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Welcome back to Wanderlusting, our guest author series in which we invite other intrepid travellers to share their most memorable travel moments.

In episode one we jumped head first off a waterfall in Bosnia with Emma, who’s love of travel had taken her through more than twenty European countries, to teach in Barcelona and to work on a Canadian dairy farm.

This week Izy talks to us about her experience of solo travel and the life lessons she has learnt while on the open road.

So buckle up and lets go…

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT THROUGH SOLO TRAVEL

solo-travel

I spent 2.5 years travelling the world ‘alone’ although most of that was spent in the company of others.

I love people and, honestly, I’m longing for the day my partner and I will explore the world together. But a secret part of me loves travelling alone, it’s just such a different experience and I think it forces you to be more open.

In October of 2010, I went through a breakup.

I’d moved to a city I ended up liking a lot less than I thought and was working at a job in an office where I simply wasn’t valued.

It sucked and it took everything crashing to a halt to make me realize I needed a drastic change.

So I did the most dramatic thing I could think of; I gave notice on my apartment, I handed in my notice at my work, I packed up my things and booked a one-way flight to Thailand, alone.

FINDING THE STRENGTH TO JUST BE

solo travelImage | Izy befriending elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was intimidated.

I’ve always been quite a social person, but I’ve had the comfort of my friends and their friends. I imagined my trip might wind up sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping cocktails while drowning my loneliness in a book and wanting to run home.

This never happened.

After processing through customs in Phuket, I made my way to the taxi stand. I was being gently tugged by culture shock from every direction. I had no idea where I was.

I knew no one.

Then a minute later a couple greeted me – “First trip to Asia?”

Turns out we were heading to the same place, we spent the hour long bus ride exchanging stories of how we’d ended up here. They had been travelling around Asia for a few months and I was just at the beginning of it all. They told me their favourite places and I tried to jot them down on loose tickets I had in my handbag.

As we pulled into Patong we parted ways and I realized I’d probably never see them again.

These two friends I’d just met, who opened themselves up to me and told me as much about themselves as they could cram into an hour conversation, would pass as quickly out of my life as they had come into it.

And that’s when I learned my first lesson. Travel opens you up, to people, to experiences and to things you simply never knew existed.

Every day brought new friends, new experiences and new lessons.

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

solo travelImage | Making friends on the open road

I learned how to make friends with strangers in a matter of minutes.

I used to be the type of girl who wouldn’t bother someone by approaching them. I wound up being the girl who would happily ask someone if the spare seat was free and would join them for breakfast. I learned how to interact with locals, without sharing any words.

When I was volunteering in Cambodia I learned it was possible to get cramp in your face… from laughing and smiling too much. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, I experienced what it feels like to hug an elephant’s trunk and how to make a killer red curry.

I mastered the art of sleeping on a moving bus, how to cross the road in Ho Chi Minh city and stay alive, and how it feels to cycle the streets of Hoi An.

Towards the end of my first stint overseas, I decided to go to India.

I had a spare month in my travels before some friends were meeting me and I was ready for the challenge that India provides, although I definitely wasn’t ready for what presented itself to me.

The day after I arrived there was an earthquake that destroyed my home town, Christchurch. This was the 22nd of February 2011 and 185 people were killed.

Of a city of 400,000 I thought the odds were pretty small that anyone I knew, let alone loved, would be hurt.

I was wrong.

I lost my aunty, who was like a mother to me.

I cried on the side of the road for four days as my insurance sorted my flights home. I knew no one as I’d just arrived and by the time I found out the news I was too miserable to make friends.

solo-travel

I sat on the sidewalk, stealing WIFI from a random store while local people fawned over me and brought me food, chai and water.

And that’s when I learned the biggest lesson of my travels – that at the end of the day we’re all people.

We have family, goals and dreams. We all want to love and be loved. We want to meet new people, see new things and share experiences with like-minded people.

I learned that complete strangers, that had so little, would care for me.

Little old ladies walked past me and invited me into their homes, for a big hug some chai and to talk. Security guards took it upon themselves to ensure that I always had some fresh chai in my hand. The men operating the street food cart opposite me refused to let me pay for the curry and unlimited roti they kept bringing me.

Now I’m not saying it’s good to travel alone because a natural disaster will shake your home town and you’ll experience great loss and get free chai. But travelling alone allows you – and even forces you – to be more open.

