When I first started this blog, I had just come back from my very first solo trip to Barcelona. During that trip, I noticed a huge change in myself, not just in my confidence, but since that point, I’ve realised how much influence solo travel has on my mental health.
I think the affect that travel has on your mental state is really underrepresented, so many people talk about confidence and life lessons, but it goes deeper than that. I’ve not only gained all those things, but I’ve also found a calmness and an ability to control my anxiety that I never thought possible!
Can travel make you happier?
Many people ask me how it felt when I went on my first solo trip and I’m always completely honest. It didn’t start out great.
The first day I was there, I was completely miserable. I hated being alone, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t want to eat alone, I was just wandering the streets of Barcelona wondering where to go and what to see.
But day 2 was a game changer. I started to realise how much freedom I had and started to feel a bit more comfortable in my own company. By the end of the long weekend, I wanted to carry on travelling on my own. I wanted to continue to meet new people from all around the world. When you travel with others, you tend to just keep to the people you already know, but then you are missing the opportunity to talk to some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet!
Since Barcelona, I’ve been on a few solo trips and each time it gets easier. But what about the long term effects of travelling solo?
Solo travel with mental illness
I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for a number of years and travelling alone was something I never thought I’d be mentally strong enough to handle. I always worried about being in a foreign country on my own and having another mental break, but that’s all it really was, a worry, not a reality.
It took me taking a leap of faith and booking that first trip for me to realise that I was a lot more capable than I thought. Being completely in charge of your own wellbeing and safety has a way of creating a strong sense of trust with yourself. You start to love yourself more for what you can do and how you cope in different situations.
One of my biggest issues when I was suffering with depression and anxiety was the overwhelming feeling of loneliness and the fear of being unable to look after myself if I was lost or in a strange place. Travelling solo helped me overcome both of these things!
I learned to love my own company, challenge those toxic thoughts that were making me so lonely, trust myself and my ability to get myself around a strange place safely and I learned how to make friends from different countries and cultures.
How I apply my solo travel skills to normal life
It’s easy to say that solo travel changed my life, but how? What affect has it had on my normal day-to-day?
Well, as a blogger and content consultant, working in an industry where it’s very much who you know, networking events have become a regular occurrence. Back in the day, I would have avoided these like the plague. A huge room full of strangers that I have to make small talk with? No thank you.
Now, I love going to these events. I find them so much easier because I’m not as worried about what other people think, I’m just there to talk to like minded people. I definitely would not be as comfortable as I am today if I hadn’t had to learn to do it when travelling.
Another huge life skill I’ve learned is that no problem can’t be overcome. Just got fired from your job? There’s 10000000 other jobs out there that will have you. Lost all of your belongings? There’s always a cafe or library you can ask to use a computer to get in touch with someone. Missed your flight? There will be others.
Even the biggest most earth shattering problems can be overcome and in my experience, the things that go wrong have done so to put us on a better more life fulfilling path.
The truth about solo travel
It is terrifying to start with. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially if you have or are suffering with mental health problems. But, like many things, it is well worth overcoming the fear to gain all the benefits of solo travel.
It gets easier with practice. Nobody knows straight away how to take care of themselves. We are a herd animal by nature and our primal brains are programmed to feel safer in groups. We have to fight against this instinct in order to experience the truly remarkable things in life.
The world is a lot safer than you realise. In fact, most of the countries I’ve been in have been safer and friendlier than my home country. Obviously everywhere has areas that you should probably avoid, but by simply asking where these are, you’ll be able to avoid them, just like the locals do!
You don’t have to speak the countries language in order to get around easily. Obviously, it’s always nice and courteous to learn the countries language before you go, but if you struggle with languages (like I do) then you don’t have to panic about it. You can always get by!
So, if you’ve been thinking about heading somewhere solo but have been too afraid to get it booked, then hopefully I’ve eased your mind and you’re already booking your flights!
Let me know below where the first place you went travelling solo, or the first place you’ve booked to travel solo!