Reflections on my first time travelling solo

No need to worry. The Roaming Renegades as a travelling pair are still going strong, but circumstances came about which resulted in me (Nic) taking a solo trip over to Switzerland for a long weekend. Having never travelled solo before but at the same time confident in my ability to do so given our well travelled wanderings I set off looking forward to not only a new country and all that would bring but also a new travel experience in itself. Here are my reflections on travelling solo:

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Where and why?

In my current situation I had no real desire to travel on my own or any real need to be honest. I mean, I am one part of the Roaming Renegades after all, we are travelling the world as a married couple and love the idea of experiencing the world together. I often said how lucky I was to find someone who wanted to see the world with me but that my wanderlust and need to travel was so strong that I would have gone either way. That statement is still true but I think I maybe rushed to assume travelling is just travelling alone or not.

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But circumstances came about which meant I would be travelling to Switzerland on my own. To cut a long story short basically Shorty (Paul) had been invited to a stag party in Switzerland by one of our best friends. Although I am a part of this social group the fact I am female meant I couldn’t go (this is why we didn’t have stag and hen parties and just did something together!) I was pretty upset because not only was I being excluded based solely on my gender but I would also be missing out on a country I had wanted to visit for years.

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So what to do about it? Well I decided than instead of stay at home and be annoyed and argue about gender politics, traditions and sexism…I would be an independent woman and take my own trip over to Switzerland! I think if something bothers you then you have to take steps to do something about it or get over it!

In the process I had a totally new travel experience and learnt a lot about myself by travelling solo for the first time!

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General reflections on travelling solo:

One of the things I love about the relationship me and Shorty has is the way in which I can just go and do this on my own. That as much as we are meant to be together we can comfortably spend time apart too. I love more than anything to share experiences together but I think it’s healthy to have some alone time too.

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Often for me that involves wandering around Manchester on my own on my days off, exploring the city and my mind at the same time. Sketching, taking photos and just clearing my head. So the concept of travelling to another city in a different country and doing a similar thing didn’t really worry or scare me too much.

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One of the things I came to realise in the weeks leading up to the trip is that if I really wanted too I could have roped in some friends or family to come with me. But a big part of me wanted to try it out on my own. I didn’t want to be dictated to by someone else’s schedule or budget, to have to compromise what I saw or did, and I also wanted to prove to myself that I could travel solo as well.

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Interestingly everyone else seemed more worried than I was. It’s strange because most of the people I know who have gone travelling have gone solo, so me taking a long weekend trip on my own despite being something new to me didn’t feel at all like a big deal! I was keen to challenge myself, my bank of travel experience and also step outside of my travel comfort zone too. I didn’t really feel too nervous about it either.

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I came to realise that one of the big factors in solo travel is the differentials, the place, the culture, your own circumstances all combine to make a unique experience and reflection upon solo travel itself. The fact I have travelled so much with one particular person means I miss them specifically, if you are single and have only ever travelled alone then your perspective will be quite different!

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Basel itself is also not exactly a backpackers haven, it’s a beautiful place but the scene is very different to the travelling meccas of South East Asia and as such the opportunities for socialising are minimal. Most people in Basel are not travelling long term either and just like me on this trip are not so worried about making friends given they are on short trips. All this adds up and I imagine my first solo travel experience would have be vastly different given alternative surroundings. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though!

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Some times I was a little fed up on my own when I would have been more able to laugh about the weather with someone else!

How did I feel then about travelling solo? Mixed to be honest, I experienced every emotion possible over this weekend and I expected nothing less. I am an emotional person, I reacted to things both in ways I did and didn’t expect. I loved and hated it, I felt much more and also much less confident and self assured at the same time. I felt free to do exactly what I wanted without compromise, and yet being alone also made me hesitate and question things I would never have done when travelling as a couple.

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What I liked about Travelling Solo:

Not compromising for others

Both me and Shorty like to travel in much the same way and that’s why we work so well. But every relationship involves compromises. He gets frustrated with me faffing about taking photos and his constant need for rest and food messes with my schedule!! When travelling with others we can often end up following someone else’s path which can be really frustrating, this weekend I just did what I wanted and when!

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Confidence and Independence

When you are travelling on your own it can be a real boost for your confidence, you realise how much you can rely on yourself and that if you want to do something or say something then you just have to do it. Being independent can really make you stand taller and in pushing you out of your comfort zone benefit you in so many ways. You also have to get over your embarrassment in taking selfies or asking someone to take your photo if you want a picture of yourself somewhere, I found that as time went on I really stopped caring if about taking selfie in front of people!

