Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
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Ten things I've learned from travelling solo

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The plane touched down in Rio de Janeiro. Until then I had been enjoying the in-flight movies, the free ice cream and the fact that no one sat next to me for the entirety of the flight. It was only once the plane began to slow down I realised this was it: eight weeks in South America – alone! I rushed to the toilet and sat like a tortoise with my ‘home’ for the next two months on my back. I thought about the story of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race. So I took the time to compose myself, and with a few deep breaths I unlocked the door and in doing so unlocked a part of myself. The journey, as much as exploring a new continent, was a process of self-discovery and I don’t know if I would have had the same experience if I had gone with a friend. 

Travelling solo may seem like an overwhelming task but half the time you don’t even notice you’re alone. You’re preoccupied with the sights, sounds, smells and strangers. The strangers who may also be travelling alone and whose company you can take comfort in. Or the strange strangers who make you thank the Lord that you are travelling alone and not with them. Travelling alone forces you to get out of your comfort zone and be brave, whether that be jumping out of a plane or asking another traveller if you can join them for dinner. Each and every task brings you a sense of achievement.

So here’s what I’ve learned from travelling solo:

  1. It’s OK to be scared. You should do something every day that scares you!
  2. It’s OK to be scared BUT don’t be. The world is incredible; the only thing you should be afraid of is not experiencing it.
  3. You become insanely good at unpacking and repacking your backpack – it’s really an art form.
  4. You trust yourself a lot more.
  5. You prioritise you. So often in life we try to please everyone else. Travelling alone lets you reflect on what you really want.
  6. You should talk and listen to locals. Some of my best meals and beach trips have come from hidden insider knowledge.
  7. How to hold your bladder on long bus journeys.
  8. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. No problem is too big. Trust me, you’ll be the Einstein of problem solving by the end.
  9. Once you’ve started travelling, you can’t stop.
  10. You’re never truly alone. Backpackers are the friendliest community and you’ll never be alone unless you choose to be.
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