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What I learned from Traveling Solo

 

If you follow my Instagram stories or my blog, you’ll know that I recently took an impromptu trip to Germany. There was some business I needed to take care of over there. I also wanted to meet up with friends I had not seen the last time I went, which was with my (then 9-month-old) daughter. This time I only had 7 days between competing commitments back home. And no travelling companions. Initially, I hesitated, but then I thought:

 

“Why not, I could do with a change of pace and a little adventure!”

 

I used to travel by myself quite a lot, so it is not totally foreign to me. I’ve been all around Thailand, South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, not to mention half the countries in Europe. More recently, I travelled to Mexico and the Southern Gulf Islands to attend yoga retreats.

 

What do you notice when you travel alone?

 

I love travelling by myself for many reasons. I can’t think of a better way to get to know the local culture. Especially how people live their lives in different parts of the world. Inevitably, I pick up ideas I want to try back home. I like travelling with others too, but I tend to take less in because I don’t end up interacting with the locals the same way.

 

Part of the charm, and the challenge, is that you are more vulnerable as a solo traveller. 

 

It just feels a little more edgy to not have another person with you. Just in case things go a bit sideways, which kind of goes with the territory in a foreign country.  You don’t know your way around. You don’t have the safety nets familiarity brings. And you can only rely on yourself. So especially as a female solo traveller, it can sometimes be a bit … well, unnerving. And what is great about this, is that it naturally has you seek connection with people, even those who are completely different to your usual tribe.

 

For example, I once lived with a home-stay family in the Muslim parts of south Thailand and slept in a shed with chickens who scattered about just below the elevated flooring. I learned how to cook the best green curry sitting on the floor of the kitchen with the matriarch of the family. The same day, I learned all about rubber plantations from a local farmer. In Africa, I rode in the back of a pick-up truck with a bunch of strangers through the dunes between Mozambique and its border to Swaziland. Definitely outside of my usual routine!

 

 

Benefits of travelling solo: Regardless of where I travel by myself, here the most important aspects I find particularly beneficial:

 

1st: Unobstructed Time to Think

Even though this last particular trip was a bit hurried and filled to the brim with activities, I did have a good amount of time to spend on my own thoughts. Something that is very rare in my life.

 

Do you have enough time to think about your life?

Or do you find yourself rushing from A to B most of the time?

 

When travelling by yourself to far away places, you inevitably have more time to think. Especially when you spend a lot of time on planes, trains or automobiles. And if you are a busy working parent like myself, you know all too well, how valuable time alone is. It’s always the first thing to go off the to-do list. Check out my previous post on how to put yourself back on your to do list (Click here).

 

Travelling solo also reminds me of the time before I had my own family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family! I would not want my life any other way. But, I do miss the days when I enjoyed unfettered time to dedicate to my writing, research and work. For example, during my trip to Europe, I prioritized the steps I want to take for my coaching business during the next 3-4 months. And I am thrilled to launch the next The Self Coach Approach Mastermind program soon.

 

Travelling solo creates time for you.

 

 

Another time creator is having limited access to your cell phone. Wireless internet access is pretty rare in Europe, which frees up a lot of time you’d otherwise spend on your phone. How much time would you gain if you had less access to social media, email or google? See also my previous post on what I learned during my last vacation from the internet (Click here). Lack of internet helps you resist the urge to fill your mind’s chatter with superficial distractions. Instead, you gain the gift of time and have the space to go deep. Use it to journal or just mentally work through topics you usually can’t – or won’t – focus on. Are you living the life you really want to live?

 

What would your teenage-self think about the life you live now?

 

Thumbs up or down?  Alternatively, fast forward 15 years. What would your future self think? What is the most worthwhile thing you could explore during your unobstructed time, which would best serve the quality of your life?

 

One of the gifts of solo travel is the time to go inward and think. Hard.

 

2nd:  Open your eyes to different ways of living

When travelling to other countries, you inevitably come across different types of people living their lives differently than you do. It always amazes me, how people in foreign countries do many things so entirely contrarily to myself … and make it work just fine! From banal things like grocery shopping, to different ways of balancing work and family time. For example, while North Americans load their SUV’s up with enough groceries to last them a week, Europeans buy fresh groceries almost daily. Their entire fridges are often smaller than North American freezer compartments. They store their fruits and vegetables in bowls on kitchen tables or in pantries. Use baskets and cloth bags instead of double bagging three items per bag in a big box store. Specialty stores and farmer’s markets are frequented over large chains.  Sundays are reserved for family time.  All stores are closed for the day!

 

Here some other random differences: People meet up with friends and family at lunch time, after work or on the weekends in outside cafes to discus politics, social issues, sports, or simply catch up with each other.  Residential elevators are a rarity. People go for walks in graveyards which look like parks. Lunch time is spend eating a real meal with peers, not slumped over a computer in a cubicle. Southern European countries have long midday siestas.

 

So many things are totally different. And it all works out just fine! It has me re-evaluate my own routines. And open up the space to consider other ways of living. Some, which may even make me happier.  And it invites me to consider how I may redesign even small aspects of my life to better suit my values and what is important to me.

 

How about you? What routines are you better off changing?

 

3rd:  Relate to food differently

One of the best things about travelling for me, is learning about different types of foods and ways to prepare them. It also has me appreciate some of the foods at home and not take them for granted.  For example, Germany and France are probably some of the hardest places to maintain a Paleo diet. Everything is made of bread and dairy! But they also have a variety of different meat and fish dishes. I love to come home with new ways of cooking different things. Regardless of where you travel, there are always amazing lessons to be learned about the local food.

 

4th:  Experience being the foreigner

When we are in our home town and country, we take a lot for granted. We have our network of go-to people and places. We know where to go for what we need and how to get there. But when you are travelling, even simple things become a bit of a guessing game. At the very least, they take conscious attention to figure out. For example, finding a pharmacy, using public transit or driving in local traffic.  You have to re-orientated yourself. In so doing, a window of opportunity opens. An opportunity to re-examine the way you look at they way you normally do things. And consider that there may be different or better ways. And then adapt your life accordingly back home, possibly even inspiring your own circle of friends to do the same.

 

5th: Looking forward to coming home

Okay, as much as I love to travel, nothing is as sweet as looking forward to coming home again.  Warm hugs and kisses from your family. Your own bed. Enough said.  Another benefit to returning home from being abroad is that the first few days when you are back, you see your usual surroundings with fresh eyes. You may notice things you do not want to continue as you did before. And also, aspects of your life you want to ramp up. This is the best time to action what you thought about while you were gone. Write down what you want to change and the first three steps you will take within the next week to get started. Be specific.  You could also start making your action plan during your travels back home.

 

Don’t let your new insights go to waste: They are golden!

 

Its also a great time to use your self-coaching skills or book a few sessions with a life coach to help you unpack what you want to change to fully take advantage of your new insights.

Not feeling super confident in your ability to coach yourself? Learn how by joining my next Self-Coaching Mastermind group. Make sure you don’t miss the launch, put yourself on the no obligation waitlist by CLICKING HERE.  Or sign up for my weekly blog to get onto my email list or follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

 

Until next time,

Simone

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Simone Alberts is the founder of The Self Coach Approach. She empowers freedom seekers by teaching them how to coach themselves so that they can independently create the life they really want wherever and whenever they want to.

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