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Everyone Needs to Try Solo Traveling

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

My solo expedition of a lifetime happened completely on a whim. I had always loved entertaining the idea of traveling alone (mostly inspired by my love of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”), but it was one of those things I never planned on following through with.

It was the Summer of 2021 and I was on a sea turtle field research trip, accompanied by a group of UCSB students in Ostional, Costa Rica. My two good friends were planning on meeting me when my program ended. Having only done light research on where to travel, we didn’t know exactly where we were going, but the dates were set in stone and the flights were booked­— or so I thought.

It turned out, as I was told in a text three days before their intended arrival, my friends never actually bought their flights. Moreover, their passports were expired.

I was terrified; I’d travelled to foreign countries, but only with the safety net of family and friends, staying in Airbnbs and hotels. At the same time, something about the situation felt like fate. My parents kindly offered to buy me a new flight home (mostly because they didn’t want their daughter running around Costa Rica by herself), but something about it was calling me. The past year had been difficult, leaving me lacking a lot of confidence; I had lost touch with myself. Something told me I needed this trip. My heart wanted an adventure.

Molly Peach-Walking Through Greenery
Molly Peach / Her Campus

So, at the end of my research trip, my group dropped me off on their way to the airport at 6:00 A.M. in Nosara, a small surf town twenty minutes south of Ostional. Roller suitcase in hand, I watched their van drive away and thought to myself “What the hell am I doing?” I had no plan, a very basic knowledge of the Spanish language, and honestly no idea what one was supposed to do when traveling alone.

The week that followed, however, blew my mind. Traveling solo, particularly when staying in hostels, opens opportunities you would never have when with a group of friends or your family. Each hostel I went to held a new group of unique people, each with their own beautiful story. A middle-aged musician from Spain would play his guitar to the rain every night, asking me and a girl from Holland to sing with him as we drank wine and played cards. A group of boys from Canada, celebrating their recent graduation, took me out salsa dancing and we stayed up until three in the morning laying on the beach, staring at the stars as the waves lapped up against the shore. A boy I befriended named Jacob made dinner with me one night and let me try marzipan he brought from his hometown in Germany. Each person I met felt like a missing piece to the puzzle of the story I was creating.

For as many moments I spent with new friends, I had triple the amount of time with myself. At times, this was incredibly lonely. However, it gave me a feeling of freedom like no other. After about three days in Nosara, I decided to spontaneously bus to this remote town called Bijagua so I could hike to el Rio de Celeste, a river and waterfall famous for its turquoise water. After a tearful goodbye to my hostel, which at that point felt like my family, I hopped on a bus. Eight hours and four connecting buses later, I found myself deep in the country— and completely alone. I’m not kidding, I was the only tourist there, the only guest in my hostel.

That night, as I sat alone in my room meant for seven other people, I laughed to myself. Just thinking about my situation, thinking about myself jumping onto buses with my nerdy roller suitcase that I never should have brought (I literally have a backpacking backpack and I chose not to bring it), somehow making it around Costa Rica with my high school Spanish education…it was ridiculous and eye-opening and completely unreal. I couldn’t believe my life was my life at that moment.

The next day, I set out to get to the National Park. There was only one road that led all the way up to the park. The only issue was that it was 12 miles away, and with my poor Spanish-speaking abilities, I had an unfortunate history of getting swindled by taxis. So, I started walking and stuck out a thumb. Now, as my mother reads this, she will have a heart attack, and I by no means recommend this method of transportation, but I successfully managed to catch four separate cars along the road and finally made it to the park. After the hike, walking back down the winding road into the rainforest, I smiled to myself. I felt like a goddamn adventure queen. I had never felt more alive.   

The thing about solo traveling is that you are the center of your journey. It feels as if you are both the director and lead role in an adventure movie. You have no responsibilities, no one else to please. All you have to do is follow your heart and your own desires.

For me, through my bus rides and my hiking and my fun little interactions with others, I not only re-found myself, but I discovered parts of me I didn’t even know existed. I gained confidence in my personality.  I proved to myself that I am a strong, capable, intelligent woman. I fell in love with myself again.

So, even if it’s just for a week, buy that plane ticket, book that trip. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Live your Walter Mitty moment. You won’t regret it.

Hi, I'm Carlyn! I'm an Environmental Studies major with a professional writing minor at UCSB. I love traveling, hiking, and spending time in nature. I'm excited to be a part of Her Campus UCSB!