As I write this blog, I’m on a train en route to Cambridge, England.
I’m sitting next to my “work bestie,” my friend Melanie who is taking me on this adventure and hosting me for the next several days of my trip.
With beautiful English scenery on either side of me, I feel deeply peaceful and very thankful.
I love to travel. It’s one of life’s pleasures that, when given the opportunity, I do my best to take full advantage of.
I’ve done my fair share of traveling solo, and while I’ve enjoyed every experience, I can’t say that I’ve always made the most of it!
It’s tempting to stick to the touristy things and not go off the beaten path, especially when you’re on your own. We get nervous about drawing attention to ourselves, preferring to blend in instead of stand out like the “sour thumb” tourist we are!
It’s also tempting to lose yourself in the novelty of travel: it becomes an excuse to abandon all your regular routines that keep you grounded and frankly, sane, lol.
These are lessons I’ve learned the hard way! And although I’m going to be with friends and family the majority of this trip, the lessons I’m sharing in this blog are ones I learned as a result of traveling solo.
So before you even read any further, I want to challenge you to write down 3-5 places where 1) you’d love to visit that 2) your partner or regular travel companion has no interest in going.
While I encourage anyone and everyone to experience solo travel simply for the way it forces us out of our comfort zone, don’t worry if you’re not ready for this step yet!
Regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or not, the lessons I share below will arm you with some great tips for how to make your next trip your best yet!
Lesson #1: Ask and you shall receive—more than you ever expected!
It’s hard for me to ask for anything, lol. Help, directions, you name it! Even when I know I can’t do something, the last thing I want to do is admit it!
Naturally, this is not something that serves me well when traveling!
I learned long ago that it’s more painful in the long run to try and “figure it out” on my own. I end up getting frustrated when I want nothing more than to be excited about exploring a new place.
Now, I make an effort to ask for directions from someone local—like a shop keeper, bartender, or transportation agent—and actually take their advice.
In the past, I would ask for directions only to ignore them because I insisted I knew better—WTF?!
When I put myself out there, I find that not only do I get the answer I’m looking for, but I often get a personalized recommendation. I get the opportunity to make a connection with someone who I normally wouldn’t ever interact with, and that’s a real gift.
Lesson #2: Memories that last a lifetime are just outside your comfort zone
For me, asking for directions requires me to step way out of my comfort zone.
But as a frequent solo traveler, I’ve realized that asking for directions gets much easier the more you do it!
What doesn’t get easier? Introducing yourself to other people just for the heck of it.
As a solo traveler, it got to the point where the pain of going out for a meal on my own was greater than the initial pain I felt walking up to someone and introducing myself, LOL.
But it’s kind of like pulling off a band-aid—it hurts more the longer you draw it out! I find that when I just bite the bullet, not only is it SO MUCH LESS SCARY than I’ve built it up to be in my head, but it gets easier and easier to do each time.
And I can honestly say that every time I’ve gone up to someone and struck up a conversation, it’s made my memories of the place so much more vivid in my mind.
The times I’ve connected with people in this way really stand out as travel highlights!
Lesson #3: Routines keep you sane—wherever you may be in the world!
I used to look forward to vacation because it was a “break” from my regular routine. I would exercise and diet in anticipation of my travels, and feel great about being able to fit into my “skinny” clothes.
The problem is that this feeling never lasted: the moment I arrived, it would a free-for-all. I had no way of moderating my eating and drinking, so by the third day, I’d be feeling the effects of all my “debauchery.”
I’d be bloated.
I’d be lethargic.
My energy would be zapped.
I’d be irritable.
I’d be back to all-or-nothing.
I no longer feel the need to “escape” my regular routine when I go away because I like my regular routine. I want to bring it along with me, and I don’t want to eat or exercise any differently than I would at home.
Routines are not only comforting, but they keep us grounded—and sane!
If I didn’t take time with my morning coffee, journal, and book to read, write, and center myself a bit, I wouldn’t feel prepared to tackle my day—regardless of whether my plans for the day involve exploring a new town or city or working from home!
I hope these 3 lessons from my experiences as a solo traveler have inspired you to level up for your next trip!
If you’re curious for more insights and tips like these and how I put them into practice IRL, sign up here to follow along with my free, 14-day email series, #JollyGoodJaunt, which chronicles my current adventures in England!
Every day for 14 days, I’m sending out short email with pictures and videos, as well as tips and tricks for how to have a healthy vacation, and insights to help make your trip as memorable as possible.
I’m posing daily challenges to everyone, and we share them in the group, The Health-usiastic Life with Hilary. Everyone who participates will be eligible to receive a special, England-inspired prize!