A few years ago, I decided to do something crazy and booked a solo trip for the first time.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety and health issues in the past, deciding to go on a trip by myself was a big step for me. So many times I had told myself I could not do things on my own because I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid that I would have a panic attack or faint somewhere.
It always seemed safer to do nothing. To sit inside my house, where nothing could touch me and nothing could happen to me— neither the good, nor the bad.
Maybe you're like me and fear has ruled large parts of your life, or maybe you've experienced fear to a different degree. Either way, I think that at some point we all have allowed fears to stop us from doing things that we really want to do.
And I think we can all agree that this is no way to live :).
What I want to tell you now is that if you have ever thought of traveling solo but have never done it because of different worries about being a young, single person, alone in the world, I want to encourage you with the truth that you can travel solo. Yes :).
If a person like me went on multiple solo trips and came back not only alive, but with amazing memories, and great inner growth– you can, too.
Here is one main lesson I have learned from traveling alone that I want to share with you, and that I hope will give you some inspiration to get out there:
You are not as alone as you think.
That’s right :). Traveling alone doesn’t mean being alone. Some of the best parts of traveling are when you meet new people.
But I'm super awkward. How am I supposed to just randomly talk to people I don't know?
I know. I'm awkward, too. But I have found the secret to making new friends that even works for awkward people. I know, it's amazing :). Are you ready? Here it is...
The secret to having good, meaningful conversations with strangers and making potential friendships is to start a conversation with someone in places where waiting is mandatory.
That's right. You start the conversation in places where you are waiting. You might be waiting somewhere like a line for the bathroom (unless you're a guy and there's no bathroom line or the line is very short, which doesn't really allow for real conversation), waiting for a bus at a bus stop, or waiting on a plane or train to arrive to a destination.
I found that this method of making friends while traveling is great because:
1) It's much more natural than just walking up to someone.
It's more natural to talk to the person next to you because you've probably been standing next to them for awhile and have most likely become more comfortable with one another's presence. This method makes it way easier to ask a question or make a comment than if you were to just approach someone head-on and just start talking to them, which could seem a little aggressive.
Side rant– research shows that when we stand next to someone side-by-side (as you might stand if you're waiting at a bus stop with someone) it helps to increase feelings of companionship and help others to feel at ease with you, whereas when we stand face-to-face, it often communicates that you are an opponent to that person and makes people feel uptight. This may explain why the waiting method makes it easier to make friends, since it often involves you standing side-by-side with someone.
2) You can easily leave.
I know this sounds like such a bad reason for why this is a good friend-making method. But trust me. For those of you awkward people out there like me, you know that if a conversation is totally not going well, you'll want to find a way to free yourself and the other person of the awkwardness. You'll be a great friend for doing it.
That's the good part of the waiting method.
Once the line ends, the bus comes, or the train stops, you can gracefully move on, taking with you the memory of how you awkwardly tried to make a friend on your trip, which is also a beautiful memory in its own way.
Or if things go well, you can decide to exchange information and stay in touch with that person– and possibly even meet again!
During my last solo trip, I met a lively group of friends on a train ride in Taiwan.
This is a picture of us on the train before we said our good-byes; as you can see we became pretty close :). From left to right, you see Mark, Celine, Blessie, Rose, myself, and Rosemary.
It was actually Blessie who first turned to me and asked me where I am from, which I am so glad she did because I got to know a great group of people :).
Something that left an impression on me about my new friends is their playfulness with one another and their free-spiritedness. At first, I thought they were siblings because the way they teased one another and laughed together was very family-like. But I soon found out that not only were they not family, but they were not even related at all!
Instead, this beautiful group of people met while they were working abroad from their home country, the Philippines. They met at an Apple factory there in Taiwan, where they work on microchips, and they became closer over the years of being together.
Getting to know them gave me a warm feeling inside. Firstly, their playfulness made me want more of that in my life, as it's something I struggle with since I take myself and life so seriously sometimes.
And secondly, meeting them made me see that truly– we are never alone.
Even when we leave our home country. Even when we have to be away from family. Even when we have to start over to make a new life from scratch. We are never alone, but we are all connected. Friends and family are all around us.
It's just a matter of us opening up, connecting with another, and seeing that we are surrounded by love.
My hope for you this New Year is that you find a home wherever you are, whether you are traveling abroad, away from family, or even just feeling a little bit lonely in your own town. Share what you have with those around you, even if it's just your feelings. Allow others to do the same. In this way, you'll realize there is no such thing as strangers but only extended family.
Sending you so much love,