8 THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY FIRST SOLO TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

Photos: Sweet Escape

Location: Venice, Italy

Outfit: Navy Blue Coat (H&M) | White Polo (Topman) | Trousers (Perry Ellis) | Scarf (United Color of Benetton) | Shoes (H&M)

Have you ever traveled alone to a foreign destination? While it’s awesome to travel with your family, friends or partner, there’s a different kind of fulfilment when you travel alone. I heard so many amazing stories from solo travelers and I knew it was something I needed to do, just to know what it is like. It took me 2 years to finally have the courage to do it. I love being alone and doing things on my own but I never pictured myself as a solo traveler. I knew it just wasn’t for me—especially in my field of work wherein I need someone to help me shoot and produce content. Fortunately, after months of planning and contemplating, I booked a flight to Italy and spent a wonderful week in Venice. It was the perfect destination for my first solo trip.
Getting lost in the charming alleyways, following my nose for the best pasta in the city, leaving my hotel late at night to take a walk, it was perfect. Plus, the fact that there cars are not allowed in Venice means I could explore the city by foot—never worrying about getting off at the wrong train station or buying the wrong ticket. With this, I’ve written my learnings from my first solo trip, wrote them on my journal and thought of sharing them on the blog. I encourage you to try traveling solo for at least once in your life. It doesn’t have to be far, all you have to do is book that ticket. Trust me, traveling solo is going to be the most memorable, liberating and empowering experience that will have a positive impact in your life. Read on…

 

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1. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PLEASE (AND NOT DO WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE)

The best thing about going on a solo trip is you’re not obligated to entertain anyone else but yourself. Sounds a little selfish? Hey, traveling should also be personal and we should totally do it if it makes us feel good about ourselves, right? I have nothing against traveling with my family, but when we travel as a family, it takes us forever to get ready because there’s not enough comfort room in the hotel, or we can’t take the train because we were traveling with kids. I also had trips with friends wherein I wasn’t really feeling where they wanted to go or what they wanted to experience. There were times when I was hesitant to eat at this particular restaurant he/she was suggesting, or a museum he/she wanted to visit. When you travel alone, you won’t have to answer to anyone. You are basically the boss and you are in control.

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2. YOU CAN TRAVEL AT YOUR OWN PACE

Traveling solo means you have total control of everything you do in your trip. Make travel plans and change them the last minute? No problem. People have different mindsets when it comes to traveling. Some want to see/experience as much as they can in a span of 2-3 days, while others prefer to soak in everything even if they don’t get to cover everything. When you travel solo, you are in charge of your trip’s tempo. This is probably my favorite thing about traveling alone—you can travel at your own pace. I can wake up really late, explore a particular place whenever I please, take leisurely walks at midnight, skip a meal, shop for hours, take afternoon naps, whatever floats your boat.

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3. YOU BECOME MORE OPEN TO MEETING NEW PEOPLE

When we travel with family or friends, we all tend to stick to our own peers and have our own little world. Traveling should also be about reaching out to the locals and meeting fellow travellers, right? As a solo traveler, you’ll be surprised that people will approach you more and you’ll be more likely to initiate a conversation with a stranger. I personally love having conversations with my seatmate on the plane, train, a restaurant, or at the common area of the hotel/apartment I’m staying in. Who knows? They might be happy to host you when you visit their country someday. Are you an introvert? This is the perfect opportunity to be more sociable and approachable. However, this is completely up to you. Some people travel to enjoy their “me” time and not worry about being liked or whatever. Which brings us to my next point (scroll down).

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4. LESS CHAT. MORE CULTURE.

I personally love my quiet time. I get to think more clearly and focus on what I need to accomplish in a day. When I’m surrounded by people the whole day, I tend to get drained (socially lol). The same goes when we travel. When we travel with our family or friends, we usually chat and share silly jokes with them for hours. Maybe catch up on life, talk about our favorite Netflix series, gossip about other people (lol), etc. I have nothing against this—if you ask me, I actually prefer traveling with a group of people. It just makes the trip more fun and I love sharing these memories with other people. However, when you’re traveling with your family/friends, it can reduce your time observing the culture of the place you’re visiting. When you’re traveling solo, you can’t help, but observe everything that’s going on around you, such as the area’s customs, sounds, smells and sights. This was exactly what I did in Venice. I followed my nose to find the best pasta in the city, spent a good amount of time researching about the history of the cathedrals, bridges, etc. It was something I remember so vividly because it was so special to me.

