For someone like me, who prides herself with being the “world’s greatest world traveler” (actually these are the words of my friend Bex), light packing is surprisingly a skill still missing from the list.
I have packed backpacks and suitcases hundreds of times before, but I just never seem to learn!
So today after struggling with carrying luggage from my place to Stella’s, whose place I am staying at tonight, I realised that something needed to be done. No chance I could carry this amount going up and down planes/buses/trains/taxis/whatever means of transport that I would be using over the next few weeks :-(
Action is required. Now!
What’s the first thing that can go? Mmm do I really need that heavy travel photography handbook? Yes. But…isn’t there an e-version available? Yes! £10 for the Kindle version, which also means I have to download a Kindle-for-PC converter and sort out some version incompatibility. But now it’s done, and I am a bit lighter (even in my wallet, but better than a broken back). Yay!
What’s next? I need help! Stella!!!! And here’s the two of us sitting on the living room floor with all my suitcase content spread everywhere, lifting one item at a time. “Are you really really gonna need this?” she asks. Yes. Ok, maybe. Not. You win.
Repeat that for half an hour in the same sequence, and here I am 2.5Kg lighter. Mission accomplished!!!
Will I do it better next time? Sadly, probably not.
The look on the lady’s face said it all. She kept staring at me, then at my suitcase (yes, suitcase, easier than backpacks these days…), then back at me. And then she added “Who are you going to talk to, if you travel on your own?”.
At that point I couldn’t help laughing. “You are soooo last century, even the century before last” I wanted to comment back. But I just laughed. Then I launched myself in an enthusiastic description of the advantages of solo travel, only to leave her even more baffled. When the bus finally arrived to the train station, on the way to the airport, she wished me all the best while shaking her head and walked away.
It was not the first time that I had to explain why I often travel on my own. Family and friends have asked that more than once. Like I am some sort of oddity :-S. Yet there are thousands of people out there who travel on their own every year – they must be all surrounded by a similar level of surprise/disbelief. If they are not, I’d like to meet their friends and families!
Anyway, back to the main point. Why do I travel on my own? And what are the perks of travelling solo?
Well, it’s great! And it’s freedom!
Yes it can be scary because it takes you out of your comfort zone. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m always apprehensive before travelling solo. But also you realise – trip after trip – how much stronger you have become.
Every decision you make is yours, and yours only. From deciding where to go and when, to the proper planning to the actual travelling, and everything that happens along the way. This is so empowering!
You have to fight battles on your own, and usually in a foreign country with very different habits and customs. It makes you a lot stronger. And if you think you can’t do it, get that thought out of your mind! Now! If I can do it, you can do it too.
People are often more inclined to help you or show you around when you are alone.
I will never forget “Thai mama”, the lady who ran the guesthouse where I stayed in Koh Lanta (Thailand), who took me with her every time she went to the market or to the other side of the island. Without her, I would have missed out on a lot of amazing places and experiences.
Not to mention the bus driver in northern Sweden who gave me a free lift from the airport to my hostel while he was on his way to the depot, as the next scheduled bus was three hours away (my uttermost gratitude to you, man!).
Also let’s not forget about all the new friends you can make along the way! Travelling on your own is the most socialising experience ever :-). You start talking to someone asking for information, or just general chit chat while killing time at the airport/bus station/train station/hostel, and then next you find yourselves travelling together for the following days or weeks. Suddenly you are not on your own anymore, and a friendship for life is born :-).
And if you are lucky you may even have a blog article written about you by your new travel companion (click here for mine. You’ll have to scroll down half page).
Of course travelling solo has downsides too.
But I will leave that for another post.