What Traveling Alone Teaches You

Solo Travel in Paris
I’m not going to wait for a travel buddy to visit the places I want to see

Trips for singles has been popular since the popularity of Eat, Pray, Love book and movie. Solo vacations can bring clarity into one’s life and I personally believe that every person should travel alone at least once in their life. The best trips for singles over 40 or 30 are the ones they by themselves to explore the world as well as self-discovery. 

Since I’ve been on a three-month-long trip abroad, people have asked me what my experiences have taught me. With less than two weeks left, this is what I’ve figured out. 

1. Traveling abroad alone can feel like home once I make two friends.

Most people think that going on vacation alone means that you will lonely. Although I travel alone, I am far from isolated. I have yet to visit a place and not make at least one temporary friend — usually locals and sometimes fellow solo travelers. img_0351

Nice, France truly felt like a new home from the first night when I met and became friends with a Russian bartender named Ana and her English boyfriend. They took me to their favorite watering holes and introduced me to their friends. For my last night in the city, Ana introduced me to another English expatriate who I spend the night and Christmas Eve with. 

2. Living abroad is a world-wide goal.

You would think that living in a European city like Dublin, London, or Barcelona would be the ultimate home goal. However, even a Parisian can get tired of seeing the Eiffel Tower. I’ve found that most people want to live somewhere else. Some imports I met included: 

  • A Madrid native living in Reykjavik. 
  • A Londoner living in Amsterdam. 
  • A Russian and a few Englishman living in Nice. 
  • An Englishman who wanted to move to Nashville, TN. 
  • An American and an Italian living in Madrid. 

3. Travel is worth all my money.

What to eat in MadridAlmost every dollar I earned while traveling has gone towards traveling and I will still be paying off this trip (and my next one) months after I come home. Travel isn’t cheap and I haven’t exactly been frugal when it comes to my eating and drinking budget (or lack thereof). I estimate that by the time I return to Tennessee, I will have spent just more than $15k. 

And I strongly believe that this is money well spent. Not only have I seen new places and experienced other cultures, but I have also realized a lot about myself. Namely: 

  • I am fiercely independent and like being alone. 
  • I can understand context without knowing the language. 
  • I need to get my drinking habits under control. 
  • I would be happier creating a book than a baby. 
  • My mom is my best friend. 
  • I want to do everything but I need to focus on what is important or I will end of with nothing. 

4. I’m comfortable traveling alone but not in terrible accommodations.

Hotels, motels, hostel lodging, and bed and breakfasts must be welcoming, clean, and safe or I check out.  

I’ve noted that I stay in Airbnbs because hostels, while cheaper, are terrible. I stayed in a hostel on my 30th birthday, in a 15-bed mixed gender room. There were five triple bunk beds and no floor space for luggage. Privacy was non-existence. I felt that if I had left my belongings unattended that I’d never see them again. 

After that experience, I vowed to only choose places that were secure and up to my personal standards. What can I say? I’m a princess. 

Hotel in Madrid
My nicer accommodations in Madrid

However, due to a broken promise from an Irish guy, I had to stay in a hostel once again on this trip. For the sake of privacy, we shall call him Jerkface. I met Jerkface at a bar in Belfast. Originally from the area, he travels to the Northern Ireland city from Dublin to visit family. Upon learning that I was to visit Dublin in two weeks, he offered to host me for a weekend. 

TRAVEL TIP: Never rely on strangers. 

A few days before I was to go to the country’s capital, Jerkface messaged me saying that there was a family emergency and that he could only host me Friday night and not Saturday. Telling him I understood, I asked if I should simply book a place for the whole weekend, to which he ensured me that he still wanted to see me Friday night. 

Two hours before taking my train from Galway to Dublin, Jerkface messaged me again saying that things had escalated and that he was leaving for Belfast immediately. No apology, no details, no offer to assist me in any way. 

You’re gonna kill me but tonight’s not gonna happen. I gotta go home in like an hour.” 

— Jerkface 

After frantically scouring the internet, I ended up canceling my Airbnb for Saturday night and booking a bed at a hostel for the weekend. The hostel had, for lack of a better word, cages to store your luggage and belongings and secured with locks as well as monitored by camera. Being the type to make the best of things, I booked a pub crawl through the hostel and spent the night getting drunk with my fellow travelers from the hostel. I never heard from Jerkface ever again, although he still watches my Instagram stories. 

I will say not all Airbnbs are good. Some of the problems I experienced included: 

  • My second home in Reykjavik was too far from the major attractions. 
  • The smell in one of the Belfast rentals was god-awful. 
  • The houseboat in Lyon had WiFi issues. 
  • The room in Madrid was a windowless cave painted Pepto-Bismol Pink 

5. I can depend on myself exclusively.

How Very Parisian

Because I am traveling alone, what I hear most from people is shock and awe. Women traveling alone shouldn’t be rare but it sadly is. As I’ve mentioned in “How to Be Safe as a Solo Female Traveler, women face additional dangers when visiting foreign countries.

That being said, I am very proud of myself for handling the aforementioned accommodation emergency in Dublin and the multiple transitions between seven countries and 15+ cities. It takes a certain type of person to be able to plan and adapt to long-term travel alone. 

6. I’m looking forward to a certain lifestyle.

The main thing that I’ve learned on my travels is that I am a nomad and that whatever is truly important to me gets done. Despite saying I want to get married, have kids, and write a book, I have done almost nothing to make these dreams a reality. I date people who are not good long-term partners, I had an abortion at 29, and I binge watch television instead of working creatively. 

Plaza Major Madrid
I plan to live, laugh, and love a lot in 2019.

Maybe marriage and kids aren’t in the cards for me, but writing a book is a feasible goal. It’s the promise of a new year, and if I’m going to have a life I’m more than satisfied with, then I need to change bad habits and make better efforts. 

I want to be a paid travel writer, not just an editor who travels. While continuing to travel, I’ll use the time at home to firm up my writing efforts. I need to submit articles to real publishers rather than resorting solely on this blog.  

And speaking of home, I want to find a place that feels like one. I need to find a location that has a sense of community and near an airport. I want a place filled with adult furniture, not Ikea, and stores my treasures from around the world.  

“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” 

— Simone de Beauvoir 

3 Comments

  1. Meagan Kimberly

    If you wanna start a novel writing club, you know where to find me. I just finished the first draft of my first full-length manuscript and I’m having my cousins go through it with me, but I can always use another set of eyes. Binta’s also checking it out 🙂

    1. Fela Rue

      OMG yes! I would love to. I plan to start writing creatively again (other than this blog) on 1/21. Maybe we can set up a group? I use to have one in LA and half the group would submit 15 pages a week and the other half the next week so you are forced into writing 15 pages every two weeks, which I think is a reasonable pace. Although I’m honestly thinking about switching from novel to screenplay cause I think it’s easier. (shrug)

      Email me your manuscript to read and I’ll give you feedback when I can.

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