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I could try out my German

This sounds a bit strange but as much as I feel totally comfortable with Shorty I know when I attempt to speak the local language I can feel a bit self conscious. Part of this is because we always have a laugh with each other but it does sometimes stop me wanting to try it out. I guess if I make a fool out of myself and mess it up then there is no-one around me who will remember it other than me! It was nice to put some of that German to the test!

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I felt much more like a local

I felt that the way I was exploring Basel was much more like the way in which I walk around my own city. I had to interact with locals much more, I sat on public transport alone like the majority of those off to work. Wandering around on my own more people would presume I was a local too. I found this when I spent sometime along in Hamburg when staying with my cousin and its a totally different feeling and allows you to get into a different mind set and perspective too.

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I spoke to people I wouldn’t have done

Being on my own I made the effort to speak to people and be more sociable than I might have been when we travel as a couple. I didn’t get friendly with as many people as I had hoped but I think the city and the general type of visitors here was a factor. I did however visit the cathedral tower with a girl called Sabine from Berlin, it was interesting to hear another cultural perspective on what we were seeing and also pick up some advice for where to visit next! I also spoke more to people working in shops or inside galleries and museums as well as other visitors as I wanted some human interaction. This was really great for my confidence and I can see that travelling solo forces you to come out of your shell!

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I got time to blog

In the evenings usually we would go out for an evening meal after dark and explore the city at night. But being on my own I spent a little more time in the hostel than I would have done and what else to do but work on the blog. It was nice to feel more like a “proper” travel blogger writing as I travelled and was great to get my feelings down when they were fresh. This is something we both plan on doing when we go travelling long term.

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What I disliked about Travelling Solo:

I felt lonely and missed Shorty

Although I am confident on my own and used to spending time alone when exploring my own city there were times when I did feel lonely and I wanted Shorty to be there. When you are used to a person being there with you there is a void. Not at all times and it didn’t stop me from enjoying it but I did miss the old boy!

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Confidence

Travelling solo is both a confidence booster and also one which at the same time can knock your confidence. At times I questioned things I usually wouldn’t, things bothered me more than they would usually, such a when a man approached me as I sat by the river eating lunch. I felt that I didn’t have that other person there to back me up in case I needed them.

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No-one to share the experience with

When you travel you see and experience some amazing things and Switzerland was no different. From the breath taking views down the mountain in Lucerne and the unforgettable vista over the city from the cathedral, to the small things such as looking at all the new food in the supermarket and commenting on the details I noticed. These are the things I missed sharing with someone, turning to my side and saying “Oh look at that”.

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Snapchatting!

Too much time

When you travel with someone you forget just how much time you can spend together doing nothing, sitting on a bench and taking in the views, chatting in the evening about the days events. When you are alone this time is much more empty and noticeably so. I had hoped to spend sometime getting to know people in the hostel but most were just passing through.

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Facetiming on the ferry in Lucerne

Someone else’s input

Sometimes compromising for another person can be frustrating, other times it can mean you get to see and do something amazing you might have missed. We often like to see the same types of things but there is always a compromise in which places we choose to visit and I did miss that input. I am also sometimes too busy doing things that I don’t rest when I should or eat at the right times. Shorty is usually the one to say hey, lets take a break and get some food. Me on the other hand I want to keep going, I realised that I maybe didn’t have that balance right when going solo!

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Eating alone

When I was are on my own one of the things that I got the most self conscious about was eating alone. I guess this is quite personal but for me but there is a big difference between sitting in a cafe or a McDonalds for example having something quick to eat on your own compared to a proper evening meal. I felt a little limited to the types of places I felt comfortable eating in and often just took food back to the hostel.

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Would I travel solo again?

Well if I had the choice I would say probably not unless I really had to. Did I have a great time in Switzerland? Yes. Did I wish Shorty was with me? Yeah, all the time! I think travelling solo is sometime we should all try at some point but I do think personal and locational circumstances contribute massively to how you feel about it.

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I think also that many of the “teething” problems I had are things that over time I would get used to, not be as bothered by or just find a way around. I imagine I would become comfortable dining alone, or creating conversations with fellow travellers at hostels. I did feel that as my time in Switzerland went on I did grow into being alone…but I never stopped missing Shorty or feeling that it would still be better if he were there!

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Overall

I have a new found respect for those who travel long term on their own. As much as I prefer to be with my partner in crime I do think that I could do it if I had to. I felt pretty proud of myself travelling solo and that break from the norm really is a good way to experience something new, especially when travel itself becomes your norm.

