It takes a lot of maturity and independence to be comfortable with your own company. After a fair amount of traveling solo, I feel that I have just about learnt how to be content exploring the world on my own.
My Year Abroad started with 3 days in Mexico City, exploring by myself. Fueled by the excitement of a new adventure and slightly dazed by the 5 hour time difference, I had an amazing time wandering the streets, seeing the sights, and trying out my Spanish skills.
Similarly, the 36-hour journey from Costa Rica to Chile passed quickly as I knew that I was starting a whole new chapter and I was excited to see where it led me.
I have now been in Chile for almost 3 months, where I am working as an intern in Santiago. For the first 6 weeks, there were two other interns living with me and we spent quite a lot of time together. Then Christmas hit, which is summer here, and so not only did these interns leave but the majority of the friends I’d made here also left for travels or their summer holiday. Suddenly I found myself feeling quite alone in the city.
With everyone else off celebrating the season, I decided to go to Pichilemu for the week, the surf capital of Chile. Pichilemu is a small town and I had plenty of time to myself, reading on the beach, running, walking, etc. I found myself going for walks along the beautiful beaches and watching the sunset on the sea horizon and thinking, “I would really like to share this moment with someone”. Sure, a photo to the family WhatsApp chat is quite fun, and FaceTime is a magical tool, but it really just isn’t the same.
My time in Costa Rica taught me a huge amount about being content in yourself and learning to love your own company. At first, it took a while to be ok with just being – not having anything else to do other than sit and enjoy the moment. It took a while to learn how to be present. Traveling alone teaches you this, and I firmly believe in the value of this skill, although it isn’t an easy one to learn. Here are some of the things that I found helped me to get used to traveling alone;
When you start to feel a bit lonely, don’t sit and wallow in the feeling as this will only make it worse. Get up and get out – go and explore where you are and see some sights!
(El Retiro, Madrid)
Take yourself on a date
Find a local café that offers your favourite treat and enjoy it, preferably while soaking in the cultural atmosphere of your new location – people watching is a great distraction too!
I’m always on the lookout for vegan cafe spots! (The Wonderland Cafe – Santiago, Chile)
Take some photos!
Get creative and go looking for the curious and the quirky – explore on foot and look carefully for the beauty that is around you. This is a sure way to lift your mood as marveling at natural beauty or architectural magnificence will definitely help you feel excited about your travels again.
(Osa Peninsular, Costa Rica)
Learn to ‘just be’
This is becoming increasingly difficult in our fast-paced lives. Taking the time to just sit and watch the world go by can feel like a waste of time, but slowing down your mind and your pace will help your mental health and will also become easier with time. Grab a book or your journal, find a nice spot in the park, and go from there.
(Volcan Osorno – Puerto Montt, Chile)
Accept a new pace of life
Traveling is about change, right? Sometimes it’s about escape too. If you are choosing to travel alone, the chances are that you want a break from normal life, an escape from the hustle and bustle of everything and everyone. While it may take some getting used to, this time by yourself is a great way to find rest and peace.
(Carate, Costa Rica)
In a world where we are always rushing about doing this, that, and the next, it can be quite surprising when we suddenly find ourselves with time. It is these moments that are the most magical as they force us to stop and look around, to breathe and just be.
Trust me when I say that doing something like this is one of the most valuable things you can do for your mental health and your personal happiness. Traveling alone has allowed me to get to know myself better through these moments of quiet, and I honestly feel like I am more content because of it.
People always joke about how we go traveling to ‘find ourselves’. I’m afraid to say, I think they’re right.