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57. Solo Travel (and why the fuck you should do it)

Greetings, readers! The last blog post that I presented y'all with was when I was still on the other side of the world, peacefully ignorant to what was waiting for me in Spain. Maybe I wasn't entirely ignorant as I was correct in bestowing the previous blog post with the name of 'change'. That was one part I was correct about, most things have changed. But to be fair, when are they not changing?

Alas, it feels great to be writing a blog post again, a sense of accustomed normalcy for me. My relationship with writing last year changed immensely. As soon as I found myself in a job where I had to write in a copious quantity, suddenly I found that the monopolisation of a preferred past-time became a chore. Don't get me wrong, the obligatory churning out of content got me to absolutely hone into the writing craft. However, it was not a sustainable act of creativity for me. I burned out. But, I am ready to fall in love with it again. And what better place to do so when I'm fucking around in Spain?!

I hope that you're doing well and that the commencement of this new year has been smooth sailing for you. I think that a satisfying segue way into this blog's theme is if I get ya up to speed on the happenings of this year so far. 2023 commenced for me in Cobb Valley, Takaka at the Twisted Frequency Festival. Thank you to all the beautiful souls that made that experience so special. I genuinely had the best time ever. When that came to an unfortunate end, I had to say a temporary goodbye to my closest homies on January 3rd. I really gave myself the generous window of a whole 24 hours to wash all my clothes, pack everything, and say goodbye to my recently late Nana on January 4th. Bear in mind, my mind and body were also severely starting to physiologically pay the price of a 5 day long festival. A soldier was really sent to battle that day.

After a brutal lead up of getting to the airport on January 5th at 6am, I made it. The next few days consisted of a multitude of less than desirable flights to finally get to Spain - more specifically to Elche, Valencia. Unfortunately, I came empty-handed. My suitcase that I packed so dearly didn't make it further than Melbourne and the treacherous waiting game began. 25 days later, we got lucky. Please travel with air-tags, travel insurance, and remember to take pictures of your bags' contents before flying. Let me be your travel guinea pig and please use some braincells when you travel, as I evidently did not.

Settling into life here has taken some adjustment, for sure. Let's commence my list of observed cultural differences between New Zealand and Spain with leaving the delicious New Zealand summer to entering the northern hemisphere's winter in January. Sad reacts. My subconscious and naive mind had decided that Spain for some reason did not have a winter. I can confirm that that is false and that I have been having to wear lil mittens on a regular basis.

Here is a more consumable list of cultural differences between New Zealand and Spain put into cutie bullet-points just for you:

  • People regularly spit on the ground here (generally older homies).

  • Smoking rates are through the roof.

  • People could not give a fuck about wearing headphones. Spanish homies really been out here blaring their reggaetón beats for everyone to listen to.

  • If any english music is going to play outside of a club setting, often it is some random western music.

  • No shame exists in ordering an alcoholic beverage on a Tuesday at 10am. Fuck yes.

  • You must be cautious of whether or not a store will be open at a seemingly normal time because of the beloved siesta.

  • Nothing is open on Sundays.

  • Without a doubt, there will definitely be a homie residing on the street selling lottery tickets every 100 metres or so.

  • I feel like I have the body clock of a grandma, everything happens a lot later.

I could go on, but I'll refrain.

So far, the journey has been challenging. It has also been interesting, rewarding, and exciting. Genuinely, I could put any adjective here and it would probably check out. But there is no doubt that I can already feel the personal growth that this jaunt has brought me and will continue to bring me. The writers in the writers' room of my life for 2023 are bringing out the big guns. By the looks of things, it is most definitely a year for character development, unfortunately.

Both times that I have participated in a considerable amount of solo travel have brought me tremendous amounts of personal growth. For those readers that don't know, when I was 18, I decided that the obvious life course for a naive, youthful, and insecure young New Zealand cherub like myself was to spend a year abroad in Argentina. She may have not known a whole lot then - let alone now - but she was correct in the fact that she knew she needed perspective. And perspective she got. Now I will return to first person references, I am sorry if that pained you, it just felt right.

2019 spent in Argentina showed me so much and catapulted my initial journey of self-discovery and personal growth now considered somewhat as an adult. Ew. As the legendary author Paulo Coelho said in his autobiography Hippie, "si quieres conocerte, comienza por explorar el mundo", which translates to, "if you want to get to know yourself, start by exploring the world." Coelho knew what was up on the solo travel and self-discovery front.

I do want to take this time here to preface the privilege I have in the form of being able to solo travel. While it is all good and well that I go about preaching from the solo travel gospel, I know that the ability to do so is not the reality for some. Therefore, I thought is was paramount to acknowledge how fortunate I have been to make this international jump.

This blog post is especially crafted for readers who are considering solo travel and have the logistic capacity to do so. Drawn from my own experience, I aim to convince you kindly to leave your hometown or country and get the fuck out there!

A definition of solo travel (or a solo traveller) I found that spoke to me was; "a solo traveller is a person who embarks on a journey, either long or short, in which they are both physically and emotionally away from the people and the culture that they are familiar with." Naturally, I would contest that I am not entirely emotionally away from my New Zealand homies whatsoever. Yet, you can appreciate what the definition is getting at.

