Things I Have Learned Traveling the World Solo

10 years ago I wanted to leave for an endless journey into the not-known. I had quit my corporate job, ended my lease (and my relationship), parked the domain for this blog, and bought a one-way trip to Bangkok. A few months after, I would embark on the journey that I am still on today.

10 years and more than 60 countries solo, lots of laughter, tears, postcodes, friendships, loves and losses after I sit here in awe of the last decade. It taught me more about myself and the world than anything else. It was a much bigger education than 16 years at school.

Two years after starting the journey, I shared what I had learned along the way with 10 questions from 2 years of traveling around the world, an article that won me writing awards, and now 8 years after it’s high time to revisit it. These are the 10 biggest lessons of 10 years of traveling alone:

10. We don’t need much to be happy (things bind us)

When I sold my apartment in 2012, a process I would repeat when leaving Berlin after 4 years in 2018, I was struck by how much I had built up and how much I had to reduce. When I left for Southeast Asia, I only had one backpack, and when I left Berlin, the previous 4 years all had to fit in 2 suitcases.

My daily happiness and comfort on the road came down to a bed to sleep in, a shower, and usually a mosquito net. I remember being amazed at how much easier life was with so few things to take care of, and how little those things mattered anyway.

This is not a romanization of poverty. Everyone has to meet their basic needs to feel safe, but otherwise, the beauty was in the simplicity. Less personal belongings meant more freedom to tie up what I had and walk on, the next adventure has more importance than anybody object outside the base.

9. Things change constantly and quickly

Sometimes I think back to my first trips as the halcyon years when the Wi-Fi barely worked, no one cared about the gram and things were carefree. We will never be able to return to this because life is only moving forward. Sometimes I long for how it was.

But it does the present a disservice. Yes, the places we once loved will not always remain as they were, but new opportunities are also waiting to be discovered.

One of the only guarantees in life is that it will change, and travel has taught me to get up and ride every wave, confident that I will know what to do when the next one comes.

8. Social media is not real life

Though I miss the years before I got the “gram,” I have to thank him for pushing me to become a better photographer, for offering me another source of income, and for showing me more corners of the world than I otherwise would have known of.

But traveling in a haute couture dress, pretending to eat a huge meal that’s more for the photo than for the experience, and doing sunset photo shoots are the BTS of many Instagram shoots, and this isn’t reality – it’s an art form.

The reality is the sweaty moments, when the truck breaks down, the wind Rises and the rain washes the road. Without yin and yang, it would not be a journey or real life. The real raw beauty is the story you bring out. It is in the inglorious moments that build our character.

7. The most difficult moments often become the sweetest of our memories

This brings me to my next biggest lesson, that somehow the hardest things will end up being the most beautiful. It will be the moments when you thought that everything went wrong, when it could not get worse, and when you had to become completely autonomous to overcome the obstacle, that will become the most decisive.

I have to thank the most difficult moments of my life and my travels for shaping the strong woman I am here today. Those were the moments when I discovered what I was made of.

And when I think about it, it makes sense through my now pink lenses. It has led me to where I am now, and that is exactly where I should be.

6. People are generally good

I sat in a circle with my new friends in Mozambique five years ago now, sharing each one we were grateful for. After all, it was American Thanksgiving.

My friend Caspar shared that he was grateful that people are usually good. He said that at the eleventh hour, even if it seemed dark, someone always came to lend a helping hand. That had been my experience too, and it was wonderful to hear someone else say what I knew was true in my heart.

The isolation of the past two years has made it easy to forget that people are not the angry messages they leave online. It’s been easy to get over the human race recently with so little in – person interaction, but I have to remind myself that traveling has helped me see the good in people-to see humanity in the hard things. It’s often the ones with the least to give that are the most generous, and they tend to show up when you need them the most.

5. We need to consider our impact

Travel is a privilege, and while I believe it is not limited to the rich, it is certainly not accessible to everyone.

But in many developing countries, people have to deal with the presence of travelers, many of whom do not take into account their impact. I haven’t always been perfect, but I realize how essential it is to spend locally, find the Green Options, avoid all-inclusions, stay in local establishments, support women-led businesses, and always ask if our presence helps or harms.

4. You never know what small change can completely change your life.

I always thought the big decisions would guide my career the most, and while the decision to quit my job and travel full-time certainly changed everything, it was the unexpected and chance experience that had the biggest impact afterwards.

Meeting my girlfriend Yvonne in Chiang Mai, spontaneously getting a tattoo done by a monk together, then visiting her in Berlin the following fall led me to move to Germany and live there for almost 5 years.

An email from Pete, who would become my tour partner for BMTM Adventures, led us to organize a trip to Namibia in 2018. The lodge we stayed at outside Etosha had been a last minute itinerary change, but it turned out that I would meet my future life partner by the campfire there. Now I’m 9 months pregnant with our first child, and it’s crazy to think how random, seemingly small and random it all seemed at that time.

I can name so many examples of quick conversations, random experience, and wrinkles in time that led me to the craziest changes, and the randomness of solo travel has always left me room to make these changes.

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