My Reality Of Travelling Solo For The First Time
Charlotte, who lives in Wales, shares her experience and reality of travelling solo for the first time on a trip to Greece. It wasn’t what she expected.
First time travelling solo – the internet paints the average female solo traveller as brave, confident, sociable and adventurous. Unafraid to take on the planet alone whilst being unapologetically being themselves.
That’s who I wanted to be.
At 20 years old, I was not the cripplingly anxious teen I once was, but nonetheless, my introverted self sometimes struggled in the social department. I was desperate to burst out of my comfort bubble and become a new, ‘better’ version of myself, and that is when I decided the road to my ideal self was solo travel. Booking my first solo trip to Corfu, Greece, was a thrill in itself!
It was only a week-long trip. I figured it would be better to start small, but I was so excited. This was it! I was going to defeat the final boss of social anxiety and make new friends in a new country! I’d become a brand new person. After all, if the influx of happy travel bloggers can do it, then why couldn’t I? Ha. The reality could not have been more wrong.
Expectations vs reality
Don’t get me wrong, this story is not an attempt to put down solo travel. I ended up having a great time in Corfu, but just not in the ways that I thought I would. I pictured myself stepping off the plane into the blazing Greek heat, brimming with confidence and intrigue at this wild new situation I found myself in.
Here is the reality – I spent the entire day before my trip crying. I spent the drive to the airport crying – it is a wonder I got on the plane at all. After 12 hours of travelling, I finally arrived in Corfu, but instead of feeling fulfilled and confident, I felt homesick and all around pretty miserable. The way I was grossly overcharged – $30 – for my 10-minute taxi journey from the airport to my hotel didn’t help either! I knew it was too much, but what could I do?
So, as I was checking into my lovely hotel – a charming, family-run business – my head hung in shame. As soon as I arrived at my room, I cried some more. Then, I passed out from exhaustion, only to wake up and cry again. On the very first evening of the solo travel adventure that was supposed to be a journey of change, I panicked and ended up changing my flight home to an earlier one, shortening my trip to just 3 full days.
Getting through it
So now I am drowning in self-pity, overcome with anxiety, all alone on my hotel balcony thousands of miles away from home. To say I felt like a failure does not begin to describe it. It was some delusion on my part and the swarm of positive solo stories on the internet that had me thinking that just taking my first solo travel trip was enough.
Apparently, being in another country is not all that it takes to become the best version of yourself.
Who would have thought? I realised at that moment that if I spent the remainder of my trip staring at my hotel walls in misery, it would all be for nothing, and nothing would change.
Confidence, at home or during solo travel, doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for others. I had to create it. Build it from scratch and make it happen, or it was not going to happen. Luckily, I had booked a 10-hour boat tour for my first full day in Corfu. And it was the boat tour that saved my trip.
Alone yet surrounded
Despite some more hassle the next morning (I cried again and momentarily lost my tour tickets), I dragged myself out of bed at 8 a.m. to set off on a sea adventure. Being one of the first people to board the boat, I got the first pick of a bench seat. I was so anxious I felt sick. My fear and desire to be home hung over my brain like a dark, unwanted cloud.
I was starting to think that solo travel may not be for me and that all the travel bloggers describing a ‘life-changing’ experience were wrong. As the boat began to fill with the chatter of strangers, some in groups, some alone, and some with families, a wave of comfort began to splash over me. Within this mix of different ages, languages and intentions, I began to feel grounded.
Being on a boat with this many people opened up countless opportunities for conversation with possible new friends, but I was still feeling pretty shy, so I stuck to admiring the views of Corfu’s coast in silence.
The blue caves
I remember the muffled voice on the boat speaker announcing that we had arrived at our first stop, first in English, then in Greek. The entire boat population rushed to the bow, me included, to catch a glimpse at the mesmerising Blue Caves. The reflection of the crystal waters on the colossal cave walls glimmered and sparkled and danced as we, on the boat, marvelled. This was my turning point.
The clouds fogging over my thoughts finally parted, and I realised that I was here. I alone had organised this trip, boarded that plane, and now I was sailing across the Greek seas, feasting my eyes on sights I had only imagined in my wildest dreams. And that was pretty cool.
Parga and the Blue Lagoon
Our next stop was Parga, a breathtaking, colourful town on the Ionian coast. Exploring an island by yourself is a surreal experience. You can go where you want, do what you want and see what you want – that is my favourite part of solo travel. Your trip, your rules.
I trudged uphill to the ruins of Parga’s crumbling stone Venetian citadel that overlooked the red, yellow and orange village rooftops on one side and the bright blue ocean on the other. It was extraordinary. I dined alone at a beachside restaurant for the first time in my life – you will be glad to know it is not as awkward as you think!
After leaving Parga, we began to head back, stopping first to take a refreshing dip in the Blue Lagoon, which is exactly what it sounds like. A small pebbled beach full of stones, all colours of the rainbow, surrounded by the clearest waters I had seen so far.
Breaking the solo travel ice
I truly believe that booking the boat trip saved my first solo travel experience. Being part of an organised activity surrounded by people made the day feel far less scary. If I had been left to my own devices, I probably would have just curled into a ball under a tree somewhere. Instead, I was beaming with pride and starting to understand that this was solo travel. Braving it and experiencing things you never thought you would. Even though I did not achieve my original goal of making friends, a new wave of confidence was released inside me. I felt brave, proud and free.
I carried this new confidence with me for the rest of my trip, spending the next few days exploring Corfu town, marvelling at historical wonders, dining alone in fabulous restaurants and lounging on beautiful beaches – I even rented a bike to explore further up the island than my legs could have taken me. I then learned how to fix a bike when it broke.
Even when the end-of-day silence of my hotel room nearly swallowed me, I didn’t allow it. I got to know myself on this trip. It was short but monumental to my confidence. So, the travel bloggers were not wrong. I was.
Travelling solo for the first time doesn’t instantly make you a different person. YOU have to make it happen. Show up with confidence, even if you have to fake it at the beginning. Plan things beforehand to ensure your trip evolves how you want it to. If you are an introverted person like me then I recommend an organised group activity as an amazing way to start. Even if you feel like the world is gonna consume you, get out there and see it all. Also, book a boat trip. They are great fun.
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Charlotte, who lives in Wales, shares her experience and the reality of travelling solo for the first time on a trip to Greece. It wasn’t what she expected.