When you travel with someone it’s easy to get caught up in their company and you become less approachable. When you’re alone, you take more time to wander, soak up your surroundings and find yourself searching to make new friends.

I love travelling alone, despite the challenges it brings. Do you prefer to travel alone or with someone?

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Share your thoughts below and help inspire others to see the world on their own terms.

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15 Responses

  1. Fiona

    Really enjoyed reading this! I’m about to embark on my first solo trip and I’m fairly nervous. This has given me reassurance that I’ll be okay ‘alone’ !

    Reply
  2. eemusings

    I have travelled alone once in my life and there was something incredibly freeing about it. Since being in Vietnam my hubs has been sick quite a few times, so by default I’ve been left to my own to explore, and while it can be nerveracking, I also enjoy it more in some ways.

    Reply
  3. Paige

    I really admire you for everything you’ve done. As someone who is planning on a solo round the world trip it is really inspiring to read things like this.

    Reply
    • Izy Berry

      Hey Paige,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad to hear you’re working towards your own adventures. I really think if everyone could travel to a foreign place at least once in their lives the world would be such a better place. All the best for your adventures and if you need any specific advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      All the best,

      Izy

      Reply
      • Bennett

        Totally agree with your comment that everyone should travel abroad at least once in their life. I feel so humbled when I talk to my students in China and the likelihood of them getting out and exploring is limited, whereas I have the freedom, the drive and the support of my family to do what I choose.
        Thanks for sharing your experiences, the bad and the good. Solo travel/living is something that I will always value and be proud to say I have achieved.

  4. Loz in Transit

    Great storytelling, it was great of you to see the positives in spite of the hardship you went through. Traveling really is about gaining perspective. The trick for me has been trying to carry that in every part of life.

    I like to think that every experience gives you character. The openness and optimism can’t be confined to when you’re on the road or on holidays but it should be a part of your being. Then its about taking awesomeness on the road as opposed to travel being a magic elixir.

    Reply
    • Izy Berry

      I agree with you totally on the perspective. You start to worry less about the small things that would usually consume you and you get used to being mucked around a lot and not always being in control.

      I definitely think a lot of the positives I’ve learned from travel I’ve managed to keep with me.

      Thanks for your comments – it’s great to link up with another blogger.

      Reply
  5. Freya

    You went through a lot, I admire you for your strength. I have to travel a lot alone on business trips and do miss some company then but I think you cannot really compare that to solo traveling. Maybe I should try it once.

    Reply
    • Izy Berry

      Hi Freya,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. I envy you, getting to travel for business, but maybe it is not as much fun as I imagine. I think everyone should travel solo, even if it’s just a weekend away. There’s something special about arriving in a new city where no one knows your name and you can make whatever plans you like…

      All the best x

      Reply
  6. JR Riel

    Wow, what a really heart rending experience to have to go through, but I can just imagine the healing that it must have given your heart to have such amazing human kindness shown towards you by complete strangers. I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m glad you found goodness in strangers.

    Reply
    • Izy Berry

      Hi JR,
      Thanks for your kind words. Many people comment on my misfortunes when traveling and are shocked, but I don’t really feel that way. For me, travel is a way of life and I cannot expect that sadness or hurt will not creep into my life. It’s how you deal with these challenges that make all the difference, I think.

      All the best,

      Reply
  7. Heather

    I have just returned from my first solo international trip and feel so empowered and exhilarated by the experience! I normally travel with my husband, so it was very reassuring to learn that I was quite capable of taking care of myself, reading the map and negotiating public transportation. I also loved the freedom of being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, sometimes changing my mind and direction on a whim. While I will continue traveling with my beloved, I also hope to add some solo trips to the mix. Now I’m hooked!

    Reply
    • Izy Berry

      Go you, Heather! That’s great. I love traveling alone and I wonder if it’s because I am not that great at compromising. I love the freedom of waking up one morning and completely changing your mind about where you’ll go or what you’ll do for the day – to me, that is absolute freedom.

      I’m proud of you, I’ve found myself in a relationship at the moment and it seems quite hard to travel solo, without him, but because of his schedule and my wanderlust, well there’s no alternative.

      Although I’m sad he can’t come along, a small part of me is excited to have this adventure myself.

      All the best,

      Reply