I took my first ever solo trip this year, at the grand old age of 30. It’s something I would never have considered in my early twenties, my mid twenties, three years ago or even a year ago, writing it off as something that only confident people did – that certainly wasn’t me.
I’ve never been a particularly confident person. At times in my life I have suffered with cripplingly low self esteem which has tainted relationships, made friendships difficult and led me to miss out on opportunities. I’ve always been ‘shy’. Always been ‘the quiet one’. The ‘introvert’. I’m the first to admit I can be hard work (oh but it’s such a treat when you finally crack that nut! er, so I’ve been told…). It has definitely got easier as I’ve got older but I still suffer from social anxiety and would rather eat my own hair than have to make small talk with a stranger. Just over three years ago, I was going through a pretty bad time in my life, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into (you would be deafened by the sound of all those tiny violins playing). My confidence was at rock bottom and so were my social skills. I had, after all, spent the previous four years of my life working by myself, living alone and being predominantly single, save for a few months or so. Yeah, I was practically a hermit. My only daily contact was with the post office staff and the weird lady on reception at the office I rented. I lived for the weekends (friends! life! alcohol!) but if social plans got cancelled, it was unbearable. Don’t get me wrong, I am awesome at spending time with myself but sometimes you just need to listen to something other than your inner monologue.
Three and a half years ago I went on a two week holiday to Ibiza and Spain with my boyfriend at the time. It was fine at first but then it became apparent that I wasn’t very good at talking to people, other than him. He started setting me small challenges, like asking for the bill in a restaurant. I could not ask for the bill in a restaurant. I was a grown ass 26 year old woman who ran her own business who could not ask a waiter for the bill. I resented him for flagging up my insecurities in such a condescending way and he got a wake-up call that my shyness was not some endearing quirk but a debilitating facet of my personality that he wasn’t up for dealing with. And so that ended. On the back of that, the fierce heatwave that year and my lack of desire to ever wear a bikini again, I decided holidays were not for me.
Fast forward to 2015. I am 30 (almost 31!). I barely recognise the person I just described – thank god. My confidence has come on leaps and bounds and more importantly, I have self belief. I started working with people again (thrown in at the deep end by a temp agency, firstly a reception job – my worst nightmare). I’m two years into a six year degree course in psychology (which has confirmed that my brain rotting admin jobs haven’t done much lasting damage, I’m even capable of As!) and I started eating well and lifting weights. I began caring less what people thought, and started standing up for myself. I got rid of negative influences in my life and people that didn’t make me feel good about myself. I made some new friends. I am single, but I am the only one. Which leads me to travelling solo. I hadn’t left the country since that last holiday and I was dying for a change of scenery. I had a week off work coming up and some money burning a hole in my pocket.
I booked a three night break to Venice.
Just like that (okay, after a few hours of frantically googling ‘is Venice safe’, ‘how do women travel alone’ etc etc). For me, this was pretty spontaneous and not to be too dramatic, but was a decision which changed my life.
Venice was everything I had hoped for and more, magical not only because it’s Venice but because the woman who could not ask for a bill in a restaurant three years earlier was now boarding planes alone (connecting flights in one of the world’s busiest airports, no less) finding her hotel in the dark late at night alone, navigating hordes of tourists in peak July alone and sitting in restaurants eating three course meals, alone. And then asking for that damn bill, alone.
Within days of getting home from Venice, I had booked my next solo trip.
It may not have been a lengthy, round-the-world solo trip but it was enough to make me re-evaluate my life and change how I saw myself. I used to answer ‘no’ whenever I was asked if I would ever live in another country; now I’m not so sure. For now, I am happy with part time solo travel but who knows what the future holds? If I can travel solo, so can you.
(FYI, my second solo trip involved small talk with strangers. Which led to dinner and drinks with strangers.)
What’s stopping you?
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