Changes in travelling alone (Part 3)

“I did it all, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived”
~ I Lived by OneRepublic

(In Part 1, I covered the worries and apprehensions prior to undertaking solo trips and that transitioned towards Part 2, where I listed the reasons to why I love solo travel.)

After travelling alone numerous times, I realised that there have been changes in my approach towards solo travels and I have grown from an “uneasy” newbie to a “confident” traveller. And the more I travel alone, the more changes there are in my behaviour during such solo trips. Hence – in Part 3 of the travelling alone series – I will like to detail how my travelling patterns have changed throughout these solo travel experiences.

1. Becoming more comfortable with myself (introversion)

The first city I travelled to alone was Paris, and I can still remember the experience of watching the sunset over the Eiffel Tower. Being alone afforded me the serenity to savour the moments of the sun slowly setting into the horizon in such a picturesque and world-renowned landmark. Yet – although there was calmness in me, there was this lingering sense of melancholy in my heart still. As throngs of couples surrounded me, I (perceived and) envied them for being deeply in love when I only had the company of my own thoughts.

Slightly over a week later, I travelled to Barcelona alone too. Likewise, at the musical fountain at Plaza de Espanya, I was surrounded by a huge crowd of people (but, probably with a smaller proportion of couples). In contrast, I was more confident this time. My eyes were no longer stuck to the ground; but instead, my head was held high! I was intrigued by the people around me. I enjoyed observing their actions and glimpsing into their personalities. Then, when the water show started, I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of dancing water acrobatics, rainbow-colour lightings and Disney tunes. This time: no more lingering melancholy!

Musical fountain, BarcelonaWater and light extravangaza at the Barcelona’s musical fountain – love it! 

Fast forward to my graduation trip in USA: Alone, I enjoyed free music at city parks, ate in a fancy Italian restaurant and watched an energetic rock concert by The Airborne Toxic Event. Zoom further ahead to my “in-between jobs” sabbatical in New Zealand and Australia: Almost everyday, it was mandatory for me to read my book, listen to music and contemplate about life while resting and napping at any garden/park/beach. Such is the confidence in myself that I am no longer afraid of being (seen) alone! In fact, I desired being alone so much that I channelled my ‘inner zen’ and deliberately turned off Whatsapp notifications to stay away from all the noises back home. But psst… every solo traveller still have their down days where they craved for someone/something familiar ;)

IMG_2714Rocking with strangers at TATE’s concert – Anna killed that violin!

Bench on the hill, QueenstownThis bench located on Queenstown Hill is perfect for me to rest and relax.
No benches anywhere? Sand, grass or rocks are fine too :)

2. Becoming more comfortable with others (extroversion) 

The first few times I travelled alone, I largely kept to myself, avoided looking people in the eyes and retreated to the hostel beds early in the night. Together with becoming confident in myself, I also gradually became more confident with others.

It began with a tentative few steps: from saying hi to fellow travellers on walking tours and talking to the people next to me at the musical fountain in Barcelona. From there bigger steps were made: dropping by the hostel common area, conversing with the people in the bar seats next to me in the Italian restaurant. I then realised that it wasn’t that hard after all! Conversation can easily begin in the following situations: asking someone to take a photo for you, smiling at the person who sits next to you on the buses, mutually seeking shelter to escape from heavy downpours and even by wearing a Pinkpop concert tee!

SAM_1681Me: At the Pinkpop concert in Netherlands. At a hostel in Malaysia, a Dutch traveller spotted the tee, asked when I visited his country and conversation flowed from there :)

When you begin to realise it is that easy, you will then make further strides ahead – just like I did! From being responsive to others, I then begin to initiate conversations with the person sitting next to me on buses. From hiding on my hostel bed, I begin to approach other solo travellers at the hostel. From just saying “hi, bye, thank you” to strangers, I conversed with a stranger on the street for half an hour after she offered me help with directions! But psst… travel changes you in ways and yet, it does not change everything! I am inherently still an introvert. I might be slightly better at conversing with strangers, but I still am not a social butterfly – that is just not me.

3. Becoming less fixated on electronics during alone time

The excruciating 17 hours bus ride from Paris to Madrid is still heavily etched in my memories. I remember being so depressed after 2 hours into the bus ride as my laptop had already ran out of battery. This is because: In my early solo travel experiences, idle time was spent binge-watching on television series or movies and playing hours of games on my tiny iPhone screen. The problem about electronics: they are so dependent on electricity! (duh)

With the abundance and over-supply of idle time during solo travels, I had to find other means to pass the time. So, I re-discovered a love for novels and devoured books after books on travels. From reading, I then started to think more; and soon after, much idle time is spent just contemplating on life before falling asleep. From thinking, it then progressed naturally towards writing. In fact, this 3-part series on travelling alone was actually conceptualised on the 10 hours flight from Singapore to Auckland! Although I had already brandished my copy of “The Fault in Our Stars” onto the aircraft tray table, the book remained unturned as I spent the bulk of my awake-time recollecting, thinking, jotting down points and writing the outline of this series. But psst… it gets tiring to read/think/write all the time and I still binge-watch on shows – just that I don’t depend fully on it now!

Lake TaupoCompleted “The Fault in Our Stars” at Lake Taupo, a quarter into my New Zealand trip. Could have finished it much earlier, if I hadn’t thought and wrote on the flight! 

Have you travelled alone? Or, have you done it numerous times? If so, do you feel that there has been a growth process in your solo travels? Do share in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “Changes in travelling alone (Part 3)”

  1. I like the point you made on how you (had to) stop feeding that dependency on electronics – although personally I’d still never manage to read novels on trips because every moment would be spent out and about or talking to others that the book would probably end up in the same spot it was in from when I first packed it :P . Nevertheless, I agree re phone/notification-free days!

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  2. I really liked this article – I went on an epic 4-year tour of the USA with only my truck, camper and my cat. I’m an introvert also, and like you, found it hard at first to make friends. But ended up befriending many, many wonderful people! This trip turned out to be a life-changing event for me and I was able to not only see many beautiful sites, but connect with my inner self. I developed a zen attitude and even read a couple hundred books! Solo travel is a great way to get to really “know” thyself!

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    1. Thanks, glad it resonated with you! And I’m happy to know others share the same feelings as me too :)

      And wow, a 4-year tour – must’ve been an amazing experience “knowing thyself”!

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