Maple Ip, whom you may remember from her last guest post, In the Footsteps of the Turtle, is a wonderfully thoughtful traveler. When she’s not sharing her experiences on leafmecurious.com, she’s exploring the world!
I had to ask, how does she feel about traveling solo? Do the pressures from being alone outweigh the liberating feeling of being truly independent within a global community? Contrary to my expectations, she detailed how liberating and grounding the experience of solo travel is. It’s the only way to discover certain elements of humanity, and yourself:
Three Ways Solo Travel Settled Me
The perks of traveling solo seem obvious. You get to decide the itinerary, to budget or spend while avoiding the hassle of corralling a group. Little did I realize that it was also a way to indulge in self-care – to be the center of my world.
I could focus on myself
The first thought that popped up into my head was how quiet my day was. Having locked my phone on airplane mode, I was suddenly free from social distractions. I didn’t realize how much of my time was taken up by friends, family and work until I was truly alone and unreachable. Without the constant noise of people around you, you turn your gaze inwards to reflect on yourself.
I started peppering my statements with want and need instead of should. For the first time in years, I threw off external expectations and focused on my emotional well-being.
I gained distance and perspective
While travelling didn’t solve any problems I had back home or magically gave me answers to the future, it reminded me that I exist beyond my immediate environment. The world didn’t stop spinning just because I took a break. I broke away from my usual routine and spoke to strangers instead of friends, and things were fine.
Being in an unfamiliar place and seeing people go about their lives made me think that I didn’t fail at being happy – I just wasn’t satisfied with where I was. Maybe something different was needed. The perpetual exhaustion and anxiety I had lived with for months no longer felt so permanent; I was bolstered by how a simple change in pace had lifted me mentally.
I learnt that small things prompt big changes
Escaping to another country might not be a “small thing” but how you live during those days away can inspire big changes. For instance, by cutting off my internet access I’ve also cut off access to myself, prompting the realization that hey, I’m entitled to some breathing space.
Do you wake up earlier or sleep in? Do you live off convenience store food or hop around restaurants taste-testing everything? Do you say “yes” to new experiences or stick with what is familiar? Maybe you’ll start imposing social media bans post-dinner. Take the chance to mix up your habits! You might not be able to bring all these changes back with you to “real life” but open up to possibilities and life won’t feel so stifling. Even shifting one thing in your routine (like establishing a day every week to trying a new restaurant) is a step towards taking care of yourself. Indulge in your whims.
Solo travel isn’t a solve-all act but when you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, a break is exactly what you need. Give yourself the chance to focus on your needs without the distractions of work and social obligations. Personally, I was reminded to take care of myself. If that meant requesting for space then I am perfectly entitled – guilt free.