What I Gained From My First Solo Trip Abroad

I took my first solo trip abroad to Costa Rica last month. I booked a flight without asking anyone to join me. It was a big decision, but I knew that it was something I truly wanted to do. Traveling alone can be such an adventure and I wanted to have that experience in a foreign country. I wanted to take that leap.

I hardly know the language, I had never been to this country before and I didn’t know anyone who lived there. Other than my research online about Costa Rica, I was wandering blindly into this experience. There was no way for me to be sure that everything would work out and be fine but, I went anyway.

When I arrived at the airport, there were crowds of Costa Rican men yelling spanish at me from every which direction – trying to get me to choose their taxi. In that moment, I was honestly feeling a bit anxious. “What did I just get myself into?”, I thought.

I couldn’t have planned or imagined the experiences that took place during my time in Costa Rica. I couldn’t have predicted what my trip would be like and I didn’t try to. I kept an open mind and remained neutral, trying to fight any self-doubt or fear. As a result, reality far exceeded my expectations.

I spent the next several days buying fruit I’d never seen before at the local market in San Jose, navigating the $5 buses, and trying my best to communicate with my beginner-level spanish. Google Translate saved by butt a number of times. I met the most amazing people, travelers and locals alike. One guy was taking a sabbatical from his high-paying aerospace job, a couple of girls had just completed law school, two friends just fled Venezuela, and so many people were just backpacking throughout central america. I had the opportunity to get to know a woman who lives an off-the-grid lifestyle in the corner of the rainforest.  I had the opportunity to ride around town with a local surfer as he told me crazy bull-riding stories. I heard the stories of business owners who relocated to Costa Rica after economic downturn in their home countries. I had the chance to engage with people around the world who live completely different lives than I do. I loved surfing and whitewater rafting, despite priorly convincing myself that I wouldn’t enjoy these things.  I tried things that I never have before. I trusted my instincts and embraced the unknown. So many great things happened. I would have completely missed out on all of these things had I not gone. And I’m not so sure that these things would have happened in the same way had I not been alone. 

My family thought I was crazy. The potential threat of danger in this world exists everywhere. As a female, there is always an underlying fear of being taken. However, I couldn’t allow that to hold me back. I just knew I’d have to be more alert, cautious, and aware in certain situations. 

I’m sharing this because I know that some of you want to travel alone. I also know that some are scared to take that leap. Some feel that they might be bored, lonely, unsafe, uncomfortable, weird, incapable, lost, and/or embarrassed. Some don’t understand the appeal of going on a whole trip alone. Fair enough, but I encourage anyone who is remotely interested and able to give it a try. Aside from unique experiences, here’s are a few things I gained my trip alone:

Traveling alone introduced a heightened sense of awarenessWithout a companion(or cell service), the only option you have is to focus on yourself(think, reflect, read, write, etc.) and/or your surroundings(people, nature, culture, etc.). 

Traveling alone presented immense personal freedom. Go wherever you want. Do whatever you want. Eat whatever you want. Speak to whoever you want. Try whatever you want. Wake up whenever you want. There are no limits or routines.  It’s absolute freedom to allow yourself to just go, do, and be. 

Traveling alone created a strong sense of self-empowerment. When everything is your responsibility, and you actually pull it off? You end up feeling pretty dang good about yourself. When you step out of your comfort zone and realize that everything turned out okay, you then feel empowered to push the envelope even further. It’s such a thrill, especially as a female. 

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

– Thomas A Edison

This only scratches the surface, but there are so many rewards that come with solo travel. It’s an experience that I’d recommend to everyone. And, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had amazing trips with great friends and I know that solo trips aren’t for everyone. Travel is travel. At the same time, there is something very special about traveling alone. It’s completely enriching. It gives you the chance to not only explore the world, but yourself. Sounds cheesy, but it’s the ultimate adventure.

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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