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Have you travelled solo, how do you feel about it compared to travelling with a companion or partner?

More adventures in Switzerland:

See more from this country:

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Nic, this is awesome! I’ve visited your blog a couple of times before but after reading this post I feel like I know so much more about you! I also agree with most everything you noted on solo travel, especially how you had a little confidence boost to practice another language and push yourself a bit to meet new people and make yourself comfortable according to your schedule. I live in Bolivia with my man and we travel everywhere TOGETHER. Local culture here is very sexist and since he is from Bolivia, he often has many parties and things to do that are “guys only.” I really should take the opportunity to explore on my own rather than dwell on being alone, as you said. Well done! Cheers!

    • Ahh thanks! I do enjoy writing these more personal posts from time to time as travel is something that is fully of emotions for us! It is sometimes great to just get out of that comfort zone and do something for yourself. It is definitely a great confidence boost. Yeah you should give it a go and see how you feel! 🙂

  • Els Mahieu

    I am in a relationship but to be honest I really enjoy travelling on my own sometimes. You get to meet people a lot easier and I admit the “no compromise” option is a great advantage too 🙂 Does that sound selfish? Mmmm, yes probably 🙂

    • Yeah I think it’s not bad to change things up every now and then and travel differently, I am definitely glad I gave it a go. It is also harder I think to get to know other people when you are with people you know as it just doesn’t seem as important and I guess sometimes in life we need to be selfish other wise we just end up following everyone else. I love that we can travel together and it’s not too much of a compromise to be honest but I have felt that before when I have been with friends.

  • Melody Pittman

    This was my favorite post of yours thus far! I loved how honest and raw it was. You did great being alone and I am so proud of you. I wish I’d had your confidence at that young of age. I’ve been married 24 years now and I can say our key to success is that we both have lives outside the marriage as well as together. I would go nuts being with the same person 24/7 plus someone would have to compromise if they didn’t like doing all the same things. (which we don’t) Love that you FaceTime the dog. So cute. Question for you, do you ever wear sunglasses?

    • Ahh, thank you so much Melody. Yeah it’s a totally honest and personal reflection on how I felt. Cheers, I think sometimes maybe I am more confident than I give myself credit for but I do think travel is a big part of that. Yeah definitely, we do love spending a lot of time together but that is mostly because pretty much all our interests are the same and that’s how we met. But having time to be your own person is important and it’s great when your partner respects that too instead of seeing it as an insult. Ha ha, yeah forget the husband I wanted to facetime the pooch! No I don’t have any sunglasses at the moment but I probably should have, I think living in England you overlook those things!

  • I am very jealous of the relationship you have with your other half. Traveling solo was broached once on my end, but unfortunately very unsuccessfully. I think it takes a particular character and relationship to allow the other to travel without any qualms or concerns, and it is all made that much more difficult if trust had ever been undermined in the past.

    • Yeah I do feel very fortunate to have such an open and trusting relationship. I do think the fact we have been together for so long helps, we just know there is no one else in the world we were meant to be with than each other! But we also appreciate that we all need a little bit of time to explore on our own too!

  • Interesting post. I think it’s good for people to try travelling alone once in a while just to know how it feels. 🙂

    • Thanks, yeah it’s good to mix it up every now and then and have a new travel experience.

  • Samantha Hussey

    I have been in a relationship for 6 years and only this year did I start travelling alone and while I love seeing the world with my partner, I also love spending time travelling for myself. Like your post says – its healthy to be apart sometimes and for me, I found I was more open to socializing and speaking to people then I would be if I were travelling with him. But I do think it takes a strong character to go out of your comfort zone and travel solo. Well done for doing so! 🙂

  • These are many reflections from such a short trip! I enjoyed reading your honest thoughts. There are many factors influencing our travel experiences, the country, the culture, the people, the language, the weather, our wellbeing, our attitude, and so on. Ive been in a relationship for almost five years and have always travel solo, as much as I would love to travel with my boyfriend, it actually scares the sh*t out of me. What if we are not compatible travel companions? We share common interests but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t exactly love visiting the same places. I would also rarely approach strangers or put myself in awkward situations, or challenge myself the way I do when Im solo. Every new trip takes a few days to adapt and I always miss him, but I also love most of the things that come with solo travel. Im looking forward to travel as a couple someday though 🙂

    • Hey, cheers for the great response. Yeah I think that there are so many things that effect how we feel and sometimes they can be magnified when we are alone, or for me anyway. I do adapt to situations pretty quick but it was a short trip so who knows, on a longer one I might feel better, worse or both or any given day!! I did enjoy it and loved a new challenge but I think for me having done the majority of my travelling with my S.O there is no worries from that perspective. But equally I wasn’t all that worried about going on my own either! I think it’s good to change things around every now and then, you never really know how it’s going to be until you try it. Travelling as a couple when you click is amazing!

