Has the idea of solo travel crossed your mind? Has it been a visitor that has intimidated your thought process?
My love affair with solo travel began in 2015, when I was an exchange student at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, studying commercial law with students from all over the globe. An observation I made early on was that some of the exchange students (particularly Americans and Australians) were adept and well-versed with solo travel. Right from the start they were using their time off to wander the length and breadth of Europe.
Till that point, I had never even entertained the idea of solo travel. Being an only child from India, that too a girl, I had lived a fairly protected life right from my childhood. Solo travel was unfamiliar territory for me. It appeared challenging and none of my immediate friends were into it.
But, I had a breakthrough moment when I met an American exchange student at a mixer held for exchange students. He was recounting his time alone in Russia to a bunch of us when I quizzed him….”Don’t you feel alone? Doesn’t the urge to have company overwhelm you? “…and he promptly responded ” If you cannot enjoy your own company…how else can you be good company to anyone else.”. And in that moment I decided it was time to pack my bags and hit the road….and deep dive into the world of solo travel. I am lucky to be born to fairly liberal parents who welcomed my decision and were even supportive of it.
I chose Berlin as my first destination. It was a stone throw away from Hamburg. I made a conscious decision to live at a youth hostel ( again a type of accommodation I would previously never contemplate) in an artsy hipster district. I chose to have no itinerary whatsoever and let the days roll by with a broad structure of what I wanted to cover ( am normally a person who plans my time and this was new and strange to me but I absolutely fell for being spontaneous).As my days went by, I felt a certain liberation in having the freedom to steer my days as per my own whims and fancies. I spent most of my days in museums with no obligation to factor in the choices of another person; ate at all the mad burger joints Berlin is known for (the Bird being my favourite) ; went clubbing to the notorious Berghain with local friends I made in the hostel.
My biggest takeaways from solo travel are the following :
1)You become extremely self-sufficient and comfortable to do things with just yourself , no longer do you need someone to try out that new restaurant which has opened next to your place;
2) Since you are responsible for your safety, your intuition and levels of alertness sharpen;
3) You are forced to interact with people and your people skills becomes much better and sometimes you luck out and acquire life-long friends;
4) Since nothing is set in stone some of your best experiences unfold when you go by yourself;
5) You get the headspace to think without any interruptions which leads to some great introspection leading to a journey of self-discovery; and
6) My biggest takeaway is that your levels of confidence go up many notches.
My solo travel streak did not stop there. I went on to visit Krakow in Poland, Copenhagen in Denmark, Paris in France, Seville, Granada and Barcelona in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal during my exchange. Post my return to India, I went solo to Pondicherry and Srinagar, two truly exquisite locations. After listening to my endless stories about my solo travel stories, my mum wanted to try it out too and I am proud to say she went to see the Northern Lights all by herself this year and absolutely loved her experience!!
Finally, all I hope is that my words ignite a thirst in you..a thirst to travel solo….I hope you connect with my journey ….where an alien concept has now become my favourite indulgence and even if you don’t connect to my story, its fine… I hope you give it a try…a try for no-one else but yourself.