3 Things They Didn’t tell you About Solo Travel
By Natra Zeryihun
- It can get lonely! Perhaps it’s just me, but I started out my solo wanders in Tokyo Japan with the dream that I was going to hit the ground singing for joy, loving every second of my solo experience. The truth is, I started out my wanders feeling incredibly lonely. I checked Instagram entirely too often, vibered everyone and their mother photos of my daily adventures and spent a lot of time by myself. This loneliness followed me to Bali, Indonesia a few days later until I finally sparked convo with strangers who invited me out to lunch (I have never said ‘yes’ so quickly in my life). That lunch basically changed everything. From that point on, I went out of my way to speak to people and didn’t get dismayed when things didn’t progress into a lunch invite… basically, I got less and less thirsty by the day. The more I spoke to strangers and made new friends, the less lonely I felt. Humans are social beings, and unless you are a misanthrope or extreme introvert, you will feel the longing for basic human interaction during your solo wanders. You get a lot of you time, more than you’re probably used to. So my biggest tips here are to spark convo with strangers, stay at hostels (they have private dorms if you don’t like the idea of sharing like myself) and don’t give up! You will become a more confident conversation-starter and learn to appreciate everyone around you so much more!
- You will have a lot of free time. Ok, this is usually a good thing for most of us given the business of our lives in today’s society but the kind of free time you have with even the most action-packed solo travel itinerary can become overwhelming. Let me ‘splain (Kevin Hart voice). Most of us are used to working 9-5 or going to school the majority of the day. We then attend a happy hour, go on a date, watch a Netflix show, catch some extra zzz’s or maintain a side hustle. During your solo wanders, that big chunk of time you spent at work or school is suddenly vacant and you now have the job of keeping yourself busy. Although you can create an exciting schedule of sightseeing and tours, there will be days when you don’t want to be crammed with other tourists on a bus or see another Buddhist temple. During these days, I recommend 2 things. 1: diversify your schedule! Don’t just plan on tours and sightseeing. Instead, try to incorporate something you have interest in like cooking classes, or volunteer work. Those are opportunities to meet new people as well. 2: Be productive. Whether it’s writing a blog post, reading a book, sending job resumes, doing laundry, catching up on a Netflix show…do something that needs to get done to occupy some of that free time.
- There will be frustrating times. I’ll never forget the day I was lost in Shinjuku train station in Tokyo on my way to brunch. With over 3.5 million people passing through daily, Shinjuku station is bustling with malls, restaurants and chaos. I walked for almost a mile before I could find the exit. No one spoke English. My train ticket leaving the station didn’t work. I wanted to break down like an infant so bad. Or there’s the time I lost my cell phone and wallet in the backseat of a taxi in Hong Kong. I had no money and no form of communication. That was my rock bottom moment. When traveling with friends or someone else, all the burden of stressful situations doesn’t lay on you entirely… you get to share the pain. But solo travel is much different.. You are really on your own. What saved me during these times was asking strangers for help. Thank you to the sweet girls who gave me change for the train to get back to the airport after losing my wallet. Thank you to the Dutch family who let me use their cell phone to cancel my credit cards at the airport. This isn’t to say that everyone you ask for help will care about your struggles, actually many people looked at me sideways before I met the kind people that I did. My suggestions to combat the frustrating times during solo travel is to ask for help (do not take your ego with you on your solo wanders), have an extra credit card in a separate place than your wallet and don’t expect the same kind of efficiency and organization as you have in your western hometown while in developing countries… (ahem, Tokyo police department).
Natra is ¼ of the travel group 30xthirty in which 4 friends are trying to see 30 countries before they turn 30. So far, she is at 25 countries with 4 more years to go. Recently, she went on a solo travel stint for 2 months across Asia and Europe and boy did she learn a lot about herself! Passionate about entrepreneurship, she co-founded an Ethiopian spice business while in college and is always thinking about new business ventures. Keep up with her adventures on IG @30xthirty