How serendipity and a bunch of strangers shed an introvert’s inhibitions about solo travel
Bump^%%#^%& Thud$^$%O* Whack^%$#@ …….all the thrill about going home from one vacation to pack for the most awaited one just collapsed in a few seconds leaving me in excruciating pain. It was the month of Dec in 2016 while I was on a BLeisure trip from Delhi – Shimla – Delhi – Mumbai when I fell inside a bus I was traveling in and ended up with a rib fracture. I were to fly to Armenia with my friends the week after to bring in the New Year.
Traveling has been the most loved leisure pursuit for me and the thought of cancelling this trip got me almost in to depression, literally. Not only did my money spent in booking flight tickets went down the drain, I felt I missed out on great company. At least that’s how I thought back then, as I was planning this trip with my friends and given my nature of work and busy schedule, zeroing on definite dates has always been a big task. Either our dates never end up matching with each others or sometimes the choice of destinations don’t. I felt stranded the moment I thought I would have no company to travel and I will spend my annual leave sitting at home or maybe cancelling it completely.
With the Travel virus in my veins, my pursuit to find my ultimate happiness became even stronger once I recovered. This time, gathering the nerve to travel without friends, actually without any known faces. With no company and destination in my mind I launched into this search for the best place to travel in the month of June 2017 as I was restricted to take leave during the last two weeks of that month only. Browsing through Instagram was when I came across one of those solo women friendly tour companies offering a trip to Italy. Being an introvert, I always retreated to the idea of even enquiring about such trips as I had my apprehensions about traveling with a bunch of unknown people, mixing up and sharing a room with one of them. There’s always something about the group situation that gets my goat but it was a do or a die moment for me. Had I missed the bus in 2017 too no one could have saved me, given I am always swamped with work due to back to back events. I signed up for the Italian tour and with some trepidation at the thought of travelling alone, I took off in June, which changed the course of my life in many ways.
Solo travel is the new luxury in this cramped up, not so kind, not so peaceful and overwhelming world and is an abundantly valuable tool to help recalibrate. The benefits are enormous. Although it’s not completely solo as we meet other solo travelers on the go.
What I’ve observed from my past traveling experiences which have been mostly with friends, family or with my colleagues is that the trips done alone are the best. By “alone” I mean trips where you are a single person amongst a group of other single strangers, thrown together on an organised group trip. These kind of trips will get you a large number of out-of-the-way, unique beautiful places that would be impossible to do by yourself in the same time frame. Traveling with strangers helps you know more about YOU and more about your hidden strengths. It breaks all the inhibitions, barriers in your mind and opens doors to newer experiences. Prior to going on this trip, I had never flown alone on a long haul flight; Never changed flights on my own; Never booked my own tickets; Never really got stressed applying for visa or even understanding how it works ( given my travel agent, family or my office used to help / arrange for it ).
I had never shared a room with a complete stranger and there I was all set for the battle of my life 🙂 . I thought I would not be able to adjust and that the trip was going to be a huge disaster. Pacifying myself, I kept telling my heart that I treated this like a trial and error, as I had to utilise my leave and go somewhere.
My perception of solo travel changed totally after this trip. I not only flew without any anxiety and changed flights without asking for help, I helped a mother (who was a first time flyer traveling to meet her husband in Copenhagen ) with her one year old infant to change fights. It was so simple, all we had to do was follow signs and instructions and check the departure boards ( sounds like not a big deal to some, blame it on the anxiety and inexperience). On the very first day of my trip, I bonded so well with my co-travellers which made me realise that I am not that uptight in life as I seem to be, I am more than adjusting too. I also had an opportunity to take the single occupancy option free of cost as my room mate did not receive her visa and hence was not joining us on the trip but I chose to share the room with a co-traveler happily.
When you meet new people while you are traveling you actually learn to loosen up and try out experiences that you thought you wouldn’t like or can’t think of taking up. How we learn and pick up habits from our school, college or office peers , we do the same with our co-travelers. We hear their stories about not having a companion to travel with or stories about why they chose to leave their comfort zones to travel with strangers. Trust me on this …it makes you more compassionate in life and going solo delivers a confidence boost that can’t be experienced any other way. We do end up getting our ‘ME’ time and also make new friends across the globe . This experience definitely makes you more patient while dealing with new people. Though this trip din’t change me from an introvert to an extrovert in 13 days but it helped me transform in to a much better, confident and an independent person.
Most of the steady Eddy kind of people can’t envisage themselves travelling alone . For many travellers, a solo trip is seen as an intimidating, daunting venture. Why so? There are many reasons such as — feeling lonely, boredom, being left out amongst new people, no one to take pictures if they don’t get along with people. Nevertheless, travelling with a bunch of solo travellers is like seeing a reflection of you in them and vice versa. Think about it! Just like you, something too made them take a decision to travel solo 🙂
Traveling alone or with complete strangers gives you an opportunity to gain valuable experiences about the world, people, food, foreign customs and traditions. You stop being ignorant and start appreciating things you might have never noticed. You open your heart. You become more of a listener than a speaker 🙂
No matter where you go and what you do, it will change you forever and for better.
For first timers, I would highly recommend these two experiential travel companies —