I’d like to share my first (and so far last) solo travel experience, along with its highlights and low points. It was after my three-month stay in Brisbane, Australia, being a part of a film course and meeting the man who is now my husband.
My visa only had a few days left before being invalid after the course was over, so I figured I should cross something off my bucket list before heading back to Canada. I was asking my friends if anyone else wanted to join me for a weekend trip to Sydney, but everyone had already booked their flights home from Brisbane. And so, I shrugged my shoulders and decided to explore the iconic Aussie city on my own.
While I’ve done the process of travelling by myself plenty of times, I’ve always had people waiting for me on the other side, so I was curious as to how I’d feel. I’m introverted so I’m fine with alone time, but was a weekend wandering in a city of strangers going to be too much?
The moment I arrived in Circular Quay, I took only a few steps and bam – there was the infamous Sydney Opera House right in front of me. If you’ve read my previous post about my bucket list from when I was 13, you know that seeing the Opera House in person was something I’d dreamed of doing for many years. And all of the sudden it was right there in front of me – it was very overwhelming!
I beelined to the Opera House, and strolled around peeking in the windows for a fair bit, still a little awestruck. I immediately noticed how different it was closeup in comparison to photos I’d seen. A perk of being there alone was that I could wander around the Opera House far longer than anyone else would find interesting.
I wanted to get a postcard-perfect view, so I strolled in silence for a fair while around the botanical gardens to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge at a distance.
At this point, it had only been a few hours of just me myself and I. It felt like a lifetime as I’d just spent the past three months sharing a dorm with 12 other girls, surviving on very little sleep and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the film industry. I parked myself on a bench to text my boyfriend briefly and send this picture to my family. My mom had told me she had taken a photo practically identical to my own from the same spot back when she visited Sydney alone in the 80s. Like mother like daughter.
The next day was very similar to the previous, me walking all over the city. It was so nice to be alone with my thoughts, and to be able to selfishly choose what I wanted to do without needing to consult anyone. Yet, I still often caught myself thinking of people in my life who I wished were there with me to experience certain moments.
Also, if you want to see the route I did while exploring Sydney that weekend on my own two feet, check out my post: Budget Walking Tour of: Sydney, Australia.
Making Friends Along The Way
One thing I noticed while I was writing out my solo travel story was how little time I spent truly alone!
First of all, I was extremely lucky to have a unique yet free housing accommodation, in which my mother’s friends friend offered to house me and pick me up from the airport. Sydney is notoriously expensive, so not needing to spend hundreds to rest my head for the night somewhere safe was just one thing that made my solo travel experience all the more relaxing and secure.
One night I ended up sharing a pizza with the family while we watched the Santa Clause and I had one of those, “how the heck did I end up here?” moments as I crashed this family’s Christmastime fun.
I also ended up meeting with my friend’s long-time internet friend who was from Sydney. She ended up guiding me through the Rocks area (and helping me scout out where Dance Academy was filmed, my friends and I’s guilty pleasure teen show).
I almost felt like I was doing the whole solo travel thing wrong somehow since I ended up befriending strangers so often. As it turns out, travelling alone allows you to meet new people that you wouldn’t have otherwise which is a really great perk!
Solo Travel and Feeling Unsafe
Most people’s main concern (especially for women) when travelling alone is the risk that it could possibly pose to our safety. There are so many great travel blogs out there with amazing women sharing about how wonderful and safe solo travel can be in any location. I can agree with this despite one small hiccup.
The only moment I had where I felt a little unsafe (and suddenly very aware that I was all alone) happened in a very busy and public area, luckily.
I had taken a quick rest under the Harbour Bridge to take a photo and drink some water when a couple of foreign men approached me. I don’t like to jump to conclusions and assume every male that approaches me is out to get me, but when it’s two against one and I’m all alone in a new city, my guard is up to begin with.
After some very brief chit-chat the question,”are you here alone?” was asked. Despite the fact that I was in the middle of a busy area, this set off some sirens in my head. I lied and said no, my boyfriend was trying to find a bathroom and shortly after pretended to receive a text from him saying he was waiting for me down the road. I high-tailed it and disappeared into a crowd, checking to make sure I wasn’t being watched or followed, and that was that. Not a big deal, but it totally gave me the creeps.
Oddly enough, while my mother was in Sydney long before I was, she had a similar experience. A man approaching her, then quickly asking her if she was here alone. She claimed to be there with her friend, “Joe” and then proceeded to pick a random friendly looking stranger and wave frantically yelling, “Hey, Joe!” Luckily, he waved back and the dude went away.
If you’re ever in a similar situation, I say trust your gut despite it making you seem paranoid or rude. Your safety is more important than manners. Don’t tell anyone you don’t know where you’re staying, or if you’re there alone.
Will I Solo Travel Again?
All in all, I had a very positive solo travel experience in a city I had always wanted to explore. Yet, I don’t think I’ll become a full-on solo traveller anytime soon. There are pros and cons to travelling both alone and with friends, but I think I still lean towards travelling with others.
I loved the solitude and the selfish freedom for a weekend, but any longer than that and I would’ve gotten too lonely! Yet, I did end up spending time with strangers I wouldn’t have met if I wasn’t alone, so maybe solo travel isn’t so lonely after all?
All this to say, I’m still open to trying solo travel again when opportunities arise and enjoying the perks that come along with it!
What about you, have you ever travelled alone? If so, what was your experience? If not, is there a reason why you avoid travelling solo? Let’s chat in the comments below 🙂