I have been home now from travelling for over four months. But as soon as I got home, it was like I had never even been? Not one for being quizzed, I loved hearing about what everyone else has been up to. Life went on, I signed back up to the gym, I went back to work and daily life continued on without much thought about what a big deal it kind of was?! It is only since someone said to me, “how mad was it that you went to Australia?” that I started thinking, yes, that was mad! I went to Bali and Australia all on my own.
Now, I know that really this is not that big a deal. I know people who have left for god knows how long, and I only went for a tiny dent of that time but it is the fact I still packed my bags and went. Personally, for me, I love to travel and experience the different cultures but I do not know if I could do that length of time, over the other side of the world for so long? Especially for my first trip. Just over three months was the perfect step for me.
So, this post is a reflection on my time as a solo traveller.
I was meant to go with a friend from home but as it turned out being it was not meant to be as she got ill and other things got in the way. Luckily, she is back to full fighting health and even got to do her stint of solo travelling! But I do think it was a blessing in disguise that we went separately. It would have been a completely different experience and looking back at my time away, I would not have wanted it any differently. Being solo forced me to be social, forced me to step out of that comfort zone and take risks you would not take if you had the comfort of a friend. It also enabled me to do what the hell I wanted! If I wanted to go to bed at 9pm (in true party style), I could. If I wanted to stop and have endless cups of coffee, I could. And if I wanted to go anywhere and do anything, I could. That is the beauty of travelling on your own. It is flexible and completely up to you.
All the people I met being away were my highlights! I made friends with people I never would have made friends with if I was not on my own. Once I had got into the flow of just being myself, I was chatting to everyone. I have got the traveller conversation nailed… What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you away for? Are you going up or down the coast? How long are you at this hostel for? If you have stayed in hostels and travelled, I bet you have had that exact same conversation at least 20 times!
Rosa and Alex, were two girls I pretty much spent a whole month with and we would all get upset if one of us choose to stay somewhere for one day longer and then would be all happy again when we were reunited. It was hard to say goodbye to these amazing ladies but I am sure I will see them again. I also made friends with Tom in hostel bus after the Greyhound, Sean in a exercise class in a hostel, Ali over a box of goon, Jada on the Uncle Brians Tour in Cairns and Mary on our skydive. So many people make your experience whilst you are travelling and I know you would meet people if you were travelling with other people but being on my own made me chat to anyone who would sit next to me and I loved that aspect sometimes (yes, sometimes, if you carry on reading lol).
Really it is such a bizarre concept staying in hostels, sleeping in a room with people you have never met from around the world. But the people you met, are those who you would never have the chance to meet at home and that is one big highlight for me!
Another highlight for me was having that peace and quiet when you needed it. Travelling can be tiring. You are constantly surrounded by people and constantly trying to make some sort of conversation. Truthfully, the only time you are completely on your own is when you are in the toilet. The full door toilet, not even them cubicle ones. I remember in Melbourne, one girl even said she was so fed up with talking to people that one time she sat in the toilet and read her book for an hour just to have a break. For me I went the beach or the park but each to their own hey!
I remember one afternoon in St Kilda, Melbourne, I laid down for near enough two hours staring into the sky, relaxing my body and thinking about everything going on. It was beautiful. I also did this on the beach in Byron Bay one morning. If I was not on my own, I would not be able to do this (well, not without feeling a little bit bad). Taking a break where necessary is a hidden beauty of going on your own.
My not so highlights…
I had many lows when I was away. More lows in Australia than I did in Bali. I think this was primarily down to being on my own in Australia, compared to Bali, where I was with a big group of bloody amazing girls. Not having an organised day or group, made you have to make an effort and sometimes you were faced with a true sense of loneliness. Everyone you meet, is at a different point in their travelling experiences. I met people who were itching to meet people and go exploring but then I also met people who were on their second year, working and the novelty of the excited traveller had worn off.
I found this happened more in cities like Sydney or Brisbane, where people based themselves for jobs. Especially in Brisbane, I was hit square in the face with loneliness. It was horrible and an experience I really wish not to have again. Do not get me wrong, the city was lovely and I spent three days doing some fun things like seeing a circus show, eating I think the best pizza, petting joey’s and watching fireworks but I also cried in the cinema toilets, looked for tickets home and just wished I was moving to the next place already. I did not expect it to hit me like it did. You feel silly too (well I know I did) because I was in Australia?! Australia! Living the dream and travelling and you could not moan or be upset to those at home, in the cold, working hard. But honestly, talk to people. Let them know you are feeling low and they can send you virtual hug. Also, do things you enjoy. Yes, I may have cried in the cinema toilets but I also love the cinema and saw a really good film – Crazy Rich Asians.
I also had this feeling in Byron Bay. It was my first night after the overnight bus from Sydney, where I had the most amazing few days with Cole, and I had spent all of my first day in Byron Bay on the beach, alone. That evening, I cooked dinner and felt brave enough to go into the social area. All I saw was people on their phones (one time I think they are a curse travelling) or in big groups (intimidating…) and ended up rushing back to my bunk, feeling like a complete loser at travelling. I text my friend, Jessamyn, saying I can’t make friends and I am being unsociable. Upsettingly saying to her I thought travelling would be all party, party, party. But like she said, you do not need to make friends. You have friends at home! This was just what I needed to hear. Why was I putting such a pressure on myself to make friends? So, if you ever have this feeling of not making friends, just remember your friends at home waiting for you and simply remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, ready for new adventures. You are there to see the sights and when you stop worrying so much, I found I relaxed and was able to speak to people. This early night was actually followed by two of my most favourite nights travelling, so it is proof it works!
No experience is smooth sailing and we all need them times were we are suffering to realise what we are made of. So, as much as I did not like the low points I had, they made my trip what it did and made me stronger for future ones. I am still amazed I actually went. But even though I have been to the other side of the world on my Tod, I still get incredibly nervous to do things on my own. I am not now this independent women, I get nervous going to bloody London or have spent the last few months deciding what to do next and whether I could do that trip on my own (totally forgetting I have done it before…). We often forget what we have achieved when we get more concerned with worry about the future, filling our heads with self-doubt. I remember feeling so incredibly nervous waiting at Heathrow Airport for my flight to Bali but then I also felt incredibly nervous waiting for my flight home, wondering what is next for me? As deep as this will sound, you are solo in life, whether you are in Boxfield Green or a hostel in the depths of Cape Tribulation being bitten alive by mossies! I somehow managed to get the courage to go away solo then and now I need to get the same courage to do my next trip or next step in life and my time away solo has taught me that for me, India Paine, this is possible.
That took a turn there at the end but that is me always going off on tangents! If you want to travel solo, I highly recommend but just expect you have to take the rough with the smooth. However, it will be the most amazing time.