Lately, a lot of people have been telling me that I'm very brave. These people are insane. Here's the thing, since entering adulthood, I have developed an unexplainable anxiety. This anxiety is, of course, self-diagnosed, but I think it should nonetheless be taken very seriously when I say I am one of the least brave people I know, if I'm allowed to include myself on my own list of people with an absence of bravery, that is. Not too long ago, one of my college friends wrote an article about the tendency for others to classify travelers as brave, which you can read about here: "Dispelling You're So Brave" by Jaime Sepulveda. This seems to be amplified when individuals find that you're traveling alone. In a stunt of pure madness, I'm going to reveal to you what I'm actually doing while traveling just to prove that I'm not really brave at all. Are you ready? Here it comes: I do the things I would normally do at home, just in another place.
It doesn't really sound as majestic when I put it in those terms, but on some level it's true. What I do think is very important about my solo travel is that I am comfortable being alone with myself. In addition, I have come to care less and less about how awkward or silly I look so long as the experience I'm having is memorable. So, there you have it, what I actually am is a crazy person! But in all seriousness, in the event that you decide to one day go on your own solo adventure, you may find it difficult to pass the time without having another individual there to keep you company, especially if you spend very little of your everyday life alone to begin with. I have spoken many times on my blog about how awkward I am in person, and traveling alone is actually something that I make myself do in order to grow as a person. It wasn't easy, though. The first couple of times that I traveled by myself I often paced around in circles, second-guessed every decision I made, and looked completely nervous wherever I went. Sometimes it would take me a little while to brave going outside of my room and enter the world that I had traveled miles and miles to see.
Actually, on my last trip to San Diego, I came back to my hostel after a long day of sightseeing and realized it was only 7:00 pm. What do I do now? It was dark outside, and I had no friends to go to dinner or drink with. So, I did what anyone would do, I texted my friend, who was all the way at home in Houston, to ask her what I should do. The whole situation was quite comical. For this reason, I have conveniently put together a list of things that I do when I'm traveling alone so that you don't experience the same anxieties. Ready? Set? Go!
1. Look at things. It sounds so ridiculous, but some people forget the whole point that you came to this whole other city is to look at it. So go! Don't sit in your room, it will still look the same when you come back at night to sleep, I promise.
2. "Have a Nice Walk." When I have nothing to do, I'll walk around. A lot. I will literally walk miles until I'm exhausted at the end of the day. At that point, I don't even think about what I'm going to do at night, I just go to sleep. I'll walk back and forth, over and over, around in circles just looking at shops, people, and for things to eat, of course. I used to make fun of my European friends for "having a walk," but now I do it all the time because it's so relaxing.
3. Sit in a place and observe. Just sit. I don't mean awkwardly shift your eyes like a stealthy thief, I mean just look at what's around you! What are people doing? What are they saying? Observe and learn.
4. Think about life. Seriously. I'm not kidding. You're in a new place alone, and that is the best time to think about life. You're cut off from all distractions and familiar faces, answer some of those questions you've been avoiding by rushing around and being distracted by your "to do" lists.
5. Go get a cup of coffee, tea, etc. and just enjoy it. In the US, we have a culture of taking things "to go." Rarely do we just sit and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. Maybe not even a Starbucks, get some local coffee at the kind of place where a nice barista asks you where you're from and draws designs in your latte. Then you'll become best friends, and they'll tell you all the secret places in the city that you'd never find on your own. You'll be so overjoyed that you add them to your Christmas gift list and take a selfie with them.
6. Eat dinner. In a restaurant. Alone. Don't take your food back to your room! You're missing out on some of the experience. No one cares if you're sitting alone, and it's an opportunity to focus on how amazing the food you're eating is.
7. Take photos. This is so relaxing. When I don't have anything to do, I just walk around and try to capture my surroundings. I don't even care where I am anymore, I'll literally whip out my tripod, use self timers, awkwardly create a scene, and who knows what else just to get a good shot.
8. Write something. You'll want to remember what you're seeing and feeling before you forget it. And maybe there are things you want to share with others later. Hello there, I want to share this with you!
9. Talk to strangers. I know this goes against what your parents told you, but you're an adult now and talking to strangers is okay. Meet people in your hotel or hostel, and don't be afraid to go out and approach others. It's a great way to make new friends. Start with simple things, like asking locals what their favorite things about their city are, or asking individuals in the hostel where they went that day.
10. Sleep. Which is one of the things my friend suggested I do. See, I told you. I just do what I'd normally do at home.
Hopefully this will help others to see that traveling alone really isn't that scary at all. You're just doing everything you do in your everyday life normally. Don't be brave, just be yourself.
What do you do while traveling alone? Leave comments below with suggestions for other readers!