the surprising reason solo travel changed my life.

inspiration, life, madrid, solotravel, spain, spirit, travel

Because solo travel has transitioned from just something I do to a way of life, all my solo travel experiences have become a blur. I don’t mean that to say I have forgotten all of my solo travel adventures I’ve taken.

How could I forget my solo trip to Milano where I had a couch surfing experience from hell and a dear friend saved my ass and salvaged what could’ve been a horrible trip? Or the 36 hour solo trip I took to Porto, Portugal and the time spent sitting on a cottage along the Douro River crying because I was verklempt? Or being stunned into silence by the view of Eiffel Tower?

I’ll never forget these experiences. Not for the rest of my life. It’s just it’s been four years of solo traveling. Four years and as of now, 11 countries and 32 cities full of my wanderlust taking me to corners all over the world solo dolo. When it becomes a way of life, it’s sort of unconscious. It becomes who you are and how you see — and experience — what and those you encounter. The beautiful conversations you have. The scenes which beg to be photographed. The culinary bites which you either love or hate vehemently.

Solo travel has changed my life. As a woman. As a Black woman. As an African woman. As a daughter. As a sister. As a friend. As a lover. As a writer. As an artist. As a creative. As an empath. As a spirit-filled and spirit-led person.

I read a lot. A lot of blogs, a lot of tweets. There are more and more women taking solo trips. Which means there are more and more people writing about these experiences. Although most of the written are vaguely surface-level.

 Yes, solo travel will teach you to enjoy and love yourself in new ways and to not fear being alone. Yes, you will emerge from a solo trip with a newfound sense of wonder and confidence. And yes, every woman should have the experience at least once in their lifetime. 

Can we go deeper though? Can we talk about how solo travel creates new neural pathways and shifts you emotionally, mentally and physically?

For me, the most unexpected and surprising reason solo travel has changed my life is how it instilled within me the treasure of still truths. A knowing that it’s okay to start completely over and to not have a plan. Solo travel taught me it’s okay to break the mold and veer off the path lain in front of me that isn’t really mine but instead is one that’s always been taken.

Traveling alone — without friends, family and a significant other by my side — inadvertently taught me how to be who I a truly am, the person I spent most of my life running from. An individual. A woman who lets her heart guide her. A woman who isn’t fearless like most people think she is but instead, a woman who is almost always afraid but is brave and courageous simply because she works with the fear in her life that arises.

I did not have that sense until I dared to start doing things alone. And not just travel either. I mean doing everything alone, from the mundane to the magnificent. To spend a lifetime not listening to your heart and what it wants and deferring to the voices of others, is like living a life chained. A life which is limiting and has limits. A life which can’t expand, grow wings and fly away and reach new heights. A life which is rife with too much comfort, too much familiarity and too much of the same.

A life which wants to change but is afraid to change and rather than look the fear square in the eye, quiet it by staying put.

Solo travel, surprisingly, handed me the rest of my life, my life which was waiting for me to awaken to it, to say I was ready to accept the great challenge and calling I was born and named for.

I’m writing this post from a flat near the center of Madrid, Spain. Almost four years ago, I took my first international solo trip here. No one was excited for me when I announced that I was taking this trip by myself. I was met with endless questions about how safe it would be for a young woman like myself traveling with no companion. People asked me if I spoke Spanish. What I would do if I got lost. If I would run out of money. If I would be able to use my cell phone.

The almost two weeks I spent in Madrid were spent carrying those questions, holding the projections of others near and dear to my heart. At a certain point during my time there, I wanted to enjoy myself without my brain being flooded with other people’s stuff. 

Then was when the magic began.

As you can imagine, being back here in Madrid I am filled with nostalgia from those moments (and others) and remembering. Remembering what my life used to be like when I lived here years ago and how much time has passed. How it seemed so automatic that I needed to relocate my entire life here, my entire former existence, to a foreign country and city after a short period not even equaling two weeks.

I’m also reflecting on the great surprise of how solo travel began much needed healing. Solo travel unlocked my heart. It gave me myself. It told me to not fear, to shake off shrinking myself and settling for good enough. And it told me, with a gentleness, a kindness, it was okay to dream while awake, with my eyes wide open, in my waking, moving, everyday life. To not have to wait until it was night and the stars danced in the sky.

My heart. It told me to lean into my heart and trust. Lean into my heart and leap. 

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Considering taking your first solo trip soon? Join the Afros y Paella mailing list to get solo travel affirmations to accompany you on your journey and to get the scoop on my upcoming workbook Solo Sojourness: A Roadmap to Planning and Bravely Taking Your Solo Adventure. Join my mailing list here.

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14 thoughts on “the surprising reason solo travel changed my life.

  1. I travel by myself all the time despite being married. I find it empowering and enlightening as I feel I am able to find mySELF again in the midst of being a mother and wife and all those other roles which we females can become overwhelmed and lost within if we don’t pay heed to our own hearts. After my first trip several years ago I have found that I MUST get away by myself at least every six months if not sooner. I also regularly get away with my family but just because you are married doesn’t mean that two people (or four – my sons are teenagers) agree on where they want to travel to or even interested in the same things. My husband and I go on trips apart and trips together. It depends on the destination. I have just come back from a six day trip around the Australian (where I live) outback on my motorbike solo – my husband hates motorbikes. I love my bike and the freedom it gives me to travel where I want on my own terms. I’m so glad I found your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m happy that you went with what you felt was right, not for anyone else, but for yourself. That takes absurd levels of courage, courage it takes years to build. Keep at it, for all of us who want to be just as strong.

  3. I wish I had traveled a little more before I became a parent so that I could fully enjoy the experience of traveling alone with no responsibilities. You make the experience sound so freeing and awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us.

  4. Astonishing.Thank you for your thoughts.
    I also have traveled a bit here and there for some time, your described feelings are well known to me.
    There was moments, when I wanted to stop, because my old-self told me so, but after a while I realized that I have changed. My values, goals, dreams and life vision has different meaning than they used to.
    I’m so attracted to it, that I don’t want to stop anymore.
    I want to see, explore, learn, experience, feel.

    I am happy that you overcame your fears and opened way to your heart.

  5. Thank you for this read it really makes a person think about finding ones self. I have not had the pleasure of traveling at all in my life and I hope that someday I will experience it. It sounds like it has been a wonderful journey. More specifically the journey to the center of you.

  6. Thanks for these thoughts – I have been solo travelling for about a year now and am having a small ‘wobble’ of the ‘what am I doing with my life and why am I doing it variety’, this article has helped me feel bit more stable again!

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