“On behalf of Singapore Airlines, the flight crew would like to welcome you to Ngurah Rai Airport. The local temperature is thirty degrees Celsius. Thank you for choosing to fly with us today and we wish you a safe visit in Bali.”
The plane descended down below the clouds and sunlight beamed through the airplane window. Through squinted eyes, I saw the surf break on the beaches and boats going in and out of the tiny ports below. Every dream, every decision, and every leap of faith was sewn together into this moment to form the most beautiful image of reality that I had envisioned my whole life.
The dreams that swirled in my head for so many years had finally manifested before my eyes.
Before I knew it, I was leaving home again and again to see the world solo. Although I am only in my first couple years of travel, there is so much that has shaped me and changed the way I see myself, others, and the entire world.
Since we are coming up on the one year anniversary (It sounds so cheesy, I know lol) of my first solo trip to Bali, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on what I have learned so early in my journey. I am still learning so much, but I know that this will help shed some light on why I travel alone, and some common misconceptions there are about the world.
The World Is Not As Scary As People Make It Out To Be
If there is one thing that people need to know, it’s this: the world is so breathtaking. I have been told countless times to not go to certain places because they are dangerous, only to end up going and the reality of it being a complete 180 of what people talk about. I am not trying to say that there is world peace on every inch of this Earth, but I do know that there are beautiful people everywhere, families and friends living their day to day lives just like you and me. I do think to be safe as a solo traveler, it’s important to research certain areas or cities to avoid, but not generalize an entire country. There are dangerous cities here in the United States, but you don’t hear people talk about how dangerous the entirety of this country is. There is danger everywhere you go and there is safety everywhere you go. It all comes down to being smart about the places you go and being safe.
Everyone Should Take A Solo Trip At Least Once
For our entire lives, we are influenced by the people around us. We have others taking care of us, influencing us, and impacting our energy every second of every day. Solo traveling is a way to silence the constant chatter of voices, tune into ourselves, and get a better grasp of who we really are. There are things that I have learned about myself that I would have never of known had I never took the leap and went on a trip by myself. When we travel with others, it can be easy to go on autopilot and take advantage of the fact that we have another person there to talk to and fall back on for security. We are stripped of those things when we put ourselves in a place where conversations with strangers become common, listen to our intuition is our guidance, and making choices is solely by our own influence. Heaps of information surfaces through our vulnerability in these times and I believe everyone should experience that.
There Is More To Travel Than Pretty Photos
As much as I adore photography, I have found myself setting my camera down more than I am picking it up during my adventures. Sometimes you see something and it’s like, “wow, I really need to embrace this moment and not spend it looking through a lens.” Sometimes I think that we even miss memories solely by focusing on getting a photo rather than taking in the scenery. I think a way that I have balanced this is by using a film camera so that I can focus on my subject and get an image that I can later experience through getting my photos developed and seeing them weeks later rather than having the forgiveness that digital photography provides.
I think that the culture you learn and the people you meet along the way are so so so important. From the family that cooked me rice meals, drove me around the mountains of Bali to Lavigna taking me into her home in the Philippines and making sure I got to my hostel after hours on a motorbike, midnight McDonald’s stops to caffeinate, only to get to my room past midnight with tired eyes and dirt stains on our faces. I am so thankful for these kind humans that went out of their way to make sure I was safe and enjoying the time I spent enjoying their country.
Sometimes it’s good to remember to put your camera down and exist. Just because you don’t have a photo doesn’t mean you’re going to forget it the memory. Set it down. Be in the moment.
Alone Doesn’t Mean Lonely
To some, solo travel seems like this big scary thing where you’re going to be the only one lugging around a backpack navigating a new place, but in reality, you’re going to be around people doing the same thing you are. You meet so many people who may want to grab dinner, go on a day tour, or travel with you to a yoga retreat and spend the week together before you part ways. There are people who want to know your story, what you do, where you’re from. You can learn so much about the world just by speaking to the people you meet traveling. You will have friends all over the world and you can plan adventures to meet because you both share the same passion for travel. They become a part of your travel stories that you will share for the rest of your life and that is so special.
