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I always knew this would happen sooner or later, you guys.

I have been wondering for weeks how everyone seems to know which stop to get off at on every bus or train except for me. If there is an announcement (which is rare) it’s in a language I don’t understand. If there is a sign somewhere it’s usually not visible. How does everyone know where we are except for me?

I am perpetually lost. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does add to my stress level a bit. I generally just follow the biggest group of people and assume they’re going to the same place I am. Which has worked for me…until now.

My first thought as the bus pulled into Split was “I thought it would be bigger.” But, everyone was getting off the bus and grabbing their bags so…this must be it.

I checked my almost-dead laptop again for the address of the hostel I was looking for. The directions didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but that wasn’t too surprising. I started off in one direction that I soon deemed had to be the wrong one. Okay, no problem, try the other way. Nothing that even resembled what these directions had described.

Huh. Well, it was only 3:30, so I still had plenty of time thanks to catching an earlier bus than I had planned on from Mostar. I stepped into a tourist agency to see if they could point me in the right direction, but they had never heard of the street I was looking for.

And then I looked down at the map on the desk. It was not a map for Split. I was definitely NOT in Split.

Oh, well. I decided to head down to the beach and grab some lunch.

Whenever I used to have anxiety attacks I would always try to ask myself “what’s the worst that could happen?” but it never really helped to calm me down. Because you don’t realize how inconsequential “the worst case scenario” is until it happens. And you deal with it. And it’s perfectly okay.

Even if you get off at the wrong stop. Or miss your flight. Or lose your passport. Or your camera. Or your phone. Even if you get to Thailand and they won’t let you enter the country without an onward flight booked, which you don’t have. Even if you run out of money and have to live on bread & pasta for weeks, while desperately looking for your next Couchsurfing host.

I’ve talked to travelers that have been through all of this and lived to tell the tale. In fact, my lovely friend, Ana, told me about the time her husband’s backpack with his passport in got stolen 5 hours before their flight. They still made it. (And yes, they’re still married even though it was sort of her fault.)

I have a confession to make: I don’t always love solo travel. In fact, 50% of the time I actively hate it. It would be awesome to have SOMEONE ELSE decipher a train schedule written in Serbian or navigate tiny winding Croatian streets to locate a hostel for once. Just having another person by your side can make you more confident when it comes to making decisions and taking risks.

Mostar, Bosnia

I twinge with jealousy every time I see a couple watching a sunset or sharing a special moment together. If I didn’t have a special someone back at home that probably wouldn’t bother me so much, but I’m also envious of groups of friends I see traveling together. It’s easy to not care if something goes wrong because you’re all in it together.

When you don’t have someone else to shoulder the responsibilities on the road, they can get overwhelming sometimes.

As I sat there in beautiful not-Split, eating my lunch, watching people splashing around in the invitingly clear water I realized something.

The growth part of personal growth isn’t always fun.

Sometimes it’s stressful, scary, hard or downright painful. You make costly mistakes & get lost. You take cold showers & sleep in tents until you find yourself fantasizing about your queen-size pillow-top back home.

But the payoff…oh man, the payoff. When you face the worst possible scenario & get through it time after time, you realize how much you’re actually capable of.

This is what solo travel gifts you with.

Confidence. Fearlessness. You start to trust your instincts. You don’t panic about being in the wrong city (because, really, is there a wrong city to be in eating on a beach in Croatia?)

I used to wake up hyperventilating at 2:00 am more often than not. My last few months at my corporate job were punctuated with bouts of depression & insomnia.

I used to have such a horrible body image that I couldn’t stand to eat in front of people I didn’t know. I felt like they would think “Why is that girl eating? Her body is gross, she shouldn’t be eating anything.”

I’m currently sitting here writing this at a bar on a beach in Omis. In my bikini. In front of me is a sandy beach and miles of clear blue water. To my left are mountains stretching up into the sky. I’m in paradise. And I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks of my body right now.

I can’t remember the last time I had an anxiety attack. I even sleep through my bunk mates’ snoring in the hostel. In fact, I can sleep anywhere now. Trains, buses, airports, park benches, you name it.

I don’t really care that people probably think I’m a total weirdo for sitting here writing on my laptop instead of napping on the beach.

I have completely given up on planning out more than 2 days in advance, and I don’t worry about it at all. When someone asks me “where are you headed to next?” my answer is “I’m not sure, what do you recommend?” And then I go.

If I had stuck to my plan I wouldn’t have found myself running through a train station at 6:52 am yesterday to catch a train to Mostar, which I hadn’t known existed a few days ago.

