Have you ever stepped off a plane alone? (yes)
In a country where you don’t speak the language? (yes)
With no idea what you are getting yourself into? (YES)
And didn’t know what you were going to do next? (never!)
Traveling alone can be a scary thing. I’ve been doing it for years and have a learned a thing or two and every time I do it, I become more confident and curious because of it.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
Are you thinking about setting off on your own? Here’s how I did it.
In 2004 I did something I never thought I’d do – I got on a plane and headed to Australia – ALONE! My first words of advice ‘baby steps’. Yes, it took me almost 2 days to get there (crossing the international date line and all) and no, I’ve never been anywhere by myself before, but they speak English and except for the accent, it’s so much like Canada. So if I was ever in doubt about how to get somewhere, where to find a bank, restaurant or train station, all I had to do was ask knowing that I would be able to understand the answer. Menus are in English, bus and train schedules are in English, directions are in English – you see where I’m going here. Taking just that 1 thing off your list of things to be concerned about can ease your mind enough to do it.
So after touring around Australia and New Zealand for a couple of months, things got more interesting. I headed to Singapore and had 2 days to either freak out and not leave my hotel room (step 1, find hotel room!) or enjoy this life-changing experience I was currently having. Now Singapore was a great baby step choice as English is widely spoken but I was now exposed to signs in other languages and a new and exciting culture. And guess what? Nothing terrible happened to me.
Ok, so now it’s time to up the ante. Next stops: Thailand, India, Cambodia and Vietnam. Another thing I have learned along the way is that English truly is a global language so if you go anywhere not too far off the beaten track, you will find someone who speaks English.
Then I was off to Japan and once I left Tokyo, it was my first true experience of being in a place where no one spoke English (there have been many more since then but I no longer worry about it). Try ordering food from a menu you don’t understand and where most of the items are unrecognizable! I’ll admit that the first time I entered a restaurant I was more than a little intimidated and bewildered. Of course it never dawned on me that I wasn’t the first fair-skinned, light haired tourist that walked through their doors. But what happened next put it all in perspective. The Japanese woman running the restaurant I walked into took my arm, lead me outside (I first thought she was kicking me out!) and then pointed to the window. Every item on their menu was sitting there, so life-like, in plastic. I pointed to what I wanted, she made it, I ate it, and it was spectacular. I should also mention that I’ll eat anything (note to self: do blog post on going-solo in China where they take the idea of nose-to-tail cooking very seriously) so if you are afraid of what might be served to you, you’ll need a very good phrase book! People around the world all think the same way, even if it is in a different language. It was in the best interests of the restaurant to figure out what I wanted so they could serve me and it was in my best interest to order and try new food – it’s a win-win!
Since then, I have gone solo to Scotland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Belize and China to name a few. Some have been more challenging than others. I have always spent some, if not all, of my trips by myself, sometimes on tours, and sometimes just with people I have met along the way. As mentioned, I’ll eat anything but more importantly, I’ll also talk to anyone!
So my advice to you is:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
So if you’re looking to go somewhere by yourself for the first time (or second or third time) and want some personal experience advice, call me or send me an email. I love talking travel and I will try to convince everyone to get out of their comfort zone and experience just a few of things of I have! I have also created My Top 10 Travel Items of some strange and useful items I always travel with.