“Click”…its done. With just a few strokes of your finger, your flights are booked. Your first trip on your own is happening, and you’re actively trying to silence that little voice in your head freaking out.
Everyone talks about how great solo travel is, how it’s something we all should do. No one ever talks about the crippling fear that comes with going somewhere you’ve never been, where you don’t know the language, and wifi isn’t available or how to combat your anxiety.
But…I’m getting ahead of myself. The excited feeling was still in the air of my spontaneous travel purchase. And then it begun to sink in. I booked my flights on a whim with no friends to join me, and this was the start of my first solo trip abroad. I wish I could tell you that I was some fearless traveler who ventured into the unknown wilds of Ecuador, but that would be doing you a disservice.
I was terrified. “I don’t know anything about Ecuador, I barely speak Spanish, and isn’t yellow fever in Ecuador” were some of my thoughts after the confirmation email for my Galapagos Venture tour hit my inbox. Now, look, I’m no stranger to travel but it’s typically with friends or for work; this was a whole new beast. Although I was scared, I relied on an old personal mantra of mine: “If you’re comfortable you’re not growing.” I took this trip as a personal challenge, an opportunity to grow and didn’t let my fears stop me from adventuring.
At the welcome meeting I discovered I was the lone American in the company of long-term travelers, full-time employees on holiday, and even another solo female traveler. Though the demographic skewed in the direction of Europeans and Aussies the similarities in culture were hard to deny and to share a beer with these amazing folks gave me instant family feels. I hardly noticed I was the only person in my age group traveling alone… mostly because it didn’t matter. A traveler’s heart is universal across gender, race, and age.
I spent nine days exploring three islands with these amazing people, learning more about the difference between New Zealand and Australia (like how New Zealand has the superior wine!), and why it’s never too late to pack your bags and see the world.
In my group, I made a unique connection with a British woman well into her 60s who was traveling solo through South America. Despite not knowing a lick of Spanish you could always find her with a smile on her face and a story to tell from her previous destinations. She was my inspiration.
She had no fear of the unknown, no reservations about the people or public transport (or if she did she never showed it), just a desire to understand the culture of the place she was visiting. She is proof that being a solo female traveler is 1) badass and 2) the most empowering thing.
She served as my North Star and unknowingly encouraged me to spend a day alone, separate from the group. My favorite part of this tour was the ability to make it your own. If you didn’t fancy boating to a cove to see a rare creature, you didn’t have to. Instead, I rented a bike and was able to take myself on a solo voyage across the island, snapping photos of myself, the wildlife, and the even finding a few secret beaches.
All in all this trip was an adventure of a lifetime – in no small part due to my group tour. Even though there were couples in the group, I never felt awkward or like a third wheel. I was often invited to hang with them for dinner.
A few last words… ladies (and gents): travel alone. It really is as good as all the other bloggers brag about. If you’re nervous, join a group trip. It might be a little awkward at first but I promise it’s worth it.
Finally, be open to the experience. Wherever you go, Galapagos or elsewhere, keep your mind open and listen. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll learn about yourself and others.
Ready to explore this sensational part of the world? Check out Intrepid’s range of tours in the Galapagos.
(Images all taken by Giela Thornton on her Galapagos Venture trip with Intrepid.)