What I learned from traveling alone

I learned that I could do it.

Despite tears, fears, and a huge case of nerves, I traveled alone — to a country where I am not fluent in the language (Spain) — to a community I don’t know (Torre de la Horadada) — to meet with a woman whom I’ve admired for years (Amanda Dee of bemoreyogic.com, owner of Sun Salute Studio)…. And it all worked out.

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Above: My first international FemFusion workshop at Sun Salute Studio in Torre de la Horadada, Alicante… Hopefully the first of many!

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An afternoon glass of chilled white on the terrace…

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Even clouds and high winds didn’t dampen my love for Spain…

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Although I have to admit, I like the sunshine better.

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I really hate selfies. But when you’re traveling solo, you’ve gotta do it.

What else did I learn from traveling alone?

  • Expect the unexpected, and then (try to) roll with it when it happens. I experienced:
    • A last-minute flight cancellation that forced me to purchase new tickets on a different airline, from a different airport, at three times the cost…
    • A missed bus requiring me to pay 75 euro (approx $80) cab fare… (Dear Lord!)
    • Inadvertently booking a SHARED apartment… Oops! What a surprise! My flat-mate was a single male my age, so of course I was mortified that I’d only packed a skimpy negligee and our bathroom was shared. Don’t worry, it all worked out with my modesty intact. My “roomie” turned out to be absolutely fantastic… And rarely there!
  • Speaking of strangers, being alone allows you to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to start conversations! It’s surprisingly easy. You never know who you’ll meet when you’re not in your own little bubble with a travel companion.
  • That said, trust your intuition when choosing which strangers to talk to. Trust your intuition, trust your intuition, trust your intuition. In all cases, regarding all situations, people, places, and things, trust your gut. (Is that clear?)
  • Remember this: It will all work out. Even when you’re stressed to the max, hunched over under the airplane’s cabin bins waiting for the aisle passengers to let you out, worried that you’re going to miss your connecting flight… Hoping that other stressed passengers won’t rush by without noticing you… It’ll happen. Someone will allow you through. People are actually pretty decent.
  • Get a map. Have your cell phone. Triple check that you have everything. And if you triple-check your triple-check, you’re not weird.
  • Take pictures, not just for the memories, but to track where you’ve been. Take photos of street corners/signs, landmarks, etc. This is a point of safety and practicality! You can always show a photo of your street corner to a cab driver if you get lost. There are no language barriers when it comes to pictures.
  • As FemFusion friend Alice says, traveling alone forces you to use all of your senses. This is so true. Everything is heightened when you have to rely on YOU — and you alone — to get around, find your way, stay safe, and to get places on time.
  • Watch where you’re going. Without a compadre to help look out for you, it’s really easy to step in dog-poo while rushing across the street to get the “perfect” photo. Yes, I did that. In flip-flops.
  • Oh, flip-flops. Don’t just bring flip-flops!!! Pack walking shoes, even if they’re not cute.
  • About packing: Don’t bank on the weather forecast. It doesn’t mean a blessed thing. The forecast for my trip was 71 (F) and sunny… So I packed accordingly. I was actually proud of how light I packed! Swimsuits, a few workout capris, and some tanks and tees. I wore my sweatshirt and a light jacket on the airplane, thinking “I’ll never need these.” How wrong I was! Although it was sunny one (out of five) days, I’m quite certain the temperature never got above 65 (F) and most of the time it was windy, cloudy, and hinting at rain. I wore the same darn sweatshirt, jacket, and jeggings every single day, along with anything else I could pile onto my body. I looked like a bag-woman! In flip-flops!
  • Always be prepared is the boy scout motto, and mine as well. Always be prepared with water, a snack, and a bar of dark chocolate for choc-o-clock.
  • The beauty of traveling solo is that you can do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want to do it. I spent 25 minutes lolling in my bed every morning, listening to Louise Hay’s morning meditation. One lazy evening I spent 4 hours watching the Food Network. Simple pleasures that a travel companion may not enjoy… But I sure did!
  • Stop whenever you want, as often as you want, to do what you want. Take photos and make memories of even the most ridiculous of things; things that might only mean something to you. For example, I took the snapshot (below) simply for the symbolism. When I sat down on a bench to rest my blistered feet (the damn flip-flops), I glanced at a nearby palm tree and saw plastic flapping in the wind. I thought, “Gross. What a shame that people have to litter. How awful.” But then I looked closer… The plastic was actually wrapped around an old bouquet of roses, sun-dried and wind-worn. They’d been tied to the tree as a symbol of love, probably left by some young Romeo to woo his Juliet. How beautiful!

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The trash-cum-roses reminded me that although several things had gone wrong on my trip, there was still so much beauty and wonder to be had. There was good underneath any (superficial) appearance of misfortune. These withered roses were yet another reminder to reserve judgment and condemnation, and to be open to all of the GOOD the world has to offer.

Traveling alone is a gift that opens your eyes and your senses to all sorts of amazing discoveries.

It doesn’t have to be to Spain… It doesn’t have to be international, it doesn’t need to be for weeks or days on-end. It could be to the nearest city, and it could be just for a few hours! But every woman should take the risk to be a wanderer, and an adventurer, and to see what you’re made of. I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself!

follow your heart

8 Comments

  • April 16, 2015

    jan

    lovely article and some great travel tips to boot!

  • April 16, 2015

    Alice

    isnt it amazing about the senses? Scary and wonderful in one.even food tastes solo and some memories linger longer. Still I like to travel with a buddy too. Looking for some one to join me on a Europe or any place trip. That’s after my Alaska trip.
    Happy you had such a great experience.
    Btw I love Spain too.
    Ales Liebe Alice

  • April 16, 2015

    Brianne

    Jan and Alice – thank you! Alice, you’re always welcome to visit me in Germany… 😉

  • April 16, 2015

    Alice

    Thank you. Great tips in this article. Do you have any for me? I will travel any place in the world but today I go to a new address just 10 miles away and I’m already scared.
    Oh yea. Deeeeep breath. Alice

    • April 16, 2015

      Brianne

      Oh Alice… Just know that if you can go anywhere in the world without fear (which I know you can), you can do ANYTHING. You’ve got this! Deep breath, let it go.

      “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

  • April 21, 2015

    Vickie Johnson

    I loooove this article.
    At the age of 27 I decided to resign from a physically draining, but mind-numbingly boring job that I had had for 8 years and travel.
    So with just over £5000. savings, I went on a years working holiday visa to AUSTRALIA all by myself. I was pretty scared, but out of pure stubborness and a real need to get away from everything, I DID IT.
    I had booked accommodation for 2 weeks then no plans at all.
    I travelled to breathtakingly beautiful places and met some amazing new friends.

    Was the best decision I’d ever made.
    I managed to extend my visa for a second year, met my gorgeous boyfriend, we now have 3 year old twin boys.
    Life is pretty good ( well apart from the double trouble terrible three stage my twinces are going through at mo)
    Huge risk. Amazing gains.

    • April 21, 2015

      Brianne

      Oh Vickie, thanks for sharing your story! I love the overarching “life lesson” you learned from your experience: “Huge risk, amazing gains.” So true. I feel the same.

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