You have to be daring to decide to go solo but when the desire is there, the decision is not so difficult to take in the end. It is only afterwards that you finally face your demons and endless questions: will I be able to go on a journey alone? Am I going to meet people? What if something happens to me? Should I be worried about my safety while traveling? All these questions I asked myself before leaving for my first trip alone, around the world please… I will explain my 7 months of journey between my decision and my departure as well as all the steps I needed to be ready on D-day, the day I embarked on this one-year trip that turned my life upside down.
It was on a spring evening in Jordan that I decided to quit my job and my well-adjusted life to go on this long solo trip. Ah, it was easy to launch the idea one evening during a discussion between friends and to say “that’s what I want to do” but once I got back to Paris, facing the blank page of the first chapter of my life change, there was everything to think and write. Where to start?
3 verbs quickly imposed themselves on me: REASSURE me, PREPARE me and ANTICIPATE me.
Reassuring oneself of one’s ability to travel alone
My first wish on returning from this trip to Jordan was to inform me to reassure myself about my ability to travel solo? I just wanted to give some answers to a question: is this adventure alone right for me? Honestly you can never really answer this question without trying, but meeting other solo travellers and reading everything I could was my way of freeing myself and moving from my questioning to “I think I can do it“.
At the time I was preparing my trip (in 2009), there were no real resources on the internet. There were a few blogs that inspired me and above all made me dream, but not much about sharing practical experiences.
Today, almost 8 years later, there are many resources that allow you to learn, share, meet and discuss about travelling solo. I’ve made a small selection for you.
Discuss on forums
The forums are a great place for exchanges even if the confrontation between novice vs. experienced travellers, long-distance travellers vs. irregular travellers sometimes leads to heated debates and exchanges.
Read dedicated books
At the time I started, there was no great book of inspirations on solo travel except travel stories. Today there are some of them, guides, books sharing experiences and even a comic book that will certainly help you reassure yourself and overcome your fear of travelling alone.
Preparing for the solo trip
Once the decision has been made and validated to travel solo, you must of course prepare yourself. I won’t go into all the work and apartment issues that you have to leave behind, but I will focus on the steps you need to take to travel with a light mind and peace of mind.
Consult a doctor
It is essential to be reassured about one’s health before the big departure. You can go to your GP for a check-up and for help with your first aid kit to get advice on vaccinations.
Preparing your first aid kit/pharmacy kit
Get help from a doctor to prepare your special travel medicine kit. If it’s easy to slip in Paracetamol and bandages, it is also necessary to think, according to the countries where one goes to an anti-diarrheal, of what to rehydrate after the diarrhoea, perhaps an antibiotic with broad spectrum (and to know when to use it)… In short a kit to prevent the small boo-boos it is thought but it is better to be accompanied. I went to see a doctor at the pastoral institute but I think that your doctor can clearly do the job (and will be reimbursed).
Take out travel insurance
If there is one expense not to be neglected when going on a world tour, working holiday visa or even an occasional trip to the other side of the world, it is of course travel insurance. You are never safe from a mosquito bite that degenerates, from diarrhoea that you cannot treat on your own, from dengue fever that requires hospitalization or, more seriously, from a bus or scooter accident. We really don’t like to think about disasters before we leave, so the best thing for us and our loved ones is to make sure that we are as well accompanied as possible if something happens.
Save a copy of your papers on a cloud
There’s nothing worse when you’re robbed than to be destitute. To prevent this I advise you to scan and save a copy of all your papers on a cloud (Passport, ID card, driving license, travel insurance…).
Why on a Cloud and not on your phone or computer? Well, because these terminals are stolen when you can access your Cloud from any computer or phone (as long as you remember the password).
Anticipating loneliness, problems, returning…
Once serene on all practical matters, it is necessary to anticipate all the small problems that could put a small grain of sand in your trip, such as the blues for example. If I didn’t have big problems during my various solo trips, I think it’s because I anticipated a lot of things (but not everything can be anticipated eh).
Be aware of your limits
Even if they can evolve over time, being aware of one’s limits is really a necessary fact before leaving. For example I dreamed of trekking in Nepal in the Himalayas but I was aware that I would never go without a local guide. I’m not experienced in the high mountains so I preferred to rely on the know-how of someone who was.
Thinking you can always go home
Why put pressure on yourself? We can’t know if the solo trip is right for us without trying. I always told myself that I could go back at any time and that it would certainly not be a failure because success is already in the fact of having tried! I also told myself to see each day after the other so I wouldn’t have the dizziness of seeing myself facing a year alone. Looking back, I’m glad I did that!
Knowing the time of the trip
I attacked my trip with a bang, which was not necessarily a good thing considering the conditions I was traveling in and the length of the trip. In my article les temps du voyage: from euphoria to the blues I look back on the highlights of my world tour. Not everything is rosy when you travel, whether it’s short term or long term. This article can help you anticipate and perhaps encourage you to take your time. The journey is not a race to see the most or cross the most countries. Travel is above all encounters and for that you have to give yourself time to experience things.
The return from the trip, a highlight
Ah, the return… a great subject. Before I left, I knew that it was not to be neglected. I just didn’t expect to be back before the holidays. What a shock! In one Rio-Paris flight, I went from basic consumption (accommodation, food, entertainment) to over-consumption.
However, we are not all equal in our ability to manage the return. For some, everything will go smoothly, for others it will be difficult. You can never really know. Just know that it’s not always obvious… And especially before the holidays, believe me !!!!