What a shame that would have been because I would have missed a train ride through the Bosnian mountains that made me feel like I was in a Harry Potter movie. I would have missed out on this special little town with its cobblestone streets and historic bridge and the bluest river I have ever seen.

Mostar, Bosnia

The Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia

Don’t be afraid to jump headfirst into something that scares the bejeezus out of you. Apply for that promotion even if you’re not 100% sure you can handle it. Move across the country to that city you’ve always wanted to live in even if you don’t have a job lined up. Quit your job and start that business you’ve always dreamed of. Sign up for that half-marathon at the end of the summer, even if you can’t run more than a mile right now. Travel solo.

Face the worst case scenario head on. I can’t promise it won’t suck at first. In fact, I can promise it most certainly will suck at times. It will be hard. It will be stressful. It will be overwhelming.

Omis, Croatia

Sitting by the beach in Omis (yeah, I put my top back on for pics) 🙂

But you just might find yourself riding on a train through mountains that take your breath away. Or on a beach soaking in the Croatian sun. Or having no idea what country you will be in tomorrow and loving every minute of it.


This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. Read other great travel posts or link up to the blog party at Chasing the Donkey, Pack Me To, or any of the other awesome hosts listed below:

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Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. Van @ Snow in Tromso    

    This is definitely one of the best, personal and touching stories on solo travel I read in a long time!!

    1. Mandie    

      Aww, thanks Van! Very sweet of you!

  2. Molly S    

    Loved this! I agree – solo travel can be terrifying, but also incredibly rewarding. I am married, but I often travel without my husband and I’m planning on three months away next year by myself. Despite the occasional difficulties and loneliness, I love having the freedom to do my own thing, to meet new people (much harder to do when you’re travelling as a couple!) and to challenge myself and, like you, it’s done wonders for my confidence. But it did make me chuckle when I read that you’d got off the bus at the wrong place – I do that every single time…..

    1. Mandie    

      It was such a typical Mandie move haha. I’m learning more about myself through solo travel than I think I have in my other 32 years combined! But…I can’t wait to get home and plan a trip with my bf. 🙂

  3. Anna    

    Another beautiful post Mandie!! I am actually envious of solo travelers and how brave they are, and how they have the the time/energy/brains to plan everything out themselves. I’m SO hopeless at planning and figuring out where to go. I wouldn’t even know where I’d be at if it weren’t for my bf doing all the hard planning work and making sure we get to our destinations safely. I’m also envious of your ability to go wherever you please!

    1. Mandie    

      The only reason I’m brave is because I have made so many idiotic mistakes that I know they’re always fixable. I literally have no plans at this point. Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going until I show up at the bus/train station. Lol

  4. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

    BEAUTIFUL!!!! I love that you are honest that you don’t always love solo travel. That whole getting lost thing for me would tip me over the edge!
    And who cares you landed in Omis instead of Split – I think it’s better there anyways. Are you going to try the zip line while there? Aaaaaand if you have a little spare $$, head to Villa Dvor’s restaurant (called Knez) and eat dinner (or just drinks) there – fabulous views up on top that cliff.. Tell the team there we said hi! Lastly, thanks for linking up with us again for #SundayTraveler Mandie.

    1. Mandie    

      Haha actually it wasn’t Omis – it was some place that started with an M but I can’t remember the name. I went to Omis on purpose. I totally wanted to try the zip lining but I couldn’t convince my friends to come with me! Also…I went so over-budget in Split it wasn’t even funny. I did meet someone from Detroit who said he took Croatian lessons from the same person you did! What a small world!

  5. realgunners    

    Well at least you got lost in another beach town. Could be worse.

    1. Mandie    

      Definitely could have been worse!

  6. Katie    

    I just love your perspective – so true – is there a worn beach anywhere? haha. I have yet to travel solo (maybe next year, we’ll see). However, my hubby pretty much takes a backseat on nearly everything. if we’re lost I ask for directions, I find the train times, I plan everything. So, I feel like maybe I could handle it? I’m sure it’s not always easy, but just figuring out how capable you are seems like a very worthwhile lesson!

    1. Mandie    

      I have no doubt that you could handle it! You seem like a pretty capable person yourself. 🙂

  7. Heather @ TravelingSaurus    

    Sometimes a few wrongs makes a right! All of your pictures look absolutely stunning…what a great place to accidentally end up.

