February 5, 2018

What I Learnt From My First Solo Travel Experience to Barcelona

2017 was the year of personal challenges, and I feel like it set the tone for how I want to live my life. I set myself the challenge to visit 12 countries in 12 months, which I incredibly completed, and I also promised myself that 2017 would be the year I tried solo travel. I eased myself into it with a solo trip to Edinburgh, followed by some solo flights to Spain and Ireland, but when I visited Barcelona, I had a whole trip alone. I chose Barcelona because I had visited the city once before so had some knowledge of the place, I’d read that it is one of the best places to visit as a solo female traveller and, well, it was a bargain and nobody could come with me! This forced me to complete my challenge to travel solo… and I can honestly say I loved it! So here are some things I learnt from the experience:

Solo Travel Is All About You

Despite being asked multiple times by friends whether I’d “met any nice Spanish men,” I hadn’t travelled to Barcelona to meet anyone. Solo travel seems to imply hostels and partying but for me, travelling alone is a much more solitary affair. I want to take the time for myself to focus on myself and I came back from Barcelona feeling the most “me” I’d felt in months. I focused on being kind to myself and remembering that, actually, I don’t hate myself. If you struggle with self-confidence, a solo trip might be just what you need to focus on yourself.

You Can Make Solo Travel What You Want It To Be

Like I’ve said, there are many stereotypes of travelling alone but the joy of solo travel is that you can make it what you want it to be. If you want to head to bars, meet strangers and party, go for it. If you want to relax and barely leave your hotel room, treat yourself. If you want to get up at the crack of dawn for sunrise then head for brunch for one, do it. You can even go back to bed afterwards – you’re in charge! It’s a liberating experience and one I really enjoyed.

Eating Alone Isn’t That Scary!

Barcelona was the perfect trip to try eating dinner alone for the first time because eating tapas in bars is so easy to do solo. I was expecting at least an odd glance when I tried to eat alone, but everywhere I ate I was shown a table or space at the bar without a second’s hesitation. I took a book, so I had something to do in bars without WiFi and a book ensured I looked like I didn’t need company. Once I started to eat alone, I noticed other people doing it too. In fact, when I headed for brunch at Firebug (a meal I’ve always seen as a social occasion), I sat either side of two other solo travellers.

Those “Awkward Moments” Aren’t That Bad

One of my personal “goals” I set myself for the trip, as well as eating alone, was to ask a stranger to take a photo of me. It may sound a little sad, but photos of my travels are so important to me both personally and for this blog, so I wanted to make sure I had some photos of Barcelona with me in them – and selfies aren’t quite the same! It’s awkward to ask a stranger for a photograph but I quickly started to notice solo travellers or couples who wanted a photo together, and ask for a picture in exchange for some photos of them which resulted in some of my favourite photos of the trip.

You Learn To Be Kind To Yourself

Travelling alone, you are in charge. Yes, you have to organise everything yourself (so it’s time to get used to maps and public transport!) but there’s no pressure to carry on, go somewhere that makes you uncomfortable or do something that doesn’t interest you, other than the pressure you put on yourself. I quickly learnt that I could change my mind and alter my plans on a whim and also, take things at a slightly slower pace. I still packed plenty into my weekend trip but I also learnt that taking time for myself is just as important.

As someone who can be both anxious and introverted, I was so nervous about my first proper solo trip and I’m delighted that I enjoyed it so much! Solo travel is what you want it to be – so, let me know, will you be giving it a try? Or are you a solo travel fan already?