How to Travel the World Solo, and Really Be Okay With It
My penchant for noting everything and anything that goes wrong, while abroad, travelling domestically, or honestly just walking out my front door is, well, a regular occurrence. Particularly on social media. I have even been known to pen "ran out of petrol, please don’t fine me," in lipstick, on my windshield, after running out of petrol, in you guessed it, a no stopping zone. Beauty note: Dior Rouge in Mysteriuse, works a treat.
My travel 'expertise' is best surmised by a dear Facebook "friend" who wrote: "For someone who travels a lot, you’re really sh*t at it." In fairness, she was replying to an SOS status update, inquiring if anyone just happened to be travelling from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay, where I had left my bag on the luggage belt hours earlier. After dinner and a few spicy margaritas, wanting to wash my face and get into bed, my cleanser was nowhere to be found. The realisation of what I had done—or not done—prompted said status update. I wish I could say it was an isolated occurrence. Let's just say, I really hope my travel insurance provider is not reading this.
While I sound under-qualified to give travel advice, the thing about things always going wrong, is that you learn to become a brilliant problem solver. And stress? Well, stress becomes so innate, that it doesn’t affect you in the same way it does a regular, functioning, organised person—one with their passport, and credit cards, and worldly possessions on their person when needed. If nothing else, this guide is about surrendering to the process while travelling solo literally, and on this journey we call life. Read on to see my somewhat unconventional tips below.
#1: A GOOD PLAN IS NO PLAN
Of course, ask your friends for restaurant recommendations, check Trip Advisor reviews so you don’t end up with bed bugs. But beyond buying your airfare, securing your travel insurance, booking accommodation, and ensuring you have the means to embark on your journey, don’t plan.
When Tim Minchin gave his speech to a group of college kids at UWA (it's has since gone viral) he spoke about micro-ambition, in place of big dream, "If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye." In the intended context, it didn’t sit well with me, because I am an unreasonably-ambitious human. But when applied to travel, particularly solo travel, it became my mantra. For example: If I was too focused on ticking the boxes I would not have made my first, and very best hire, in Ella Jane, TOMBOY Beauty’s content producer. On a completely unplanned, random, and wonderful night bar hopping through Le Maris. My chance encounter with Ella, lead her to asking to assist me on a shoot the next day, where she impressed me with her initiative and intuitiveness. She is now an integral part of my business.
#2: JUST SAY YES
There are very few occurrences while travelling, where saying 'yes' has led to regret, save for an illegible tattoo I recently got in Tokyo. But other than the average tattoo, I have a plethora of incredible memories. While 'no' is a complete sentence, thanks Arianna Huffington, on the flip side so is, 'yes'—and I implore you to say that three letter, one syllable word, more often, especially when outside of your postcode.
Had I let jet lag win and said 'no' when an acquaintance known only to me by sharing small talk at industry events, reached out on Instagram inviting me to dinner in New York City, I wouldn’t have met her and her date, and her date’s brother at an East Village dive bar. We wouldn’t have watched her date’s brother at an impromptu underground comedy club later that night (side note: He was hilarious.) And I wouldn’t have been generously offered her spare room for as long as I wanted to stay. My seven-day post-breakup/get-happy holiday would not have turned into an ensuing two-month vacation, which saw the acquaintance transition to a friend I now consider family.
Six months later, and across seas: A cute Italian boy, with minimal English asked me to coffee on the side of the road, while I was killing a week before Milan Fashion Week in Lake Como. I said yes, though did not get in to the car with him because, stranger danger. In a nearby café our date, conducted in large part on smart phone via Google Translator, I learnt about his family dynamic, hopes, dreams, and fears. Something that challenged me to assess my own, and in turn lead to accelerated personal growth.
It’s fly by the seat of your pants kind-of-stuff, but if you remain open, life has a funny way of offering up opportunities, growth, excitement, and adventure.
#3: Be OK with being alone
Extended periods of solitude are thought provoking and while dining alone or being presented with the daunting task of filling an entire day, sans friends and family, can be exactly that. Reaching for your phone to avoid awkward eye contact with fellow diners, or worse, being stuck in your own head, is actually counter-productive. You probably should have just gone on a Contiki tour.
By switching off, not replying instantly to that email, and resisting scheduling back-to-back FaceTime calls with your people back at home, it can lead to some pretty wonderful thought processes, ideas, and creativity taking place. I know this to be true, because when forced to not use my phone on the plane—I’ve tried and failed enough times to connect to in-air WiFi—my creative juices flow. Put down your iPhone, take out your note book, or sketch book, or your guitar. Draw what you see. Journal your thoughts. And experiences. Write a song. “It’s all copy”. Meaning it’s all part of your narrative.
As a writer, I can flow this ‘copy’ into stories like this one. Or into scenes for the television series I am working on. But even if story telling isn’t how you earn a crust, your musings (which can too easily be forgotten when back IRL) will forever be documented. And in my experience, a review of such, will likely lead to itchy feet and your next great adventure. Happy (solo) travels.
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