What Does Embarking On A Solo Trip Feel Like?

What Does Embarking On A Solo Trip Feel Like?
How will you feel as you embark on your first solo trip? Thinking of travelling alone? Want to backpack solo? Read about a solo female experience of the start of a solo adventure.

So you’re thinking about booking a solo trip but are feeling rather daunted. Actually, you’re feeling downright terrified. What does embarking on a solo trip feel like? All these scary scenarios are running through your head and you’re worried that you’ll lose your nerve.

I could tell you to relax, but I know you won’t. I could tell you that you’ll be ok, but you won’t believe me.

So instead, I will share my story with you about how I felt embarking on my first solo trip.

At The Airport

It was early September in 2011 and I was in the international terminal at Heathrow airport.

I sipped a lukewarm cup of tea with my ashen faced parents as we killed time before I had to go through security. We weren’t talking much, just numbly sharing the odd comment before the inevitable goodbye that we all knew was coming.

I had already encountered anxiety at the check-in desk when the attendant asked me for my flight details exiting Thailand. Even though I had meticulously printed out all of my paperwork, I couldn’t produce this document because I had no outbound flight. I wanted to exit the country via land border into Cambodia and carry on my travels in South East Asia.

airport-embarking-solo-trip

Surely I wasn’t the first young, nervous backpacker he had met at check-in who didn’t know their exit date from Thailand?

Apparently not.

After taking my passport behind the scenes to be scrutinised for who-knows-what, the attendant finally came back and said “well, good luck at Thai immigration without proof that you intend to leave the country”.

I gaped at him. What did that mean?

This ominous statement would haunt me for the entire 13 hour flight to Bangkok as I squirmed in my seat with fear that I would be turned around at the border and sent packing on the next available flight home.

Pre-Flight

It was time to say goodbye to my parents, go through security and into the departure lounge. We’d left it late enough so that all I had to do was to walk directly to my gate and wait to board the plane. I was so nervous that I wasn’t interested in duty free perfumes or giant bars of chocolate. I just wanted to get on that flight.

airport-embarking-solo-trip

With barely concealed tears I hugged and kissed my parents, hoisted my carry-on bag onto my shoulder and walked away from my previous life. Little did I know how momentous that nerve-wracking moment would turn out to be. As I made my way to the boarding gate and sank into a hard, plastic chair, I couldn’t have imagined that this terrified girl with a steely determination could possibly end up travelling for five more years (and counting).

On The Plane

I cried on the plane. As soon as the plane started to taxi on the runway the tears fell and they continued to do so for quite some time.

What on earth was I doing?

What the hell was I thinking?

What had possessed me to quit my job, end my four-year relationship and buy a one way ticket to Thailand?

Why was I putting myself through all of this?

plane-solo-trip-flight

If it didn’t work out, I told myself, I could just book a return flight and be home in a week. No one would judge me for trying. I could say I had given it a go and that travel just wasn’t for me.

Round and round went these thoughts as I dabbed at my eyes with a damp tissue. God only knows what the guy next to me was thinking as he resolutely ignored me and watched his movies.

And just exactly what had inspired me to be in this situation?

This moment was the culmination of years’ worth of yearning to explore that had been simmering under the surface. Although I moved contentedly through my daily life in England there was always a part of me that felt unfulfilled. It was like I was only staring at life through a screen and I wanted to get out there and be in the midst of it. I felt the presence of ‘the rest of the world’ out there, beyond the realms of my imagination, beckoning to me with an outstretched hand.

Landing In A Foreign Country Alone

During the stopover in Oman I’d noticed that there was another single, female traveller. As I sat in the transfer lounge I willed myself to go over and speak to her, but I couldn’t find the courage.

The first sentence in my travel diary read: “I just want to get to Bangkok and text my Mum to tell her I’m ok”. I was still fretting about the immigration debacle and whether or not I would run into trouble because I didn’t have a return flight booked.

I was terrified at the thought of landing in a foreign country alone.

terminal-airport-solo-trip

As people queued to disembark the airport I noticed that the other female traveller was nearby. I held back so we walked off the plane together and I made myself speak to her. I told her it was my first time in Thailand and I was scared. I asked her whether we could go through immigration together so I didn’t have to be alone. Her replies were warm and friendly, immediately agreeing to stick with me.

To this day, that girl has no idea that she saved me from the brink of a nervous breakdown.

In that moment my spirits soared.

In that moment I realised that although I was travelling alone, I never had to be lonely.

The Journey From The Airport

All of my hand-wringing and crying on the plane about immigration turned out to be a total waste of my time and energy.

I breezed through with no issues.

