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Sep 16

What I’ve Learned in 6 Months of Solo Travel

6 months solo travel

 

“The pumpkin spice flavors are coming out,” a friend back home told me over the phone. Caught off guard, I looked at the calendar asking, “Wait, what month is it?!” I’ve been living in perpetual summer since I started traveling and without a changing of seasons—or any kind of schedule, really—I’ve lost track of where in the year we are. A quick glance at the date (and a counting of fingers, because math) made me realize that I have now officially been on the road for six months.

 

6 months solo travel

SIX MONTHS! How did that happen?? I can remember leaving like it was yesterday, and yet it also seems like a lifetime away.

6 months solo travel

Learning the flying trapeze on my birthday because, why not?

 

It seemed only fitting to take a moment and reflect on the journey so far and everything I’ve learned and gained (like a dress size) along the way. But I always swore to myself that I would never become that cliché person who says things like omg travel has totally changed me and my outlook on life and now I realize poor people are just soooo much happier and the hipster life is for me. I’ve shied away from any kind of deep reflection on the process because of a fear of becoming that person. I did not decide to travel because of some existential crisis or a great need to “find myself”; I left because I wanted freedom and adventure.

 

6 months solo travel

At the rim of a volcano crater lake in Indonesia

But it would be a lie to say that I haven’t undergone some kind of transformation and learned some valuable lessons in the last six months (even as simple as the fact that I’m allergic to everything and geckos like to poop on me). Traveling, without a doubt, changes you, much like doing anything for six months will; it gives you ample opportunities to push yourself to your limits and come to understand yourself and those around you on a deeper level.

6 months solo travel

… like the fact that you’re capable of making food art.

So, sitting by the pool in Bali with a cocktail in hand, here are a few of the things six months of travel has taught me:

 

It’s not the place, it’s the people

6 months solo travel

Some of life’s greatest meaning comes from the connections you make with others and travel is no exception. I have found that my experience with a place is often based not on the scenery or activities but on the locals I meet and/or the people I travel there with. You can be in the most beautiful place in the world watching fairies dance on a magical waterfall, but if you’re surrounded by asshats the wrong people it can create a really negative impression. Likewise, a local going out of their way to help you or sharing laughs with a good friend can make you fall in love with even the simplest of places.

 

 

Downtime is necessary

pool KutaMy facebook pictures may make it look like all I do is lay by a pool, but there is a lot happening behind the scenes. Travel—especially on a budget—can be long, challenging, and exhausting. I recently spent a month of waking early everyday for adventures around Indonesia, but by the end of it I was burnt out. While it was fun, I needed a break from constantly doing things and needed a “vacation from my vacation.” Taking time to recuperate and process all that you’ve experienced is vital to maintaining a long-term travel lifestyle.

 

Minimalism is more achievable than I realized

6 months solo travelI have lived out of a very reasonably sized bag for six months. Coming from the girl who once brought an entire duffel bag to Europe just for shoes, I’d say this is quite the achievement. Do I love only having a few outfits to choose from? No. And yet I’ve come to accept and embrace the lifestyle. It also makes deciding what to wear so much easier.

 

Spontaneity leads to some of the best experiences

6 months solo travel

The steps of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. And my Titanic moment in Indonesia.

If travel does not teach you to be spontaneous then I don’t know what will. All I can say is that most of my favorite experiences have been planned completely on a whim. Volunteer for a week at an elephant sanctuary starting tomorrow? Sure! You want to go on a 4-day boat trip to see some Komodo dragons this weekend? Why not! Street food tour in 5 minutes? Hell yeah! Being flexible and willing to try new things on a moment’s notice almost always pays off.

 

Some stereotypes are true…

6 months solo travelThe French are cliquey and don’t speak much English. Americans are loud. Chinese tour groups are obnoxious.

 

 

But most are not.

6 months solo travelThe variety of people I’ve met has assured me that we’re not so different after all.

 

Humor is the best way to deal with challenges

6 months solo travel

Beach giggles in Coron, Philippines

Often an unfortunate situation is out of your control or you’ve done all that you can do. Stressing, crying, and worrying is not going to improve anything, so I’ve learned to just laugh in the face of adversity. Broken down on the side of the road and stuck in the rain in the middle of nowhere? Even if I can’t find humor in the moment, I always tell myself you’ll laugh about this later. And I usually do (or someone else does for me).

 

 

Solo travel is much easier than I thought.

6 months solo travel

Trekking rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam

I was apprehensive in the beginning. Won’t I get lonely? What if I get lost and no one knows where I am? Who will hold my bag when I go to the bathroom at the bus station? It turns out my worries were unnecessary because making friends is stupidly easy when traveling alone. I now even prefer traveling solo most of the time because I get to do exactly what I want, when I want, how I want.

 

 

Staying in shape is hard

6 months solo travel

Attempting yoga in Mui Ne, Vietnam

For some strange reason I thought that I would magically lose weight while traveling. It turns out that only happens to men… Meanwhile, my gelato addiction is still going strong and it’s hard to maintain an exercise regimen between beach lounging and massages, ya know?

 

 

Some people will become best friends

6 months solo travel

Weirdos for life in Koh Tao, Thailand

I worried that despite meeting lots of people I wouldn’t truly bond with anyone. But traveling with people accelerates the relationship and while many have come and gone, a few people have become such close friends that they’re probably going to name their babies after me someday. Okay, kidding—but just throwing that idea out there for them…

 

I am awesome

6 months solo travel

Hiking in Komodo National Park, Indonesia

I have done something that I didn’t know for sure if I could do; something that people continually tell me I’m brave for doing but I don’t feel brave for at all. I am living the dream I worked so hard for and I am finally full of some serious self-love–and that  is the most important lesson of all. 

This trip isn’t even halfway over, and I’m so excited to see what the next year holds!!!

Have you traveled long term? What did you learn?

  • I want your backpack in that Sapa photo!

    Also, the poor people are so much happier line had me loling because, seriously, if I read something like that one more time on the internet I may barf.

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Haha, I’m glad you agree, I’m so over those kinds of rants about the “real meaning of happiness”. I want my backpack, too–it unfortunately was not made for actual use because it completely fell apart. It was so pretty!

  • What an amazing adventure you are on! I always have thought it would be really lonely traveling solo but everyone that I know that has done it has absolutely loved it and met some of the most amazing people!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thank you! Traveling solo has definitely been way easier than I ever could have imagined. Even though you have a boyfriend I’d recommend doing a solo trip sometime, you actually meet way more people when you travel alone. I’ve made some of my best friends on the road! 🙂

  • I love your self confidence, girl. That’s what travelling’s all about. It’s been so many years since I’ve been backpacking but I’m planning a big trip once I leave Korea. I feel so nervous and scared though because I haven’t done it for so long. But your attitude is infectious. You’re so positive and brave. Here’s to the next six months for you, girl. You’re a badass.

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Aww thank you, that’s sweet but really it’s just all about getting out there and doing it! It’s like riding a bike, you fall back into doing it so easily. Where will you go on your big trip?

  • Sarah

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and love to see all of your amazing adventures! Who is taking your pictures? I’m planning a solo trek in the coming months and am concerned that I will wind up with only pictures of the sights as opposed to ones with me in them!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thanks for following along Sarah! I just ask whoever I’m with to take pictures. Sometimes I feel annoying asking but it’s worth it in the long run and it’s usually no big deal. You’ll meet lots of friends along the way and I guarantee you’ll take loads of photos for each other. Where will your solo trek take you?