As I descended my first solo 8 mile hike down Bandera Mountain, I felt so much gratitude towards myself for having chosen to backpack Europe alone. It was the biggest and scariest investment I've ever made, but was the catapult I needed to go into some deep personal and spiritual growth. The thought of going on a big hike alone would have not been very appealing to the old version of me, but the post Europe me now loves the idea of adventure, alone time, and constantly seeks opportunity for growth. After having so many people ask me about my trip, I decided to share some major things that stuck with me from my solo female travel, and how these learnings enriched my life. I highly recommend solo travel to anyone who is even considering it! Life is too short and goes by way too fast to not do what sets your soul on fire!
A quick and dirty background: Last year I quit my career in the fashion industry to go have my "Eat, Pray, Love" moment as I was in the beginning stage of my Saturn Return. I found myself itching to step outside of fear, and to see what would happen if I just trusted the universe (something I was never good at). Plus, at that point I no longer had hobbies because my job took all my time, I was creatively uninspired, and I was honestly lost in the confusion of what my life's purpose was. So, I left my corporate job in March of 2016, packed and repacked until I realized I really couldn't take much with me, and bought a one way ticket to Iceland with the expectation I would be gone for 2 months.
Backpacking is called "backpacking" for a reason. You are literally living out of a backpack while you're traveling. Your backpack is your home--it is your life while on the road. Don't be too attached to these things, but protect them. If you're traveling somewhere warm, well then you're lucky! You get to pack more into your backpack because warm weather clothing is smaller. If you're going to a cooler climate, you are limited because of the bulkiness of cool weather clothing. Every inch of your bag is precious real estate and every little bit put into it you will have to carry on your back while running around between different platforms trying to catch a train. I ended up sending half of my items home when I was in Berlin. The bag was just too heavy and hard to lug around the rest of my journey, which didn't leave me with too many belongings. That being said, I quickly got comfortable with rotating between the same 3 long sleeves, 2 pairs of jeans, and few pairs of underwear I washed in the sink (it didn't financially make sense to pay for laundry service at this point and I was ballin on a budget). You get so immersed in the experience you're having that what you look like is the last thing on your mind. After living this, I've felt less attached to things in my present life and have gotten rid of excess. I also appreciate the mental space I get from not cluttering my life with things that I can't keep track of or know I won't get multi-use out of. Things are just things, experience is something you are put on this planet to do.
Find Your Confidence
Situations and incidences may come up that probably aren't going to be a part of your plan and will likely be really fucking frustating. You have you, and only you to figure out how to get from one city to the next and get creative when it comes to accommodation/staying within your budget. And sometimes that means you'll need to ask for help along the way. But if you can get good at problem solving solo abroad, doing this at home will be so much easier, and actually starts to be a lot of fun (at least for me). The biggest part of my trip I was looking forward to was a work exchange for stay through Workaway with a German Architect and Mexican Shaman at a holistic wellness center in Rathenow, Germany for 3 weeks. In short: I got into an argument with the man after he gave me some unwelcome relationship advice, was there for 4 days, and took a train back to Berlin to figure out what my next move was. After overcoming this situation amongst a few others, I now feel like I can do anything, go anywhere, and problem solve like a girl boss. I found parts of me that really needed to wake up and be present in my life. This confidence was one of the biggest gifts from my journey!
Go with the Flow of Life
As mentioned above, some things may not go according to plan. This will teach you to go with the flow of life and the flow of your experience. Maybe you'll meet some amazing souls that will become close friends because you decided to drink at an Icelandic "American Bar" till 4AM? If I hadn't of made that choice, I wouldn't have met my two favorite Icelandic friends, Selma and Helgi. (I met Selma hungover on a couch at the hostel I was staying at, and she asked if I was OK, hah!) Both beautiful souls that aspire to own a farm in Spain! They hosted me and a close friend (that stopped by to meet me on a small portion of my trip) to a dinner that Helgi made from scratch. We ate with our hands, drank wine, shared interesting things about our cultures, smoked a little weed, and saw a peep of the Northern Lights in front of Hallgrímskirkja (say it 5x fast!). Meeting them was one of the highlights of my trip and truly enriched my soul because I learned to release the need to have a plan, and in return started to live in the moment. So much magic happens when you release the grip and let the universe provide you with tiny moments that you carry with you forever.
New You, New Start
If you choose to go big by leaving your job, your family, and all that is familar behind you for a long period of time, the chances of you coming back different are good. And that doesn't have to be a bad thing! As humans, we are allowed to change and grow and that's what's so beautiful about life, it's not constant and it's always flowing forward. Not one person is constant and you have every right to change. Honestly, that doesn't mean it will be easy, because change is NEVER a piece of cake. But what you are changing into is going to be more YOU. If you're looking for a fresh start in who you are and what you want to do or be, solo female travel will empower you and change you. Reason being, you get to spend concentrated time with yourself, getting to know yourself without the influence of what is comfortable and familiar. You get to work with yourself in an open space to explore, play, and do what inspires you. I rediscovered my creatively because I had so much spare time, and I filled it with taking photos, writing, and sometimes just sitting on a waterfront watching people. I came back home and started a new career that was more creative and fulfilling. It was work, but it was worth all the joy I feel now.
To some, being alone is one of the scariest thoughts in the world. As I was recently telling a young college student about my solo journey, he said to me, "Oh, no! I'd hate that, I could never go alone." I asked why, and he responded, "I'd get lonely." The truth is, you can be lonely if your mindset or intention is to be lonely. You don't have to interact with anyone around you if you really don't want to. Or you could make some friends along the way! It's a choice. Being an introvert, extrovert, I had more of a challenging time trying to find privacy since I was staying in hostels. But that lack of privacy is how I met the most amazing people. It's a double edged sword. I connected with beautiful souls that inspired me, gave me perspective on my own life, and some that mirrored me and pissed me off. On a deeper level, I connected with myself. If sadness or loneliness came up, I got the opportunity to ask myself where the feelings were stemming from and also got to know those scared parts. I'm a big believer that everything we have is already in us and with us. I am home, I am my best friend, and I am my companion. It's a practice, but it is something that I've become awake to since my travels and I'm so thankful to carry that awareness in my everyday life.