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Why everyone should travel alone for at least three weeks

by sara burdick 2 months ago in travel advice
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Longer if you can.

Guatape Colombia

When most of us read this title, we instantly get anxiety and a sense of unease. Or, as one of my friends would say, Why?

Why should I travel alone when I have my boyfriend or friends who like to travel. I used to think the same; I had no desire to go anywhere alone.

You know, because there are so many evil people out there, everybody wants to kill you. At least that is what the media, the news, and everyone around you want to believe.

So most of us stay wrapped in our little cacoon and never experience the extreme joy of traveling alone, and experience every emotion.

My first solo trip alone was for precisely three weeks. I went to Bali and volunteered to teach English.

I was so scared of everything. I was afraid of flying alone that far; I was scared to eat alone at a restaurant. I felt that everyone was staring at me, judging me because I was alone.

  • They think I have no friends.
  • They think I am a loner.
  • They think that I am a loser.
  • They think something is wrong with me and that no one wants to travel with me.

Of course, I was projecting; none of this was true. Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to have that many thoughts and opinions about others.

If you do have that much judgment about someone, the problem is you, not the other person. You can only control yourself and your thoughts.

So I pushed on, and Bali will always have a special place in my heart since it was my “rip off the bandaid” trip. It was also the spark that led me to want to be nomadic and alone.

So why three weeks? Why do I think this is the magical number?

First of all, logistics, most of us have at least three weeks of vacation a year, at least if you are like me, and save them all up to take one big break.

Secondly, it’s not that long when you think about it; at least 2 of the days are travel, and at least 2 are recovery days. So that is already four days that are strictly for jet-lag and travel. Now you only have 17 days left! That is only a little over two weeks.

It just got less scary.

The scariest part of anything is taking steps to do it.

Once you find yourself on the plane on your first solo adventure, you will start to feel all kinds of emotions, journal them, and see what comes up.

When you travel alone to a foreign country, you will be scared; it is natural. Every new country I go to, I still get nervous. I am not frightened anymore, but the nerves are there.

Where do I want to go? Train station in France. I love to show up and pick a place at random!

You will learn a whole hell of a lot about yourself.

I have always gone with the flow; I’m not particularly eager to make waves. In the past, that is. So when I started traveling, I had to make the decisions, all of them. It was just me; I had no one to ask, “where do you want to eat.” I had to decide where I wanted to eat. I started to realize that I had a voice and could make my own decisions.

A lot of the old programming started to shift and dissipate.

The programming that my family installed in me. I was finally able to be the woman I am. Which is decisive, opinionated, and I know what I want to eat. It took a while to get here, but it started when I started traveling alone.

Do I always do it now? No, I understand that in a relationship comes compromise.

I did not have to ask all my friends or boyfriend what are you feeling for dinner, and then ok, where do you want to go — wandering the streets until we can all be happy. To this day, that is my biggest pet peeve. I can eat at a street vendor and be glad; I prefer this, and most others do not.

When I went to India with a tour group, even they told me where to eat and where not to eat. I did not listen. I ate street food, drank chai from street vendors, and wandered to find the most amazing fried something one night. My attendees ran up, looking for me to find me laughing, eating, and chatting around a street vendor.

They scolded me for eating street food, you will get sick, and do not talk to strangers. I did not get sick the entire trip. In contrast, the rest of my very cautious groupies all did. I will never do a group tour ever again.

Karma’s a bitch ain’t it?

Yes, I ate it all! India has the best food in the world.

While backpacking, I learned an important lesson that women don’t hate other women.

I feel that it is common to pin other women against each other in the US. To make us think that they are our competition. I’m afraid I have to disagree, and solo traveling helped me see this. I met so many female backpackers and have formed some great relationships.

In the past, I would have gravitated toward making mostly men friends; now, I crave another woman’s friendship. This same support I find here on Medium.

You will get to know yourself and who you are.

Maybe you have always been busy with work, friends, dating, or your partner. Have you honestly ever been alone for an extended period? Mainly three weeks, to be with your thoughts.

You might be thinking, but I will be in hostels or making friends. You might, and you might not. Friends will also come and go; there might be a time that you will be alone, like 12 -18 hours alone on a plane, where no one else speaks your language. Standing in customs for 4 hours, alone, not talking to anyone, having a coffee alone. You have no wifi to distract you.

You are more resourceful than you give yourself credit.

Maybe your plane lands at the most unappealing time, 4 am, 5 am, or even midnight. Since it seems every international flight has the worst landing time. Instantly I think, is my hostel going to be open, are their cabs, what if there is no atm.

Whatever the issue, you will find the solution. Sometimes I still wonder how I survive alone; then I remember it’s all inside you. Everything you need, want, desire, and crave is there, and you will find a way.

Instead of asking the person you are with, it’s all you. I have communicated with people who do not speak my language. It just comes to you what to do. It is an incredible feeling to figure it out; it’s a rush. It’s addicting; it’s why most of us love solo travel.

You will be with your thoughts a lot, and if you are not used to it, it can be pretty scary.

Who are you when no one is around?

Who are you when you have nothing to distract you?

Do you like who you are?

More importantly, what do YOU want to eat?

Three weeks will teach you a lot about yourself. Even if you make new hostel friends, they are people who know nothing about you.

It is a blank slate; who are you when no one is around?

Originally published here.

travel advice

About the author

sara burdick

I quit the rat race after working as a nurse for 16 years. Obsessed with moving off-grid, sobriety, and self-improvement. I live in Colombia.

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