Whether it’s been twelve months or two weeks, finally the moment is upon you. As you sit in departures at the airport or stare out the window as the train rolls out of the station, you are left facing the bewildering void that is ‘post travel’.
How will I feel at the end of my first solo trip? Is a question that has probably been playing on your mind for several weeks building up to this moment. Now is the time to tackle the emotional minefield that is the end of your first solo adventure.
A lot is written about travelling solo for the first time that covers the pre-trip and on the road feels. I’m a huge advocate for this kind of writing as I reckon inspiring people to travel can only be a winner. However, there seems to be a lack of blogs out there that cover it feels when you’re coming to the end of all of this fun.
And that’s pretty unsettling.
It’s around this kind of time in your travels that you almost need more support than ever before. You’ve survived your first solo trip and the emotional rollercoaster it entails and are now counting down the days until you are homeward bound.
Just how are you going to feel at this stage?
First Solo Adventure
I was recently chatting to a good friend of mine who was coming to the end of her first solo backpacking trip. Debbie had been travelling all around Australia for three months in her an extended period of travel. Firstly, to read all about how Debbie coped with living out of a backpack hop on over here.
I caught her a few days before she was due to fly home and together we brainstormed just how it feels when your first adventure draws to a close.
The Hardest Aspects Of Solo Travel
Saying Goodbye To New Friends
In all the months spent worrying about your upcoming trip nothing prepares you for how much of a social experience travel can be. Even when you’re not staying in a place for a long time, or not into the party scene, you will be amazed at how quickly you make friends.
You’re in a bubble with the people you meet and you’re with them 24/7. You get to know them very quickly and the experiences you have together are heightened. You often find yourself sharing things more deeply with people who you’ve only just met than some of your oldest friends or family.
Saying goodbye to all these incredible people becomes one of the unexpected hardships of your adventure.
An Absent Sounding Block
When you are travelling alone all your decisions are down to you. As liberating as this sounds, sometimes not having anyone with you to share your feelings with can make you feel more stressed out. Factor in a language barrier and then you can feel pretty isolated. If only you had someone there with you at all times to be your sounding block and guide you through all of the tough decisions, or not-so-tough-decisions like pool or beach.
But, on the other hand, having someone there with you encourages you to moan, so solitude can be a blessing in disguise.
Kakadu National Park, Australia
The Easiest Aspects Of Solo Travel
Plans Can Be Unplanned
Stop the press. You don’t need to feel guilty about not doing masses of research before your trip.
What you might not realise when you first start travelling is how simple it can be to let plans develop. The people you will meet will influence your plans or give you great suggestions and tips. Allow yourself enough flexibility in your schedule to incorporate the changes you will want to make, usually after meeting awesome people who make you want to stay longer!
Expect The Unexpected
When your plans get totally upended by something – which can be as serious as a mid-trip broken foot like my friend Debbie – it makes you realise that you don’t need to tick off the same experiences as everyone else.
It might be due to bad weather, money constraints, transport woes or lost luggage; whatever the issue is you face on the road it doesn’t necessarily have to break your trip. Pick up the goal posts and do whatever you can to work around your stumble.
Ok, so you haven’t hiked to one of the world’s best beaches for that enviable Instagram photo, but you may walk down a lesser known path that’s just as beautiful. Realising that you have the flexibility to amend your plans means you’ll not be disappointed by the things you do manage to achieve.
How Has Travel Changed You?
Travel is a reminder that you can get on with people of all ages or nationalities. It may leave you feeling more confident in talking to people and meeting new people in your home or work life. Aside this newfound confidence you may notice that you are more comfortable with yourself. As we all know, life on the road can leave you looking less than glamorous. You start to worry less about looking good all the time and learn how to focus on enjoying the moment.
Shifts in your personality will have a knock on effect at home. Coming to the end of their your first solo trip may be the time when you question the role of work in your life. Do you want a career with short annual holidays or would you be happy with jobs that give you more time to experience the natural world, such as seasonal jobs?
What Will You Take Away From Your Solo Travels
You Will Meet All Sorts Of People…
From the middle-aged lion taming singer from Columbia Debbie and I met in Melbourne to the two female friends leaving their husbands behind to tour Tasmania on their motorbikes, it’s clear that travel doesn’t have to be something that’s confined to twenty-something backpackers. Travel is achievable for all kinds of people at any stage of their life.
… And These People Are Brilliant
As an adult you don’t meet many new people, apart from at work, and your world can become quite small. Travelling throws you into a mixing pot of nationalities, age, gender, religious beliefs and more. Apart from the first week of school or university, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever meet so many people in such a short space of time again.
At first you may fear that you won’t have anything in common with some people. That can be quite daunting. What will you talk about?
Don’t worry, you’ll soon find you will even connect with people who are very different to you. Even if your mother tongue is different and you’re from completely opposite backgrounds, travelling binds you together. Soon you’ll be able to say you’ve got friends all over the world.
How Will I Feel At The End Of My First Solo Trip?
Be prepared for a range of emotions at this stage.
More than likely you’ll feel like you’re dealing with a heart break as you wrench yourself out of your new world. I don’t think that you begin travelling with the expectation of just how much a life changing experience it can be.
You may want to travel to simply see some cool stuff, but what you don’t factor in is how that will make you feel.
When you first start out, you may not expect to be so overwhelmed by another country, especially after the first weeks when you may feel a bit lost and low. But each day on your journey will bring with it new experiences, new emotions and new achievements. Gradually you’ll begin to not only expect the cultural nuances so different to your own, but you’ll begin to enjoy them. Before you know it, you’ll start to take on board that country’s vernacular, the way of dressing and how they eat and drink as you greedily gobble up all the information you can about this new place.
What Happens Next?
The glow of travel takes years to diminish and its affect on you will be noticeable.
Given the opportunity to learn new perspectives, it’s likely that you are already starting to look at your own country with different eyes. With more international travel plans inevitably in the pipeline, you vow to try and visit more things in your own country. There’s nothing better than being a tourist in your own backyard.
At home you may find yourself being a bit more helpful and understanding towards tourists and travellers near to where you live. A foreign accent will make your ears prick up as you find yourself asking the same sorts of travel questions you used whilst chatting to people in hostels. This in turn may see you make more effort to meet new people at home by keeping up your newly acquired attitude of openness.
How You Feel Is Up To You
Travel is a deeply personal experience that affects people in different ways.
For some, the end of their first solo trip may be a time when vows are made to incorporate more travel into their life moving forward. Some people may feel a sense of relief to be heading back to their old routines, familiar places, family and friends. Others may struggle to wedge themselves back into the life they once lived as they find their post-travel self to be irrevocably enlarged.
However you feel at the end of your first solo trip, I think the one thing that will link all solo travellers is zero regrets. I have not met one person during my last five years on the road that told me that they regretted the time they had dedicated to travel.
Over to you: are you coming to the end of a period of travel? How is this making you feel? Can you relate to any of the above or do you view the end of your trip completely differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Share this with a fellow travelling friend who is nearing the end of their adventure!
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