The next absolute stroke of luck came when my new pal and I discovered that we were booked into the same hostel in Bangkok. Out of the thousand accommodation choices in the city, we were at the same one.

We stared at each other dumbfounded. What an incredible coincidence!

taxi-bangkok-solo-trip-transport

The horror stories I had read about taxi drivers ripping off people at the airport quickly subsided as I chatted to my instant travel buddy. Together we negotiated the taxi and finding our hostel.

A problem shared felt like a problem halved and I could cope with anything.

I was jumping for joy inside at my good fortune and in that moment I had already learned Lesson #1 of Travel: talk to people, especially if you’re alone. Only good things can come of it.

My First Solo Trip

Even after my good fortune at the airport, I will still admit that my first few days were still nerve wracking. I was still super shy, not really sure how to approach people in my hostel and break the ice.

I was learning the hard way about travelling in a non-English speaking country. Blank stares when I tried to communicate, sign posts and directions I couldn’t understand. I learned quickly to ask for directions from my English-speaking hostel receptionists, and often got them to write down the address of the places I wanted to visit in Thai so I could show it to taxi drivers.

I was hot. I got soaked in the monsoon-like rain that poured down. My heart fluttered with anxiety every time I explored the streets by myself with my map, for fear I looked too much like ‘a tourist.’

Bangkok-sky-train-solo-trip

Riding on Bangkok’s SkyTrain

But I was ok.

I got though each day and my confidence grew slowly with each new experience and mini victory.

Wait, There’s More!

If you liked this and want to read more about how it feels to be a single, female traveller then you may like to check out my articles on:

I hope you have found some comfort in reading about my experience. Know that you are not alone in your fears and that you will be able to overcome them. Each day will become easier as long as you put yourself out there and have the confidence to talk to other travellers.

How did you feel on your first solo trip? Were you as nervous as me? How did things work out for you? I would love for you to share your experiences!

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How will you feel as you embark on your first solo trip? Thinking of travelling alone? Want to backpack solo? Read about a solo female experience of the start of a solo adventure.

 

 

14 Comments

  1. August 24, 2016 / 4:33 AM

    Wow, you’re so brave to go there alone! People there they actually love foreigners! Especially when you’re getting street food, they will give you extra! Hope you’ll go back there again, a lot of beautiful places and delicious food! I’m going back soon! I’m from Bangkok! 💕😘

    • August 25, 2016 / 9:38 AM

      Fab to hear that you’re from Bangkok, Molly! I enjoyed my time in the city and need to go back at some point as I felt like I barely scratched the surface. Thanks for your trip on the street food!

  2. August 24, 2016 / 6:41 AM

    I can totally relate to this being someone who popped her solo travel cherry a few years ago with a lot of fear and anxiety! Brought back so many memories, but like you, I was totally fine in the end! Thanks for the great read x

    • August 25, 2016 / 9:39 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, Kat and could relate. It seems incredibly daunting at first, doesn’t it?!

  3. August 27, 2016 / 4:44 AM

    What an amazing experience – at least everything turned out ok! At nearly 30 years old I still struggle with this and have to force myself to tak to people. But it does get easier with more practice. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • August 29, 2016 / 8:36 AM

      Thanks, Flo! It definitely never hurts to talk to people – you never know what good will come from it!

  4. August 27, 2016 / 10:53 AM

    Yay! You did it. Amazing high! You captured it all so well in your post

    • August 29, 2016 / 8:38 AM

      I’m glad you think so, Punita! I was so relieved it all turned out ok and the rest of my trip was great too. Thanks for your kind words.

  5. August 28, 2016 / 8:52 AM

    Great post!! I actually ended up here because I love that raccoon jumper in your first pic, is it you wearing it? So cute! Glad I found your blog, looks awesome

    • August 29, 2016 / 8:40 AM

      I wish it was mine, Milli-Jane! No, sadly it’s a stock photo but I loved the jumper too so couldn’t resist using the image. Now if I can find a similar one my life will be complete. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

  6. January 22, 2017 / 7:14 AM

    Really inspiring post! You’ve echoed so many of my own thoughts and feelings as a solo female traveler. And I also love your writing style 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • January 29, 2017 / 6:13 AM

      So glad you like the post, Marguerite! Happy travels!

  7. I loved reading this story. It was quite inspiring and I think anybody who is a bit nervous or worried about travelling alone for the first time should read it! And also good that you had a few uneasy moments such as the check-in at the airport, experiences like that we can all grow from! 🙂

    • June 15, 2017 / 10:02 AM

      Thank you, Mike! I have definitely had my share of uneasy moments whilst travelling alone, and it’s looking back at them and realising I’ve overcome them that makes me realise I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the article so much.

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