Do you have an unstoppable urge to travel? Do you dream of seeing the world, and yet the only thing holding you back is the fact that there seems to be no one willing to go with you?
Chantal Manton, a Cape Town-based Travel Ideas reader and STA travel consultant, shared the below post with us. Chantal’s story is sure to convince you to take the leap into adventure…
This used to be my problem too. I used to dream of spontaneously jetting off to faraway places with a good friend or loved one beside me. The only problem was I couldn’t seem to find anyone who wanted to go with me. So I postponed my travel dreams for a while, hoping that someday I’d meet someone who would be just as eager to travel as I was.
That day still has not come.
Eventually, I began to realise that if I really wanted to see the world, I couldn’t sit around and wait all day for someone to come with me. I needed to get on that plane and go. And so I did.
It was the best decision I ever made.
My first solo journey took place when I was 18 and travelling to England. I wanted to experience a white Christmas and it appeared promising when the day before I was about to leave, London was going through one of the worst recorded snow storms. As the day arrived for me to depart, I was excited and nervous, especially since every plane had been delayed except for mine. But, I boarded nonetheless.
Two hours before landing, the captain announced that Heathrow had shut its gates and we would need to make a stopover in Palma de Mallorca. Panic started settling in. I had no idea where Palma was. I had never even heard of such a place. I had no one with me. No means of communication to contact my family. I was completely alone.
As we prepared to land I asked the person sitting next to me where exactly Palma was. I discovered that Palma is a small island off the coast of Spain. “Great!” I thought, “A Spanish island where no one speaks English and no one knows where I am.”
Picture a terrified 18-year-old girl getting off the plane with no idea of what to do or who to speak to. Well, to cut the story short, it all turned out fine. The airline, Virgin Atlantic, made sure that everyone was set up in a nice hotel for the night with plenty of food. When I arrived at the hotel, terrified and alone, I realised there were two ways I could handle the situation. Firstly, I could hide in my room alone for the remainder of the day and get up early tomorrow to catch the next flight. Or I could enjoy the opportunity to explore a new place by myself. Needless to say, I settled on the latter.
So I explored the picturesque little island that was surprisingly beautiful and rich in culture, found a payphone and called my parents back home, and even learnt a little Spanish while negotiating with some tourist vendors. When the next day arrived and everyone boarded the plane again to reach their final destinations, I realised that although it can sometimes seem terrifying to travel solo it can also be life changing. This experience showed me that I could handle travelling by myself, that I didn’t always need someone with me to have a good time or to feel safe
Ever since this event happened, I am no longer afraid to travel solo. I realised that there is no need to be afraid of the unknown. Instead, you should embrace it. In the years that have followed, I have travelled around Europe, made many friends from all over the world and experienced much more than I would have had someone come with me. The best realisation of all is that these are my memories and mine alone.
As a travel agent, I often get asked the same question by various customers. “Will I be alright travelling on my own?” The answer is “Yes!”
Often people are too afraid to even consider the idea of travelling solo, especially if they are slightly older than the average traveller. They tend to think that because they don’t fit the Contiki age bracket (18-35), they are too old to book a tour with a group and therefore have to find someone to travel with them. Some have also shared their concern that they might be significantly older than the majority of people on tour. Even though this might be the case, it is not necessarily always true. There are tons of tour groups operating around the world that strive to make every traveller feel included. One such tour group is G-Adventures (www.gadventures.com), an operator that provides small group tours for all ages, travellers and destinations. No matter what age you are, they have a tour that will suit you perfectly. All you need is the courage to get on that plane.
Travelling on your own can be a liberating experience. It can open your eyes to new things and show you sides of yourself you didn’t know were there. When you travel solo you are free to do what you want, when you want. You can befriend everyone or no one.
To sum it up, it’s your experience and yours alone!
So no matter what age you may be, do not be afraid to consider the possibility of travelling by yourself. It could turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.