travel and solitude that I now crave at least some alone time on a daily basis. Also, traveling alone brings so much freedom! I consider myself to be a great traveler, and don’t need anyone or anything holding me back. I am very spontaneous, and love to change plans on a whim which can be difficult if you have a companion.

    How long will you be in Thailand? I am headed to that side of the world Jan 2015 – indefinitely?

    Katie

    • Ashley Hubbard

      October 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      Katie,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m actually the opposite – tend to be an introvert so I’m hoping I’ll learn how to be more social during my solo travels 🙂 I’ll be in Thailand all of November, but in SEA for about 9 months. We should meet up 🙂

  10. Adelina // Pack Me To

    October 10, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    You’re going to have SUCH a blast. It’ll be hard at times, but so so worth it. Focus on why you’re doing it and everything else will sort it out. The worst thing that can happen is you come home, but there is no shame in that. You still went and did it. I’m really looking forward to following along 🙂 Thanks for including me as well!

  11. Katrina

    October 10, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    I love this compilation of your thoughts and of others! I’ve not taken a full solo trip yet. The closest I’ve come to that was hopping a last minute flight to London and spending a Friday sight-seeing alone until my husband got off work. In some ways I’d love the experience of traveling solo, but I wouldn’t want my husband to miss out on all the sites either!

  12. Stephanie Mayo

    October 10, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Fantastic piece Ashley! I know you’re going to have an epic adventure and regale us with inspiring stories of your travels. Enjoy the nerves! – there the start of more awe-inspiring change in you, changes that will lead you to the amazing woman you want to be!

    Have a wicked ride in Asia girl!

  13. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    October 11, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Getting advice from other solo travelers is such a great idea. I bet you are going to have a great time. I’m actually a little jealous of your ability to travel solo and the freedom that brings. As a mom to 3 kids in elementary, middle and high school, it was nearly impossible for me to get away for 4 days to visit Napa without hubby or the kids. (I stayed with a friend, so it wasn’t actually solo. And she has a kid, too, so it wasn’t even a Ladies Only Trip.) I’m in the midst of planning a trip for the family and the process of weighing the opinions of 5 very different people is a little tiring. I had to cross some things off the list because I was the only one who wanted to go. In former trips, I’ve been known to leave everyone behind and go off on my own side excursion, but it’s only for a few hours. I figure it’s 10 more years until I can realistically consider any sort of long-term solo travel. In other words, you’re at a great stage of life for this adventure.

  14. Brittany @ Paws for Beer

    October 11, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    I travel solo for the most part and although I love it I have had to learn plans change… always 🙂 Sometimes it’s a good change, sometimes a challenging one!

  15. Lauren

    October 11, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    I haven’t traveled solo before, but I don’t mind being by myself when I’m out and about for the day. I would probably travel solo if I didn’t have a travel partner in Justin! Wishing you the best luck for your upcoming trip and can’t wait to read about it.

  16. Katie

    October 11, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    So exciting!!! I had a solo trip to Central America all planned out. Then 4 months before I was supposed to leave I started dating my boyfriend (2 years of being single and of course I met someone right before I was about to peace out!). I was not going to change my trip, I quit my job to travel and cook and be happier! He knew how excited I was for this trip and didn’t want to just come with me because it was MY SOLO TRIP! But things were very serious between us, and we both decided to change our plans and he would join me. We had an amazing time in Central America and decided to continue traveling together. So I went from a plan of traveling alone to traveling and moving abroad with a partner. Thats my solo travel story, lol, sorry it was so long!

  17. Michelle

    October 11, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    I’m a total introvert; traveling with a group sends me into a panic. That being said I was a complete basket case on my first solo adventure. I was 19, and wasnt’ planning to travel solo; it just happened that way. After few days in England’s most boring town, I got up the courage to go to Birmingham, then Liverpool, then over to Wales, then to Ireland, then to Scotland. My two week adventure with the boyfriend turned into a 3 month solo tour of the UK. For a girl from a small town in South Carolina, it was a BIG adventure. It gave me the courage to go on later adventures to Central America, South America, Russia, Eastern Europe in addition to the big cities in Western Europe.
    I think if I would have had time to think about traveling solo, I probably would not have done it. I didn’t have time be scared or get nervous. The boyfriend told me at the airport he couldn’t go so I never had time to reconsider.
    Safe travels on your upcoming trip.

  18. San

    October 12, 2014 at 6:46 AM

    I already travelled alone around Europe and it was a really great time! Somehow here in South America I feel a bit scared by that thought… So thanks for sharing that and making me feel better, haha 🙂

  19. Karen Warren

    October 12, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    I travelled solo a few times when I was younger. I always found it scary but rewarding in the end.

  20. Sammi Wanderlustin'

    October 12, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    What a beautiful post, even if I say so myself! Aren’t we all the travelled?! 🙂

  21. Michela of Rocky Travel Blog

    October 13, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Before starting a solo trip I like to visualize my destinations and go through my itinerary. It’s going going through a black and white movie, mute and wiht no emotions. You never know what’s going to happen. But that’s the best part of solo travel. The freedom and the magic that brings with it.

  22. Elena

    October 14, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I travelled solo for almost 3 years without coming back to Europe and I absolutely loved it! Of course sometimes there will be moments of loneliness but that´s part of the game 🙂 And now I am so used to just being independent that every time I travel with other people a bit longer I feel like losing my freedom and flexibility :)) but of course it is always nice to team up with other travellers or friends and share the experience

  23. Kristen Sarra

    October 14, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    I’m sure all those feelings are natural!! Congrats on having the patience to wait so long for your journey! I’ve been planning for 5 months and still have 24 months to go (I’m hoping to be gone for 2 years). I’m sure I’ll come back and reread this closer to my time and I’ll be feeling all the same things. Have fun!

  24. Cat

    October 15, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Good luck, Ashley! Southeast Asia is amazingly beautiful. I grew up there and I love the tropical weather 🙂 Bangkok can be chaotic at times but it is a lively, exciting city. I miss the sour & spicy food and the cheap Thai massage the most! All the best on your trip <3

  25. Brianna

    October 15, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    Wishing you the best of luck Ashley, I can’t wait to follow your new adventures!

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  27. Adrian of Adrian's Travel Tales

    October 17, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    I’ve been solo traveling for a while and started my blog just over 2 months ago to document my travels to inspire more to do the same. It is such an AMAZING experience and you are going to grow and change a lot, I can’t wait to follow them. SE Asia is my favorite so have fun! I may head there in January so if I do, we’ll definitely meet up!

  28. Sumit Surai

    October 17, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    All the best for your solo travels! Looking forward to read the posts on Southeast Asia.

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  30. Hannah

    October 30, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    If it makes you feel better I have “OMG HOLY SHIT WHAT AM I DOING?!” moments before every solo trip, even 3 years and 22 countries solo later. But once I land at the end destination and get to work to finding where the heck I’m going I remember that this is what I love.
    You’ll have a blast- it won’t all be perfect but later those will become funny stories to tell. So excited to follow you on this adventure <3

  31. Mary Hill

    October 31, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    If I could turn back time, the places I would go. All cliche but this post has me singing and reciting. Thanks for sharing.

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