I Need Very Little To Be Happy
Your world changes drastically when you realize you can survive without your ten pairs of shoes back home, piles and piles of clothes, and the general clutter of “stuff” that we keep around for no reason. I can fit my entire life into a 40 L backpack. For weeks and weeks at a time, everything that I need rests on my shoulders. You learn to find value in the things that you own and learn that there is no reason to keep all this extra stuff in your life that doesn’t bring any value or sustenance.
Ever since I have minimized the things in my life, I can think clearly. I am less stressed. I feel like I can breathe, and everything is SO much easier to clean. Not to mention I spend way less money because I only buy things that will actually bring value into my life and that I think will last for a long time. I used to spend thousands and thousands of dollars at Sephora and online shopping and now I really only buy food and occasionally splurge on a treat for myself.
Conquer Your Fears To Experience Your Wildest Adventures
Ever since I watched Jaws as a kid I have been absolutely terrified of the ocean. Not in a sense that I wouldn’t ever get in it, but I would be expecting a shark to come up and pull me down at any moment, and I would never fully submerge myself. My first time in the ocean was only to my ankles because I was too afraid to get in the water all the way! Throughout my travels, I have tested this fear, pushed boundaries, and made it a point to learn more about the ocean. It’s actually quite peaceful to me now. I love submerging myself and going off in my own little world underwater. I even finally took the leap and went surfing and LOVED it! It’s something that I wish I could do every single day.
The photo below was taken in completely open water. I had traveled to Southern Leyte, the Philippines to ethically see whale sharks in their natural space and not pay to see them be fed. Instead of being too afraid to get into the water, I was often times the first one jumping off the boat with around eighty feet below me surrounded by hues of blue. This was the moment that I knew everything had changed for me and from then on I don’t really get scared anymore. If I wouldn’t have tested my fear and never gotten into the ocean, I would have never experienced my bucket list item, diving with whale sharks. I would have never learned how to surf. I would have never seen my first sea turtle. Don’t let your fears be the driving point in your life because they will always hold you back from the beautiful things and adventures that surpass your wildest dreams.
It Introduced Me To Myself
For my entire life, I have been confined within the walls of my school and the boundaries of my hometown. I was always told to take the safe route and never take risks. I never felt like I related to anyone my whole life until I left the town that I knew wasn’t for me. During my last year of high school, I felt alienated among the hundreds of classmates discussing college dorm plans, degree options, and scholarships to try to save them from drowning in student loans. I knew that path wasn’t for me and I was degraded, ridiculed, and unsupported throughout my entire decision-making process (aside from my family, my old co-workers, and a few of my close friends).
Upon leaving and spending time with myself, I can be unapologetically myself. I no longer had to spend my time and energy trying to defend a choice that I knew in my heart was the right option for me. I started to read more books and learned about my emotions, things I need for good health in all areas of my life, and I was able to listen to my body and my intuition. While traveling I was able to write daily about what I was feeling, why I was feeling that way, and what was going on in my life without school and other things taking priority.
I found out that for me to stay grounded and peaceful, I need to have my alone time (hence why I enjoy solo travel so much). I found out that having slow, paced mornings help me stress less, stay calm throughout the day, and keep me from lashing out. I discovered my passion for designing, writing, and having a space that is unique to me, beautifully designed, and a place that is just simply, Aaren. I wanted to have my own little slice of space that I can share travel tips, stories, sustainable practices, and veganism. All of these things helped form this very space, and I am eternally grateful for the people who enjoy my writing and that support me.
Thank you all for tuning in to how solo travel changed my life and maybe how it can change yours.
Let me know in the comments below what you learned on your solo travels or what you have learned while traveling in general.
Anyone can do it.
Book a flight.
Until next time,