Solo travel is one of the most beautiful things in the world…and also one of the hardest.
This summer I went on my first solo trip. And not just one solo trip, but many, which taught me much more than I could have ever imagined. Before going, I fully thought everything during my trip would be glamorous, because hey, if that’s how it is on TikTok, how else would it be in reality, right? However, within the first few days, I found myself anxious and homesick, sometimes to the point of tears. I truly feel this happened because of the misinformation spread on the internet. Yes, solo travel is amazing and I had a fantastic time, but there are many things I could have better prepared for leading up to the trips.
One of the easy things to prepare for is that if you are doing a short trip, you will probably be alone for most of it. It’s easy to switch your route up if you’re doing a backpacking trip that’s longer than a few days if you find somewhere you like. However, if it’s just a five-day trip, no matter how much you may like a place, it may not be worth it to change everything. Along with that, this often means your days are jam-packed rather than spent trying to meet people at your hostel. Most of my solo trips were for short amounts of time, because that’s just the way it worked out. I wasn’t able to travel with other people, or really even get to know anyone else very well, which led me to feel more alone.
Another important note is that not all hostels are social, or even full of nice people at all. You don’t need a party hostel to be in a social hostel. However, you also can be in what you think is a normal hostel, but has no social activities. You could even be in a party hostel but feel all alone. All of these instances (and more!) happened to me. I have been in normal hostels that turned out to be the best experience ever (shoutout Costello in La Spezia, Italy). I have also been in a hostel that had no socializing (a random one in Bologna, Italy), and one that had no socializing and was full of old men (Krakow, Poland…that’s a story for another time). I’ve even been in a party hostel in Rimini, Italy, but was alone the whole night. I had preconceived notions about hostels, but their labels truly meant nothing. On top of that, everyone has different experiences in the same hostel. If your hostel experience isn’t going amazing, it’s important to keep in mind that it may get better; you truly never know.
The hardest fact to crunch is that you will feel alone. You will be in the most beautiful places, yet feel a sudden sadness because you have no one to experience it with. I think what hits the hardest is if you’re in a place that is popular for families or friends. Before traveling solo, the person I would always travel with was my dad. I’ll never forget how I was bawling in Cinque Terre because I saw so many families there and I just wanted someone to experience the beauty with. All I wished for was my father to magically appear, and I’d be able to tell him how beautiful it was, and him to go, “Meh, I’ve seen better.” The visit would inevitably end with me forcing him to take a picture of me. Instead, I had to take in the sights solo, snap a picture to show to everyone later, and then capture a selfie with the background.
I’ve come to find that this feeling of loneliness really doesn’t go away. It’s hard to look at something so beautiful and keep it in for yourself. What I’ve found helpful is taking pictures and sending them to people, or showing your friends and family when you return. Striking conversations with strangers is also always fun. Several moments after my mini mental breakdown, I had a conversation with a Canadian couple and we talked about how hot (as well as beautiful) it was, which was everything I needed at that moment.
I think that no matter how hard solo travel can be at times, you’re going to have an amazing time. And no matter how prepared you think you are, there will still be things that take you by surprise. Plus, like most things, practice makes perfect, even in terms of travel. I found myself having an easier time traveling in Poland and Scotland than Italy, just because I was much more used to it. And, after it all, I think that solo travel is one of the most beautiful things on this planet andI am beyond excited for it to be just me and my mini Kanken backpack on the road again. However, it is important to note that even with all of the various TikTok recaps, it is not always glamorous. There will be hard times; there will be times where you’ve taken every piece of advice and you still want to go home. But in the end, you will grow so much as a person, which makes everything truly worth it.
P.S. This is fully your sign to go on a solo trip.