  • Claudia Luxembourg

    Travelling solo is an important experience in a travellers’ life. I love it, actually. I travelled solo to South America and I can’t wait for more of that. Your considerations after such a short trip are actually very good – it seems you got the whole “travelling solo” frenzy figured out 🙂 What I find funny though is that you got annoyed at the stag party and not being invited 😉

    • Thanks! Yeah I do think it’s good to do it at least once and maybe it would have been good to travel for a longer time solo but I have someone to share those experiences with which is amazing! I think I do think into things quite deeply at times and being solo it did give me a lot of space to consider just how I felt about it.
      Lol, yeah, I don’t know, call be a modernist but I find the concept of stag/hen parties to be sexist and extend the whole idea about marriage that we each have to fit into predesigned notions of what society wants a male or a female to be. Why can’t it just be a group of friends who go out together to celebrate regardless of gender?! It’s like all my mates are going out without me! That’s why we just did something together before we go married and didn’t call it a hen or stag!

  • This is a really interesting perspective! I’ve only ever travelled alone, I’m a massive introvert and hate the idea of travelling with someone else so it’s really interesting to read this view – it’s so alien to me that it’s fascinating! I’m glad you had a good time though 🙂 and here’s to lots more travels in the future!

    • Cheers, yeah for me I have only ever travelled with someone so it’s good to try new ways. Its weird, some days I can talk to anyone and then others I hate it, but when you have that one person its not really like that, you can just be yourself.

  • Barbara Ber

    I love travelling with my husband and the kids, though I also love to travel only with the kids. It’s a lot easier to make decisions 😉

    • Yeah it’s great having the company. Never tried travelling with kids, I imagine it’s a different challenge again!

  • Teacaketravels

    There’s nothing wrong with taking the bull by the horns and thinking, ‘Screw it, I’m gonna go for it’. Well done for being super productive and adventurous and going for a solo weekend! I’m all about solo travel: it definitely can be an emotional rollercoaster at times but I have grown from it. I know who I am, what I need, what I want. I do worry that I have become *too* independent though and have lost all skills in travelling fully with someone else! I really hope that hasn’t happened ><

    • Cheers! Yeah I think when you want something or you feel you need to do it you sometimes need to just go for it. It was a crazy emotional rollercoaster just over a few days but sometimes you need that. It’s like challenging yourself in a totally new way! For us we both want the same thing when we travel so I prefer being together but I would struggle with people who wanted a totally different experience.

  • Dawn K

    I’m so glad you were able to get away and experience this by yourself regardless of the outcome. 🙂 My husband is always telling me to go off and explore when it’s not financially possible for the both of us; yet, I know I’d have serious issues going off on my own, I’d be uncomfortable, sad and lonely. I’ve very much shy by myself, I felt all of your emotions while reading this post. I think one day I may travel solo but it would be closer to home and probably a weekend trip as well! 🙂

    • Ahh thank you for your thoughtful response. Despite having mixed emotions I am really glad I did it. After just coming back from Switzerland again whilst together I can very much say I am so much happier travelling together. But it’s good to experience new things and new perspectives, it does teach you a lot about yourself! You also realise how strong you are, you would cope just fine I recon!

  • DeafWanderlust

    I love this post, because you were completely honest about solo traveling! It’s not always for everyone; everyone is different and there’s nothing to be ashamed about!

    I haven’t done solo traveling yet, and I don’t mind giving it a try. I can start of something small in my country or even something big, somewhere out of my country. I can’t really have any say to compare it yet, but once I experience it, I’ll know! 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah I think it’s good to get another view that those who are just totally in love with solo travel. I am so glad I tried it and I think if I had to I could do it again and for longer, but I really would prefer it with my other half! I think it is something we would all benefit from trying though!

  • Robb Saunders

    Great post. I travelled solo across Japan last year and I too learned some new things about myself. Keep up the great work!

    • Thank you! Yeah it’s a real eye opener for sure. Japan is amazing though, would love to return!

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  • Lisa

    Good article. I do both, sometimes hubby goes and other times I go solo. I’ll admit I do love the solo trips, different opportunities always present themselves when people find out I’m alone. They adventures have always been positive!

    • Thanks! it was really fun to try it out on my own, I do prefer it together but I would deffo do it again as it was nice to be completely in control!