The bridge between deciding that you're really interested in solo travel and making it happen often includes many shitty and intangible hindrances. There can be so many distinct metaphorical chokeholds - for lack of a better term - that constrain oneself to their native city or country. Some of these chokeholds might be feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, or self-doubt, job security, social norms, and others' expectations of you, to name a few. Truly, there is nothing better than a good dose of stupid societal confining norms! Don't quote me on that as I really hope that you received my sarcastic package. Personally, I experienced all of those above before purchasing my GMTFOOMH (get me the fuck out of my hometown) ticket.

In my opinion, New Zealand particularly harnesses their individualistic culture which often impedes Kiwis' from solo travelling. Correct me if you believe my opinion is wrong, but I'm totally open in hearing about whether you agree or not and why. But I will now proceed to share with you why I think this is. Geographically speaking, we're lone rangers out there in the Pacific. In some aspects, that is a blessing. However, in the sphere of solo travel, the task becomes fundamentally more difficult. Not only am I referring to the physical task of leaving becoming less feasible, the mindset of travelling solo is also less accessible. For instance, second language learning is hardly enforced or encouraged. In NZ, I feel stoked with having learned Spanish but comparing that to any average European knowing like a baseline of three languages is somewhat disheartening. There are more factors and mindsets that I believe deters Kiwis from solo travel but I don't wanna ✨manifest✨ them more so.

While these obstacles did cause quite the internal feud, I had a specific mental narrative on repeat that led me to surpassing these intrusive thoughts. That narrative that I would mutter to myself again and again was that; the hardest part is leaving. That's it. That was my mantra. Everything after that falls into place - more or less. Don't get me wrong, the solo travel admin is not my cup of tea whatsoever. The thought of visas, sourcing accomodation, booking flights, and finances genuinely incites an acute and aggressive head pain. But trust me, that is the easy part in comparison to mentally crossing that figurative bridge between the idea of solo travelling and actually doing it. As soon as you're on that plane, you're set.

Let's get onto the good shit. Why should you solo travel? Because I'm so kind to you, dear reader, I have collated my top tier reasons for solo travel. So from me to you, in no particular order, here they are:

1. Get the fuck out of your comfort zone.

When you're in your hometown or in any situation that you have been in for a while, your life starts to move on autopilot. You know what you're doing, it knows you, and you know what's up. Travel, especially solo travel, calls for you to act outside of your comfort zone. Hun, real personal growth didn't come from doing the same shit, different day. I've already found that I've become so much more of an active aviator while I've been in Spain and it feels great! Don't knock it til ya try it and get out of that comfort zone.

2. Island time? Nah, your own time.

I have found this reason for solo travel particularly refreshing! It is crazy to think about how much the desires, wants, and plans of others' distort our own perspectives of what we actually want to be doing. Don't get me wrong, there is so much beauty is sharing travel experiences with others. But when you solo travel, you get the opportunity to fully hone into yourself. Do I want to park up at a cafe and read for a few hours? Of course I do! You're in total control, baby. It feels pretty good.

3. You will learn soooo much about yourself.

This one conveniently segue ways quite satisfyingly on from the last reason. While you're running on your own schedule, you will learn so much about yourself. What works for you? What doesn't work for you? What do you value? What and who are important to you? All of these questions are brought to light at an accelerated rate and it's a pretty beautiful thing.

4. You will meet more people.

Meeting new people is such an exciting thing! So let's amplify that already exciting thing and add a lil bit of international spice. When you're in a new place, you make more social efforts to find fellow homies. Often you wouldn't get this opportunity if you are already travelling with someone else as you have someone else to fall back on.

5. Solo travel is the epitome of independence.

When you're solo travelling, you will become a lot more independent. To be honest, you don't really have a choice, sweetie. So for the co-dependent homies out there, I'm sorry but solo travel will make you go against your natural grain. By no means does this mean that you'll not be around others (as seen in reason four), but you will feel the independence bloom in ya.

6. When Justin Bieber wrote his song Confident, once you've solo travelled, that song will be about you.

Don't get me wrong, even though I'm on my second big solo travel mission, I can still be quite the anxious queen. But you'll find that when you are forced to be repeatedly more independent, you will soon realise just how capable you are! That in turn turns up your bad bitch dial and you'll feel ready to conquer the world.

7. You will learn soooo much about another part of the world.

Not only will you learn so much about yourself, you will also inevitably learn so much about another culture and part of the world. What makes this culture tick? What do they do differently? What are they passionate about? My personal favourite is observing the distinct ways in which mundane tasks are performed differently. One stand out Spanish difference is the fact that they traditionally have the drying rack for dishes placed in the cupboard above the sink. Buuuut, the bottom for this cupboard is open so that the wet dishes drip back into the sink. Incredible.

I hope that this blog post on solo travel has been able to shed some light on why you should do it. One last thing that I would like to mention about solo travelling while you're young. Dude, don't get set in your ways! The longer you leave it and put it off, the harder it will become to make it happen. While you don't have kids, a partner, responsibilities, and other commitments in general, get out there! Solo travelling at any age and with having any of these commitments is totally fine, I just know that they make it harder to happen. What have you got to lose? Money, sure! But I can trust that you will make all of that richness back in an abundance of lessons, perspectives, experiences, and more.

Anyway, that's all from me for now, dear reader. Until next time, you're an awesome and very special human. Thank you for reading.

Artwork by Chloe Bolingford

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any further questions based on this blog post or anything else in regards to this blog, be sure to get in contact with me through this website or through the blog's Instagram linked below.


~ Link for previous blog post:

~ Link to 'Born In 2000' opinion form:

This blog encompasses the life of a 22 year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface. For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected once a week. Be sure to take this present moment now and rock it!

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