One of the top continents I’ve been wanting to visit my entire life has been South America. Ever since I was a child, I grew up reading and becoming fascinated with places such as Machu Picchu, Rio De Janeiro, and the Amazon Rainforest. However, prior to this year, I had never stepped foot on any of these countries, nor had I been south of the equator. Despite this continent being on the top of my travel wish list, I hadn’t been able to make this a priority of places to travel as I have been wanting to. Why? Because I am a people pleaser and compromise my preferences to make others that I am traveling with happy. Now don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed my adventures to China and Iceland within the past couple of years and am more than grateful that those opportunities became present to me. But as I have always traveled with other people, I typically just agree to their destination of choice and tag along.
However, this year I decided to make myself a priority for the first time in my life. I knew I wanted to embark on an epic vacation once I completed my Master’s degree in August. So, one day this past spring, I decided to browse through getaway deals on LivingSocial. I had heard of this website having affordable vacation deals, both locally and abroad (I’ve been daydreaming about the island hopping excursion in Greece for quite some time!). And that’s when I discovered the ideal travel opportunity for me; a 10-day adventure to Peru through a local travel agency. I know most “hard core” and “full-time” travelers scoff at the idea of an “all-inclusive” or mostly-inclusive vacation. And while there are most certainly some drawbacks to this style of travel, I personally find this option to be the least stressful, rather than trying to compare and estimate the most affordable times and places to book (you can read my full opinion in my post: “Why I Actually Enjoy All-Inclusive Travel”). This option for Peru also seemed to have the right “balance” I was looking for; having some days be “free days” to set your own itinerary, while the rest of the time would be accompanied with a tour guide and small group, with all transportation and hotel rooms accommodated for. I also know some people may argue that “solo travel” may not mean joining another group. However, as I would not know anyone on this trip, I figured it would be a great way for me to ease into being in a foreign country by myself, as well as not being completely alone for the entire trip. It was the perfect balance for me being a first time solo, female traveler. After a few hours of debating back and forth, I decided to buy the LivingSocial voucher and book the trip with Kaypi Peru Tours.
And now that I have had a taste of exploring a foreign country by myself, I will definitely be embarking on my next international adventure solo! Here are some of my reasons why I’m now hooked on this style of travel.
Freedom to travel to where you please, how you please
There is nothing more liberating (especially as a young woman) to one day just strike up the courage and decide “I’m traveling to [insert country] on my own!” At least that’s how I felt the day I decided to book my trip to Peru. Not to mention the reactions I received when telling friends, family, and co-workers of my plans. Mind you, not all of them were positive, but a majority of them were with their jaws dropped to the floor. Some people even telling my boyfriend that “your girlfriend has some balls traveling alone”. I honestly did not feel this brave but was very ecstatic that I am the one in charge of where I was traveling for once and the type of trip it would be.
You get to know yourself better and how you manage certain situations
My biggest fear around traveling solo has been flying internationally to a foreign country. The actual act of flying and being on an airplane does not scare me. However, navigating my way through airports, through check-ins and security always stresses me out, no matter whether it’s an international airport or domestic. I was terrified that I might miss a connector flight or get stuck in security (which had happened to me in Beijing despite being with a group). While the flights to Peru were relatively reasonable (despite spending overnight at JFK airport), I nearly missed my flight out of Peru to my connector in El Salvador, due to delays in my domestic flight, not to mention I nearly got lost trying to find my departing terminal. While this had been extremely stressful for me to overcome on my own, it gave me some insight as to how I managed this type of situation as well as gave me the confidence and skills to better navigate airports on my own.
You make new friends you may not have made traveling with people you know
This is also another reason I enjoy traveling with an all-inclusive group, especially by myself. When I traveled to Iceland with my significant other and another couple, we spent most of the trip by ourselves with our own company. While I enjoy meeting and getting to know new people, I am usually by far, not the most extroverted person within my group of friends, and usually let them do the socializing. However, as I was by myself, I did not have much of a choice but to make the first move! I consider myself an ambivert, someone who definitely needs alone time away from socialization, but also cannot go too long without spending some time with others. By joining other like-minded travelers in Peru, I was able to get to know them better than I would have if one of my extroverted friends tagged along. Not to mention I was able to make some new friends along the way!
Needless to say, my first solo travel experience was a success! In the future, I plan to embark on a completely solo and self-guided adventure, where I have an option to join a small group as well as set my own itinerary. I’m thinking either Australia and/or New Zealand for my first self-guided trip. Would you/have you traveled solo? Do you prefer it over traveling with others?