The Joys of Independence
But naturally there was lots of practical learning that came from my experience travelling alone in Ireland. I am by no means an expert on solo travel but there were a couple of aha moments for me that I think are worth sharing.
There are so many ways to approach travel – there is no right way, and what worked for your friend or neighbour or colleague might not be what’s best for you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but I find that a lot of Canadians tend to travel to resorts for week long or two week long vacations – Dominican, Mexico, Cuba, etc. And more often than not, when you hear about people travelling to Europe it’s often month or year-long adventures backpacking around Europe and bouncing from country to country. You don’t often hear about someone travelling to Europe for just a week or two as a vacation.
Even when I was in Ireland and people asked me about my plans for my trip they found it so bizarre that A) I wasn’t backpacking and B) that I was staying in one place.
But I love travelling to new places, and I don’t want to backpack… I wanted to spend enough time in one spot to really experience it. My first aha moment and major joy in independence was simply the opportunity to do what I wanted to do.
Do what you want to do.
If you want to backpack, backpack.
If you want to bounce from city to city, bounce from city to city.
If you want to spend a week in one spot exploring, stay in one spot.
But do what you want to do. One of the greatest things about travelling alone was the fact that I got to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to satisfy anyone else’s needs.
I did have to remind myself of this a few times. While I was travelling I met some incredible people. And there were times when they invited me to do things as a group – and at some points I was happy to and we had an incredible time. But there were times when I wanted to just break off and do my own thing – so I did just that! No harm, no foul.
It’s all too easy to stay stuck in the mindset of making other’s happy and compromising, but when you decide to go on your trip on your own don’t forget that it is just that – your trip.
Best advice I can give? Don’t be afraid to tell people you’ll catch up with them later.
Give yourself permission to change your mind
So you made plans to do something – so what? This is YOUR trip. Give yourself permission to change your mind.
One day while in Ireland I paid for and planned a guided tour in Howth. The tour stopped in Malahide to visit an incredible Castle and then on to Howth for the afternoon. When we got to Howth we had an hour for lunch and were to meet the tour guide at a pre-determined location.
While I was having lunch in a coffee shop in this gorgeous fishing village I googled the town to see what I could do to kill time. I realized that the Cliffs Edge Trails were just a ten-minute walk from where I was.
I sat there thinking, wow… I would really love to walk those trails, so… I bailed! I headed out toward the cliffs and spent hours hiking and enjoying the incredible view. Travelling on my own gave me the chance to change plans on a whim because I wasn’t stuck to anyone’s agenda… not even one of my own making.
Plan to plan – but don’t make too many plans
When I went to Ireland I decided to make two plans
- Book an Airbus to the city centre when I arrived and to the airport when it was time to go home
- Book a hostel for my full stay in Dublin
I didn’t make any other plans for two reasons – One, I didn’t want to get attached to the plan and stress about trying to get everything in. I’ve done it before and feel like I missed out on really experiencing the adventure
And two, I didn’t want to get stuck just doing “touristy” things.
The plans I made were enough to make me feel secure in my trip, but left my days wide open to explore
When I first arrived in Dublin I got to the hostel and decided to walk around the area, check out the city and then do a pub-crawl.
I will always recommend a pub-crawl the first night – it loosens you up, you get a chance to meet people, it’s fun and you get to see a good chunk of the city.
Walking tours – just do them. In New York I did a guided walking tour and it was amazing. It gives you a chance to explore the city and get comfortable. I planned to do a walking tour my second day in Ireland but the pub-crawl got the best of me – but it didn’t stop me from my own walking tour!
I can’t stress this enough. Walk, walk, walk – to as many places as you can! You know that saying – it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey? Well – the destinations are amazing in Ireland but the journey was even better.
And sign up for a couple of the Excursions if that’s your jam! It gave me a chance to explore cities and towns outside of Dublin in a sort of safe and comfortable way and it gave me the confidence to venture out on my own more. It was like a nice stepping stone.
For this trip I had decided to stay in one spot and go on day trips – but now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience public transit in a new country and travelling on my own I know that when I go on my next trip I will feel confident to hop on a bus or train and stay in a new city. But again – do what makes sense for you. You don’t always have to dive in the deep end. I think there’s something really special about growing as a traveller.
For me that growth came in the form of doing what I wanted to do, giving myself permission to change my mind and travelling free from an agenda or schedule. These were the joys I experienced while travelling alone and they are lessons that I am making an active effort to bring into my everyday life here at home.
The best piece of advice I can leave you with when travelling alone?
Just plan it. Book the time off. Book the flight. And go.
You won’t regret it.
Do you feel like you’ve grown as a traveller? What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned while travelling alone?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!