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5. EATING ALONE IN A FOREGN COUNTRY IS A BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE

I’ve always admired solo travelers—they’re brave, adventurous and independent. However, first time solo travellers don’t often see themselves that way. Some think of themselves as friendless, lonely people who eats alone. Haha! Can you guys relate? Before I used to hate it when I have to eat alone in a restaurant. I often pretend I’m talking on the phone or looking far off, pretending I’m waiting for someone (pathetic, I know lol). But as I grew older, I learned to enjoy my own company. There are days when you have to do errands and you do everything by yourself. Embrace it. Especially when you travel. Have you guys seen Eat.Pray.Love? — that iconic scene when Julia Roberts was in Rome having the best spaghetti ever? After watching it, all I wanted to do was stuff my face with the best Italian food and do it alone. I had the best truffle pasta, carbonara and squid ink pasta in Venice. That was a wonderful memory I shared with no one else but me, an experience no one can take away from me. Here’s a tip! If you feel awkward about eating alone, read a book, watch some videos on YouTube or Netflix or connect with your family and friends via Facebook or FaceTime! This will keep you feeling connected and less lonely while eating alone.

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6. TAKING PHOTOS OF YOURSELF ISN’T SO DIFFICULT

Some of you may already know that I was quite apprehensive about taking a solo trip, not because I was scared to travel alone, but because no one will be around to take my photos! Haha! It was my first time in Italy, first time in Venice and my first time to travel solo so I was worried I wasn’t going to get enough good content. I have a very specific vision of how I want my photos to be shot and doing that with a tripod or asking a random stranger to take it for you isn’t going to do it for me. So I learned about Sweet Escape, they basically have photographers in every city—you book one through their website (click here), they let you meet up with your photographer and tada! They can take your photos for you! The session was only for an hour, but we took a good amount go pictures! After three working days, they email you 150+ of your photos, some raw, some edited (they based mine from my Instagram color scheme). My photographer Ksenia was really nice—she showed me some really cool spots around Venice. After the shoot we even got to hang out and had some delicious hot chocolate at Café Florian (the oldest café in Venice).

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7. SPONTANEITY IS KEY

Being spontaneous isn’t a characteristic that suits everyone. As a blogger, spontaneity when traveling is not in my vocabulary. Prior to my trip, I take a good amount of time to research on what to do, where to eat, what to experience and look for places not common to many. I plan all my outfits, my budget, my hotel-airport transfers, tours, etc. When I traveled solo for the first time, it has definitely made me more spontaneous. Even though I had an itinerary prepared, for some reason, I didn’t choose to follow it. Maybe because the past trips that I’ve done with my friends were all perfectly planned so traveling alone and not following my itinerary was a nice breather, I guess. My whole itinerary in Venice was backwards—I got to relax, take my time and walk around the city, then during the last two days of my trips, that’s when I started doing the tours and ticking off all the touristy spots. I even hopped on a water bus and went to a different island for the day. That wasn’t in the plan but there’s something about traveling solo the makes you more spontaneous!

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8. YOU BECOME MORE INDEPENDENT

I read this beautiful article and it says “solo travel is awesome for so many reasons, but namely because when you travel solo, you end up getting know a really incredible travel partner that you’ve probably been ignoring for years – you.” They always say that you get to know yourself when you travel alone, but what does that even mean? If you travel solo, you’ll have to do things like go out to dinner alone, go to museums alone, and engage in all sorts of activities that you’d normally do with a partner. You get to know your likes, dislikes, what makes you happy, what annoys you, what fascinates you, what throws you off, what kind of traveler you are, how you cope when you encounter a mishap or problem. All these things, you decide for yourself and it gives you an impression of who you really are. But more so, you get to get so much more out of this because you become more independent. Problems and obstacles are inevitable when traveling solo. But facing them and fixing them on your own will really give you that drive, self-confidence and make a lasting positive impact on your life. Not just when you’re traveling, you get to bring home all these learnings with you—and I think that’s the real beauty of traveling.

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Have you ever tried traveling solo? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments section below!
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