Last month I entered into a stressful time in my life. I’m talking health issues, a crazy high expense coming in that I wasn’t expecting, and struggling with insomnia – something I’d never experienced before. I was starting to feel disenchanted with the blog and called the whole concept into question. My coach was off the grid abroad, my wrist pain came back, and I started scrolling through social media and reading depressing political news way more than usual. The next trip I took, I got totally covered in bed bug bites.
It was one of those WTF times in life when you wonder what kind of karmic shit storm you called into your life. The same kind of things can happen on the road, on the trip you’ve dreamed and saved for for years, and often you’re left with just one big question: Why me?
I’ve had much worse happen, too. I was sexually assaulted in Nepal and people told me to go home immediately, but I didn’t. I was robbed in Berlin and it sucked, but I learned from it. Each time something has gone wrong, I’ve had a choice. I may cry and wallow at first, but in the end I know that the only way to go is forward.
Maybe you’re reading this because you’re solo traveling and going through a tough time. Everything seems to be going wrong and this isn’t what you expected when planning, and dreaming about, the trip of a lifetime. I hope the advice here helps you through it.
It will get better
The series of unfortunate events detailed in the opening paragraph all happened right before a retreat that was profoundly transformative for me. It helped me come up with new ideas for how I want to share on the blog and brought me close to my purpose. It made me realize how powerful I am, as we all are.
This is usually how big changes happen. Something major comes along to demolish a bridge, and we have to find a more transcendent and arduous way around the river.
That’s what solo traveling does. The idea is not that you’ll never come up against problems. It’s still life, after all. Solo traveling is not wonderful because nothing ever goes wrong, it’s wonderful because you learn what you’re capable of when it all comes down to you. It’s a challenge, and that’s why it’s worth it.
The point is not to have a carefree journey that’s only about enjoyment, but rather to come home a stronger version of yourself who isn’t afraid to handle things on her own. Who trusts and depends on herself to make the call when it matters most. Independence is the greatest gift we can gain from solo traveling. Not because we want to seal off from men or our friends – we are wired for connection after all — but so that we can show up as solid individuals who seek relationships because they nourish us, not because we’re needy and dependent on them. What a huge, healthy difference.
You learn how to comfort yourself, how to advocate and stand up for yourself, and how to handle shit without passing the buck. It sucks when you’re in the trenches, believe me I know, but whatever happens you’ll rise up from it.
As women, we are often cautioned against doing things on our own. We’re fed the message that we’re too fragile to handle things independently. This is part of why I believe so deeply in the importance of solo travel for women. We need to prove to the world, but most of all to ourselves, that we can do it.
Ways to handle the situation at hand
All of this is not to say that when things go wrong you should decline any outside help and do everything yourself. I find that at times like these, I almost always find help in places I least expect it. At least for me, at the 11th hour, this is when I have understood that people are for the most part good and will show up to help you.
The following are some situations I’ve experienced and ways that I’ve gotten through them:
If you’re lonely: Join a tour or activity the next day. Pick the best one off of TripAdvisor, or find a yoga or dance class. Movement is great, and simply being around other people is great.
If you’re exhausted from doing all the planning: Let the need to plan go. Go with the flow more and trust that serendipity will present you with an adventure. This is almost always how I travel and it has served me well for nearly 7 years.
If you’re tired of eating alone: Read this.
If you’re overwhelmed: Slow down, take some time for yourself and enjoy the solitude. It’s a gift, it really is. It’s okay if you don’t ‘see it all’ and tick all the things off your bucket list. Let go of the FOMO. It may help to do some EFT as well.
If you’re homesick: Stay off of social media, go outside, and make it a point to enjoy your surroundings. Going online can be the worst because while looking for familiarity you’re taking yourself out of the present and only looking at the positive stuff that people share. It’s been shown to make us less satisfied with our own lives. Go outside, smile at people you see, and be open to the present.
If you’re sick: Take care of yourself. Seek medical attention if you need to or otherwise, get meds and food and sleep until you’re better, just like you would at home. Maybe UberEats or some other delivery service exists there. You’re ok. You’ll be fine.
If you’ve been robbed/some other catastrophe: Get a police report, make sure you have all you need for your insurance, file a claim, ask your bank to Western Union you money (I’ve done this several times with Charles Schwab), take any lessons from it that you can, let people help you, and eventually you’ll look back on it as a time when you summoned incredible strength.
This is your chance to not be a victim, and instead, to be strong. It might seem impossible right now, but, could this be a gift in disguise?
We women are strong. We were taught our whole lives to doubt our own power and that we can’t do things on our own but that’s just not true.
Most importantly, let yourself feel emotional pain if you need to. Make having a down day on your trip of a lifetime permissible. Be gentle with yourself, and know that tomorrow is another day. You’ll get through this, and things will get better.