Last updated on 23.2.2020
I travelled solo for the first time just after my 18th birthday. My mother was worried for me and that sense of worry was transferred into my mind as fear of traveling the world. “The world is a scary place for a young woman” said my brain. Over the years I have learnt that there are surely dangerous things you can do and things can happen but you can also really enjoy solo traveling as a young woman. My first solo trip started a journey of self-discovery which I am still happily on.
Solo travel opened my eyes
In March of 2009, just before my birthday, I saw a sale for flights to London. During that time I was thinking of moving to Scotland for university which is why flying to the UK seemed so intriguing. I would be able to see Scotland and London at the same time. Before I knew I was at the counter (Skyscanner wasn’t such a big deal yet) saying “return ticket to London, please”. And so I purchased the sale tickets slightly to my mothers horror. In April the same year I packed my bag and sat in a plane, alone, for the first time in my life. I had been on trips in Finland alone before that but this was different. I was now in charge of everything on my own.
Traveling solo boosted my confidence
The beauty of solo travel was that I proved to myself that I was indeed capable of traveling alone. It gave me confidence that only the experience could have given. It made me believe that even if I had no friend to do things with I would be okay which has since had an important effect in my life as a whole. I remember how scared I was in the tube of London for the first time, how intimidating the sheer size of the city was, how horrendous the experience in the Christmas opening of Harrods turned out to be and how lonely I felt in the hostel surrounded by strangers.
As you can guess my first days in London were defined by my inability to relax. Once I caught the Megabus towards Edinburgh I finally started to open up. I spoke to the person next to me, made a friend in the hostel in Edinburgh, toured the city and the university with excited eyes. Glasgow’s rain did not bother me and even though the dark streets of the city scared my small town girl’s heart I survived. I failed at counting my days properly and had to leave Glasgow early and buy another bus ticket but that also taught me that when I travel alone I have to fix my own failures.
The more you travel solo the better at it you get
My first solo journey gave me the courage to move. After that journey in 2009 I have moved to Scotland for university without any familiar faces and travelled to cities around alone and with friends. After my studies I moved to Nepal for three months to a remote town and survived that experience alive as well.
The more I travelled alone the more I learnt. Especially about myself. When you strip yourself of the comfort of familiarity you are forced to get to know your truest self. I have learnt that I need a plan quite often, even in the faintest of forms, as not having a plan gives me stress and anxiety. I know that I can be social but also need moments alone and if I feel uncomfortable I cannot make myself talk to others. I have learnt that being told to do something makes me instantly say no if it is something uncustomary for me. There are many ways in which solo travel has really helped me grow into the (relatively) functioning individual I am today.
Other people are lovely also
Even though I think everyone should solo travel at least once in their lives I am still a lover of traveling with people. The benefit of solo travel is that you can do it whenever you want. As a young woman solo travel has also shown that world really is not that scary, as long as you are smart and do things the way you feel comfortable. The world rarely is as scary as you think it is.
Solo travel has also shown that regardless of wherever you are, in a tiny town in Finland or traveling in the big cities around the world, your parents will never worry less about you. So be mindful, let them stomach your solo travel with time and the more you do it the easier it gets for them too. When I told my mum that I was going to move to Scotland to study it took her and my dad a good few months to get used to. Now if I tell them that I am traveling somewhere I get an “okay, just be safe”.
Lastly, Happy International Women’s Day to everyone!
Want to read more stories of solo travel? Check out these:
- You can encounter local Nepali culture in small villages
- Photographs: The people of Lahachowk, Nepal
- Independent hike is healthy for the mind
Have you ever traveled alone? How was it?