Have you ever had the experience of traveling solo, in a distant land, completely out of your comfort zone, hoping that your resourcefulness and the helpfulness of people around you will see you through?
I had the opportunity recently to disconnect from my routine and head off to Peru for two weeks – solo (Read more about my Peru trip here). It was my first major solo trip and even though I was doing a couple of tours, I was also planning on living with the locals I connected through Airbnb and discovering some places on my own.
Why Peru? I had heard so much about the country; its biodiversity, friendly, inviting atmosphere and its inherent, earthy spirituality called out to me. Also this would be taking me completely out of my comfort zone. This was a new country in a new continent for me, where I did not speak the local language. I learnt some Spanish for 3 weeks before leaving for my trip and I wish I had dedicated more time to it. Also it’s a myth that people in Peru speak English. Only tour operators and guides speak some English and that’s about it.
So what did I learn from this trip? Here are 5 of the biggest lessons and realizations with regards to traveling solo, that I gleaned from this magnificent experience.
Freedom to Explore & Responsibility for Myself
Yes, I had complete freedom to explore the country and myself as I pleased. But I also had to face my problems alone. Manage my schedules responsibly during tours, be responsible for my safety and well-being and ensure a level of respect for the Peruvian culture. You are always responsible for yourself, but traveling through an alien land, on your own – it’s personal responsibility on steroids
Alone Time Taken to a New Level
I live on my own in Toronto, so I do not have any dearth of alone time. But spending time alone in such an alien environment was new. I did meet other tourists and locals but I didn’t hang out with them as much. I also wanted to spend more time with myself. At times, the nights were quite lonely and I missed sharing some of my experiences with my girlfriend. But it gave me a new level of mental fortitude to forge my own way – alone
But it gave me a new level of mental fortitude to forge my own way – alone
Greater Faith in my Resourcefulness
I was prepared for many contingencies during the trip. I was traveling through many towns and regions during the last few days of my trip and I was totally on top of all my schedules, tickets, tour details, etc. Everything worked like clockwork. I had contingency plans in place in case I got robbed, in case one of my bags got stolen, in case I got sick, etc. It gave me great faith in my resourcefulness and the knowledge that I can thrive in such situations without getting stressed
Connecting with People with a Smile
I ended up chatting up with random taxi drivers, waiters, waitresses, shopkeepers and other tourists. I can be quite aloof and shy and here I had an opportunity to connect with people with a smile. Even though my Spanish was quite broken, I could engage in basic conversations. All I had to do was smile, respect the locals and their customs, get over any shyness around conversing in a new language and open my heart to them. Peruvian locals responded beautifully! Many of them told me that I seem quite Peruvian in terms of my looks and my ways. It was quite a compliment. I also made some friends from other countries who were part of the tourist circuit with me. I was proud of myself for transcending my aloofness with so much grace
All I had to do was smile, respect the locals and their customs and open my heart to them. Peruvian locals responded beautifully!
Missing those whom I Love
Even though the 2 weeks taught me many lessons, Peru was a great host country and I experienced so much; I was quite homesick near the end of my trip. I realized the importance of my loved ones in my life and my need to share my experiences with someone, be it a partner or a good friend. Only when we miss them, do we realize their true importance in our hearts
I would highly recommend traveling solo if you haven’t do so. Even though I might add that I may not travel again for 2 weeks alone. That was quite a long time, disconnected from everything familiar and it made me really homesick by the end of it. I guess I am quite a homebody. Nonetheless it was an unforgettable experience and I am so glad I did it.
So what are you waiting for? Pack a backpack, book some tickets, grab a Lonely Planet and head outta your door before your apprehensions arrest you.