I am now writing from Bali — more than eight thousand miles from my home in Southern California. For the first time in my life, I have decided to travel to an exotic location all by myself. This experience is so monumental and amazing that I want to share what I’ve learned with everyone.
What do you mean by “your bags are lost?”… or “Seriously, no rooms are available?”… or “No boats leaving the island for the next three days?”
If you have ever had to experience (or can imagine) the emotional tsunami that follows the aforementioned statements, you will understand how I’m learning to go with the flow. Of letting go of all things beyond my control and enjoying what comes my way. For me, this is what it means to be a true adventurer in this thing called life.
The following tips have arisen out of my experiences. I hope they will help you in your solo travel quest:
1. Let Go of My Conditioning
This is easier said than done, but we’re creatures of habit. We human beings tend to gravitate toward what we find familiar and comforting.
I’ve learned that I have to let go of the mental programming of setting an alarm clock, always eating the same thing at the same time, or washing my hair every day. It’s beyond liberating to break the cycle of always practicing what I’ve known and done for days, months, and years.
2. Chill Out
You may have to wait in line for 20+ minutes, you may miss a travel connection, or deal with inconsiderate tourists. I’m learning to take a moment to breathe before I react to each frustrating situation. Losing my temper or patience or shouting obscenities won’t get me anywhere any faster. It only depletes the energy that can be used for true adventure.
3. Don’t Expect Anything
There’s a fine balance between trying to get what I want and accepting the reality that I need to compromise. If you don’t get what you want (i.e. the airline failed to honor a meal request, the hotel is out of hot water, or lack of internet connection), just consider it a blessing in disguise. Sometimes I find myself smiling after I’ve realized what I had expected was far less exciting than what I was given.
4. Ditch the Road Map
“Life is what happens when you are planning something else,” a wise man once proclaimed.
A few days ago, I took a gamble walking down a side road in the streets of Ubud to discover the most amazing raw-food vegan café on the entire island. Thank goodness I let go of my “plan,” otherwise I would never had the chance to indulge in the amazing concoction of an avocado-coconut smoothie, pumpkin lasagna, and gluten-free chocolate beet cake. Amazing!
5. Take a Technology Break
When was the last time you went 24-hours without the internet, television, or radio? My travels in Bali have made me realize that the technologies I rely on at home (social media being one of them) can easily take me away from indulging in the beautiful environment in which I find myself.
Dare to find a café or restaurant that does not host Wi-Fi or purposely turn the phone “off.” Embrace how good it feels to be reliant upon your own intuition and instinct to serve as your informational road map.
6. Connect with Locals & Let Your Guard Down
I’m finding my life is enriched when I ask questions, get curious, smile at a stranger, and unveil the drawbridge of vulnerability. This allows for openness and new experiences to flood in. I’m learning to set my ego aside — Your ego is not your amigo!!!
7. Engage All Five Senses
I’ve found myself taking time to tap into all of my five senses. To me this means smelling the aroma brewing in the streets, feeling the sunshine being absorbed into my skin, tasting the pureness and loving care put into the food I’m eating, touching the earth (sand, rocks, textiles), and seeing the vivid aspects of life from a new lens.
8. Material Items Don’t Mean Much
I’ve realized I don’t need nearly as much as I thought I once did. There are essentials I can’t do without — but there is a distinct difference between what I truly “need” versus what I “want.”
When you’re on the road, you’ll be so happy when you aren’t lugging around an excess of personal items or buying way too many souvenirs. Less weight to carry equals more freedom!
9. Every Moment Is Unique
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel with friends, loved ones — and now completely solo. Regardless of how I’ve traveled (living in hostels or 5-star hotels) or who I’ve traveled with, the one common thread is that each moment is unique. No matter how hard I try, I can never recreate a past experience.
The key is to embrace the “now” and be completely unattached to what we’ve known. It serves as a platform for finding what we really need to attached to: ourselves. That’s what I’m learning solo travel is all about!”
10. The B.S. of Life Never Goes Away
No matter how long we’re away, all the bullsh*t of life is waiting for us when we return. Travel is a time to decompress. It’s a time to let whatever is stirring at home to go on hiatus. The good news is that everything will still go on — without us — and so let’s not beat ourselves up for not being there to help fix, control, or change things.
And with that said, if you’re thinking of traveling solo, I strongly suggest it. There’s a whole world waiting out there for you to explore!