If you’re considering a solo trip you are probably:
A) Going through a mini quarter/mid-life crisis
B) Suddenly flush with cash and time
C) Thinking about quitting your job to travel (or maybe you already quit)
D) Fed up with the fact that none of your friends are available to go with you
E) A few combinations (or all of) the above
In my case, I was E. All of the above.
Last September, I not only quit my assistant job at a prestigious talent management firm, but I decided to pause the career path that I was on. For the first time, I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I was lost. I was freaking out. It’s so cliche, but it’s the truth.
I wrestled with unemployment for three long weeks before I said “F*ck it” and picked dates for a solo trip. But it wasn’t like I just decided to travel on a whim and started booking flights. It was a process.
My trip ended up being an amazing 11 day road trip adventure on America’s west coast. But actually deciding to embark on that brief excursion took a lot longer than I thought it would.
Here are the stages of deciding to commit to traveling by yourself for the first time.
1. Wanting to go, but feeling like it’s impossible
You know you’re stuck in the wanderlust cycle when you can’t stop looking at destinations on Instagram and Pinterest. Then you visualize yourself enjoying these places. And then reality crashes down on your travel dreams like a tsunami of responsibility.
Skipping town seems impossible when you have a busy life and many obligations. But then you start looking at Instagram again, and you find yourself full of inspiration to hop on a plane and go. The urge to explore tugs on your brain and you can’t ignore it.
2. Realizing it’s possible, but not knowing where to start
When you work too hard without breaks, burn out is inevitable. At some point, you don’t just want to get out; you need to. Instead of waiting for the right time to travel, you make the time.
But now what? The world is a big place. There are too many options. Of course, you turn to the Internet, where you get even more overwhelmed because, like the world, the web is a big place too. You start hacking away at the plethora of information found on forums, blogs, articles and more.
3. Picking a destination and changing your mind a bunch of times
Finally, you decide on a location. But the more research you do, the more ideas you have. You start to second guess your choice and pick again. This process happens several times until you probably just end up picking the destination you chose in the first place.
4. Doing so much research that you’re overwhelmed
Research always starts off as an enthusiastic venture, but it doesn’t take long to get bogged down with the sheer amount of information out there. Finding straight, honest answers to your questions about safety, transportation, and lodging seems hopeless when you have a hard time trusting online sources.
You use your best judgment and make decisions based on what you hope are trustworthy reviews.
5. Looking at your bank account and wondering if travel is financially possible
Your trip is planned, but is your bank account up to speed? You realize that you’ll have to make some financial sacrifices to afford this trip. You do you best to estimate how much is necessary to bring and how much you’ll need when you return.
6. Receiving lectures from friends, family and strangers about safety
After talking to friends, family and anyone who will listen about your upcoming adventure, you realize two things.
One, that people either admire you for being “brave.” Two, people strongly advise against traveling alone for fear that you’ll get kidnapped, killed, mugged, injured or just decide to never come back.
7. Figuring out how to get the time off from work and life
If you’re unemployed, the decision of whether or not to commit to being unemployed or keep hustling for a new job is tough to make. I struggled with this the most.
If you’re currently at a full time or part time job, you need to request the time off. You imagine what you’re going to say to your boss in your head over and over. You pray there will be no reason he or she will so no.
8. Weigh the information and consider dropping the trip altogether
You’re done with planning and research. You’ve accepted that you’ll have to use some of your savings for this journey. You’ve got the time off. You’ve endured lectures from family and friends about safety. You’ve asked yourself dozens of times, “Am I really going to be able to do this?”
Life will be happening while you’re living what was once just an Instagram/Pinterest inspired daydream. Looking at the calendar again, you remember your travel dates overlap with an event or something you need to attend. That’s when you consider canceling.
9. Just saying, “F*ck it,” then booking flights
Finally, you just do it. I remember going over my plan and thinking to myself, “why not?” I couldn’t find any more reasons why not. Once I booked my flights, I was charged with confidence and excitement.
As a kid, I visited many countries with my family on vacation, so I was accustomed to visiting new places. But taking off all by yourself comes with new challenges. Deciding to take the plunge and go on your first solo trip isn’t easy. If it’s something you really want, you’ll ask yourself why it took so long to make the decision when committing to traveling alone feels right.