Thoughts on Solo Travel and Confidence

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.

Thoughts on Solo Travel & Confidence | Jackie Jets Off

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?

This was also published on The Huffington Post UK

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Thoughts on Solo Travel & Confidence | Jackie Jets Off | How I went from debilitating shyness to having the confidence to travel solo

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28 comments

  1. Nice, Jackie! It’s so true, traveling alone pushes you to do things you never could manage to do otherwise–even if it was only asking for the bill, asking for directions… whatever. I had a similar experience when I went to Argentina alone. You go girl!

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  2. I first went backpacking by myself in Latin America and went through all the same motions. But truth is, you’re never really alone and you make heaps of friends along the way…and you’re alone when you want to be alone. Great way to travel sometimes!

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  3. Congrats on your first solo trip! I loved reading this post . . . it’s amazing how travelling can change you as a person, and bring you out of your comfort zone.

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  4. What a inspirational article.
    Im also a solo traveller i often get comments such as “dont you have any friends” “aww i bet your lonely” no i love it.
    I cant wait to read more about your adventures

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  5. Nice tips Jackie!

    One of my favourite parts about travelling is getting to know the locals and their customs and it’s hard to do that when you are shy or lack confidence.

    The great thing about travelling is that it forces you out of your comfort zone and you must adapt to the ever changing world around you.

    Thanks for the share and keep on travelling!

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  6. I was very much like you two years ago. I had recently gotten out of a 5 year relationship with my high school sweetheart. I am super introverted, and also could not ask for the bill at restaurants. Hell, I couldn’t even go to restaurants alone. Then I booked a two week trip to Europe in February of this year. I went solo, and it was the most transformative thing I have ever done. Now I am quitting my job to spend 7 months in South East Asia starting in April! Travel changes lives 🙂

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  7. I relate so much both to the shy girl who can`t ask for her bill and the badass who takes the world by storm on her solo adventures! Glad to say that I’ve been the latter for the past few years. Thanks for sharing this, sometimes it’s unpleasant to see the past versions of ourselves… But isn’t the evolution amazing?

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  8. You go girl!! Yep travel does it to you, opens you up and boosts your confidence. Or you just stop caring about many things;)

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  9. Loved this! I first started traveling solo at 23! Best decision ever and 7 years later i am still going! It doesn’t matter when you start-just doing it is enough!

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  10. thank you for this. I got offered a six month job in Peru but I am not sure if I should take it. not because I’m scared to move to a country all by myself but because they don’t pay much and I haven’t saved enough money and I’m also scared to leave my job in Canada and come back jobless. Sigh. What would you do? Stay in Canada and just travel part time when I can or go move to Peru for six months and deal with being broke and jobless after six months?

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  11. That’s awesome! A great way of change. I did my solo trip in one of the islands here in the Philippines and its an awesome feeling too.

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  12. great post! I’m also shy and introverted, and traveling solo has been the best thing I’ve ever done, it’s pushed me out of my shell and made me feel comfortable talking to new people and asking strangers for help, but it’s also made me realise that it’s ok to be quiet sometimes, and to be the one who sits with a group pending more time listening than talking. I’m happy being the quiet one, because I know when I have things to say that I can and will say them! Solo travel is so empowering! 🙂

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  13. Fantastic read! You go girl! 🙂

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  14. Hi Jackie! I can relate to you in this post so much – had troubles making myself call for the attention of service staff too! And then I went for a short solo trip and it changed me in ways I could never have forecasted. Amazing how far you’ve come babe, let’s keep going!

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  15. I also found hard to start a conversation and will rather sit alone in a coffee shop and face my laptop or a book. Traveling is indeed magical on how it changes us into better selves. Thanks for sharing. Jackie! More solo travels to come. 🙂

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  16. Good for you! I love solo travel, and it’s great to find other people who do too!

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  17. Good for you Jackie, congrats!!! I was also 30 when I took my first solo trip. It really gave me a boost in confidence and I’m so glad I took the leap. May you enjoy many more solo journeys!

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  18. Congrats on making progress in your confidence as a traveler, Jackie.

    I have done solo trips, but I much prefer travelling with a friend. I love sharing meals, drinks, and experiences with a fellow traveler. For me, travel is a very social activity and I love talking to others, whether they’re strangers or not.

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  19. Isn’t solo travelling just so empowering?

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  20. Wow, you’ve grown so much – well done! I’m in my early twenties and would really like to take a solo trip but just don’t have the guts. I seem to have gotten shyer as I’ve got older, which is really bloody annoying. I love travelling, but I’ve always gone with a more outgoing friend and been happy to let them do all the talking. Regretting that now!

    I flew out to Borneo solo to meet some gal pals and things didn’t go to plan so I ended up doing a night on my own in the jungle – nothing like throwing yourself in at the deep end! I absolutely hated that night and thought I was going to die of anxiety, but I would like to travel solo on my own terms, perhaps to a location that doesn’t seem quite so exotic and unknown. Also, your bf sounds kind of nasty haha. Happy travels, this was inspiring!

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  21. These are very beautiful thoughts, Jackie!

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  22. good on you, in the end it is all about confidence, if you think you can do it, you will!

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  23. Hail Jeckie!
    Traveling solo has many positives. Hope to listen much more from you in future.

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  24. I hear ya girl! Insecurities and low self esteem is not a joke and a lot of people think it is stupid. It is a real life struggle! I’m very happy for your big step up and hope it continues, congratulations! Just remember these: You are beautiful, you are strong and you are free!

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  25. You go girl! Eventually I will take a no-kids-allowed trip… but that is highly unlikely. It is always nice to step out your comfort zone and experience something new.

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  26. Good on you girl, travelling is definitely one way to get over that introvert fear! PS friends cancelling plans is such a bug bearer of mine too!

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  27. No question at all — traveling solo is one of the best ways to inherently grow your confidence. It forces your brain to kick into that survival instinct that has lain dormant for far too long. Even socially, you’re forced to move out of your comfort zone and speak to complete strangers. It’s helped me a lot personally as well, since I’m now so much more comfortable in social groups or parties/events, where I don’t know too many people or none at all sometimes. It’s pretty fantastic to be able to experience that kinda growth, don’t you think? 🙂

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  28. Inspiring! This is exactly the beauty and strength of solo traveler, you go girl!

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