How To Run Away From Your Problems And Discover Yourself
Take yourself on a solo adventure.
So you've had enough of nine-to-five mind-numbing, non-stop weekending and quarter-life crisis-ing. You're fed up with your parents nagging about your career – or worse, your love life – your best friend's over-dependence is starting to grate on you; you've spent so much time curating your social feeds that you're genuinely starting to question your own identity; and you really just want to get the fuck away from it all and blow all your savings on a voyage of self-discovery. Either that or that sweet Gucci piece you definitely deserve. We vote: the world!
Whether you already revel in your own company or you want to learn how, going solo is one of the most rewarding ways to travel – if a little daunting at times. But trust yourself, follow your instincts, open your mind and take heed of our advice, and believe us, you won't stray far from awesomeness.
Know your strengths
Choosing a destination is as much about you as it is the destination. You might yearn for the picture-perfect tropical tranquility of a desert island or the ashy seclusion of an Icelandic campsite, but if you're a social butterfly and live for human interaction, it's probably not the ideal place for you. In the same way, an introvert might fare better in the most visually stimulating situations, where forced communication is left to a minimum. Don't take this as the absolute rule though: after all, you have the opportunity to be whoever you want to be. Think about which languages you'd like to speak (or not), how much you'd like to socialize, which activities you'd enjoy the most, how much money you've realistically got to spend – and, most importantly, how far you're willing to push yourself.
Do as the Romans do
The downside to traveling alone is that it's often a little harder to dive into the heart of the experience. But since you've chosen this path so courageously, there's no use paddling in the shallow end. Put those metaphorical arm bands down! Seeking out the most local approach to your journey is not only a fantastic way to integrate with the residents and learn their tips, but it's also a chance to go off the beaten track and discover exciting new places. So sign up to Couchsurfing and give TripAdvisor and Google Maps a break – get a little lost for a change. At the risk of sounding a little like one of those pseudo-profound travel memes: when you've finally gotten the chance to explore the world your way, why choose to do the same as every other Tom, Dick and Harriet? Also, you might end up saving a few pennies for Gucci knock-offs.
Trust everyone and no one
Except for yourself – obvs.
Let's be honest here: being alone anywhere can carry its own risks. But when you're in a foreign environment it's even more important to have your wits about you. Travel is best served with an open mind, but don't leave it so open that it's vulnerable to danger. Trust everyone and no one: walk confidently and purposefully wherever you go; keep to open, public spaces at night; know how to say “no” in whichever the given language; save the local emergency numbers; and always update friends and family back home with your travel itinerary. And don't forget, security isn't always physical: public WiFi is sometimes just too good to be true. Always surf with a VPN to protect yourself – and your precious bank details – from unwanted snoopers.
Be your own best friend
Don't worry, it's natural to reach a point where you've had enough of your own company. If it's absolutely necessary that you stay on your own, relax a little, slow the pace and put the focus on your environment. Make photography your mission or write a travel diary – the results are a million times better than shop-bought souvenirs because they were created by you, for you. For the same reason, try not to go too crazy with Instagram: yeah, it's great to boast to your mates about meeting your first monkey and naming him Brian, or actually having a Sex On The Beach on the beach, but ultimately enjoying the experience matters 100 percent more than your perfectly curated feed. Better still, why not go the whole spiritual hog and stay technology-free in a temple for a while?
“And what about the dreaded solo dining?” you ask. If you have a fear of dining alone, you are not alone: solomangarephobia is actually a thing. Our answer: harness your anonymity and feast like nobody's watching; be an adventurous eater (grasshopper stir fry, anyone?); be mindful of every mouthful – and remember, STEP AWAY FROM THE 'GRAM.
Find your people
When you've reached your wits end and it's socialize or die, employ your resourcefulness first and your resources later. If you're not the type to jump into a conversation at the bar, or if the language barrier has reached London-Underground-at-rush-hour levels of impenetrable, go online. Meetup.com is the best way (even better than Tinder) to find meet-ups in thousands of cities around the world, bringing people together to do, explore, teach and learn via countless activities. You can practice a language, learn to cook, hike a mountain or just hang out. No jokes, there's even group in Ottawa called “Silly people in their 20's who like doing stuff,” which promotes group tattoos, blanket forts and How I Met Your Mother. Chances are you'll meet tons of like-minded locals and lone adventurers. Just be careful: you might not be traveling solo for much longer.
For more life advice, read How to Save Money When You're Broke AF.
Preview image via Instagram @nikkimarinus