    1. Mandie    

      Perhaps there is no wrong. Perhaps there is only new adventure? (Perhaps I should stop speaking like Yoda). Haha

  8. Holly Nelson    

    How wonderful and honest! I love all of the things you mentioned about solo travel, but I have to agree – personal growth ain’t fun at times! Oh, but it is worth it!

    1. Mandie    

      I remember a moment when I was taking a cold shower on the beach (for the 2nd week in a row) when the thought popped into my head: “Oh. THIS is what personal growth looks like. I thought it would be warmer.” Lol

  9. Christa Thompson    

    Amen Sista! Loved this post, inspiring and true! Appreciate and respect your transparency. And I think that’s a great pic of you btw. 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Awww. You’re such a peach. 🙂

  10. Anda Galffy    

    I loved your post, Mandie, it’s so splendidly candid! Most women I know wouldn’t dare go anywhere alone, leave aside traveling for pleasure by themselves. I think your experiences as a solo traveler will make you stronger and less dependent on a male, so there are some advantages to it.

    1. Mandie    

      Well, I’m already quite the independent person when it comes to men 😉 But there is no doubt it’s making me stronger and more capable in general!

  11. Polly    

    I always love your writing but this – “But the payoff…oh man, the payoff. When you face the worst possible scenario & get through it time after time, you realize how much you’re actually capable of.” – is beautiful and true. I’m an over-planner, but even so, coming to the realization that if my travel plans get horribly derailed, the world will keep spinning and there will always be a bus, train, or plane on to the next *somewhere* was really comforting.

    1. Mandie    

      So true!! There is always another bus (or train, or plane, etc…) That could even be a metaphor for life…hmmm, now we’re getting deep! 🙂

  12. Brittany @ Paws for Beer    

    Inspiring post! I solo travel a lot and even though it can be frustrating relying on just myself I still find satisfaction in knowing I can rely on myself in whatever situation I get myself into.

  13. Lauren    

    I loved this post! I love your honesty and you are so courageous! Not many people would take chances like you have and I’m happy you are out there living exactly how you want to!

  14. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    I love this post!! Funny thing… I actually DID run a half marathon just last weekend lol. My very first ever!! I do thrive on the challenge of traveling solo, but there are points when I think to myself, “man… it would be nice for SOMEONE ELSE to sort out all the logistics!!” But then, even when I do travel with people I usually end up figuring things out for the group. Ah well. Cheers to letting whatever happens, happen, and for not stressing about the minor glitches along the way!

  15. Travis    

    This was a fantastic read! It’s amazing the growth you can experience traveling…and I would imagine it’s even greater traveling solo. Thanks very much for sharing it and hope your travels continue to be amazing! Safe travels.

  16. Living Valencia    

    The most interesting post I have read today. Honest and useful post. Congratulations.

  17. Haley    

    Mandie…this was the PERFECT post for today. After my weekend of trials and tribulations I am feeling exactly the same way.

    Why don’t they announce destinations on trains? For one, I too wish that I had a partner to travel with. Someone to tell me the local spots to go, which hostels don’t smell like pee or someone even to share these beautiful moments with. You nailed it on the head though – when you take a moment to realize all that you have overcame, by yourself, it truly is an amazing feeling. Growth is hard but the end destination is well worth it!

    1. Mandie    

      I think that a lot of solo travelers idealize it, and the truth is, there are both positives & negatives to solo travel. However, you definitely grow so much more and so much faster when you travel on your own!

  18. Wesley Travels    

    This is definitely one of the best, personal and touching stories that I have read in the last few weeks, you are a great writter!!

  19. Adelina // Pack Me To    

    Fantastic post Mandie and something I can definitely relate to. I usually travel with at least one other person, but sometimes I resent them being there (I like my alone time!). I don’t mind going on my own, but sometimes, it’s just easier with someone else.

  20. Tiana    

    Thank you for this. I plan on going solo for the next couple years, and having never done it before, I keep second-guessing it pretty much every day.

  21. Sammi Wanderlustin'    

    I’m only just reading this now! I love your honesty 🙂

    Also, I read thru the comments to see where you landed up… Could it have been Makarska?

    1. Mandie    

      It totally was! I should really back in and edit that now that I’ve figured it out. Lol

  22. vandefan    

    Hello
    I really love how you wrote it solo travel haha. Thats very catchy you know?
    Anyways I think doing a solo travel can be very boring because you have no one to talk to or even move around with. I can’t imagine myself doing that.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks for commenting! I’m sorry you think solo travel sounds boring – it’s definitely anything but! I made so many new friends when I traveled alone, I was never lonely.

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