The Secret Ingredient to Solo-Travel Success 🍋
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
There's no single definition of "success" when it comes to solo travel. Each person is unique, and what they want out of their solo experiences is too. However, there are a few basics that are universal:
We all want to enjoy ourselves. We want to feel like we gained or learned something from our time spent traveling alone. We want to feel like we did well handling the challenges that we faced.
The rest of your trip depends on your preferences. But in order to accomplish the above, there's one crucial ingredient you'll need in most every solo trip you take. Ready?
You're gonna have to mess up a decent amount if you want to be a good solo traveler (or good at anything, for that matter).
If you type quotes about failure or the value of making mistakes into Google, you'll get endless results.
People love to talk about how good failure is for you. But one thing I've learned is that it can be REALLY hard to recognize the value of a mistake when you're in the middle of it. Being able to do that, to ensure that all your failures are fruitful, is a skill you have to work hard to build.
So, let me revise my statement. Yes, you'll need to make lots of mistakes in order to learn and improve your skills as a solo traveler, but it's not just about making them. My revised secret ingredient for a successful female solo traveler is:
THE ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE VALUE IN FAILURES/MISTAKES
If you can shift your mindset from THIS IS A CATASTROPHE to THIS IS A CATASTROPHE; HOW CAN I MAKE IT HELP ME IN THE LONG RUN? when you make a mistake, you've got it. Instead of feeling shame or regret at your misstep, you'll be able to use it as a building block to your success.
Failures in and of themselves are not great or powerful. The attitude that they're fuel and that they're lessons is what makes them great and powerful.
I'm going to use an annoying cliché to drive this point home. 🍋 You know the saying, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade? It's one of those that's used way too often to seem impactful. But, like most clichés, it has truth to it. Let's zoom out and get the full picture.
PICTURE THIS: You're minding your own business when some unknown assailant starts chucking lemons at you. Ever been hit in the face with a lemon before? It probably hurts. Some of the juice probably gets in your eye and burns. Plus, lemons on their own aren't even useful. You're not going to eat one for sustenance. And it's pretty hard to even access the juice and fruit on the inside without a knife or other tool.
So, you have two options for how to react:
Be annoyed at being bruised by a seemingly useless fruit. 🤬
Analyze the situation and see what you can make from it. 🧐
#1 is easy. It's easy to feel indignant and wronged when life throws you a lemon—a situation that went wrong, a task or challenge that you failed at. It takes no practice or skill to react that way.
#2 is harder—you have to learn to do it—but it allows you to create something good from something bad. And there are infinite ways to do this. Maybe next time, you learn to be more coordinated and dodge the lemons as they come towards you. Maybe you learned valuable skills about how to nurse a bruise. Maybe it prompted you to figure out a delicious recipe for lemonade or lemon pie.
To bring this citrusy analogy full circle, here's the takeaway:
You will make mistakes. We're humans; it's kind of our thing. You can either choose option #1: Feel bad that it happened to you, and vow to avoid any situations in the future where you might risk making more. (Spoiler alert: It's pretty impossible to avoid mistakes, failures, and mishaps completely in life. Trying to do so will only make you miss out on the good stuff, the new opportunities.)
Or, option #2, you can figure out how to repurpose the mistakes, failures, and mishaps that come your way. Figure out how to delight in each one, even if they cause pain at first, because they represent opportunities for you to become better or to learn something.
When you're traveling solo and...you miss your flight, the train-ticket counter is closed, you get scammed out of some cash, you get food poisoning, or some other traveler-mishap befalls you, you have this same choice:
Feel sorry for yourself. Vow to avoid planes, trains, tours, and food forevermore when you travel (tricky!), or even to avoid solo travel forever. OR
Figure out how to transform these experiences into useful knowledge for the future. Always allow extra time to get to the airport. Look up the ticket-counter hours beforehand. Book a tour through your hostel instead of a guy on the street. Avoid street-food stalls where the raw meat has clearly been sitting out in the sun all day. Etcetera. Add these nuggets of knowledge to your solo-travel toolbox. It doesn't mean you won't make mistakes again, but you'll become more and more smart and savvy with each one.
So the secret ingredient that makes a great solo traveler isn't just lemons (making mistakes), but learning how to make lemonade out of them (to use them for your benefit!). A bruised up lemon on the ground next to you is an annoyance. But that same lemon transformed into a delicious dessert or beverage is a delight and a gift.
I like to say to myself Thank goodness this happened to me! when I have a mishap like this while traveling solo. Verbally remind yourself to look for the good in the bad.
Because when it comes to a lemon-meringue pie or a frosty glass of lemonade, it would be nothing without that lumpy, bruise-inducing lemon that started it all. Learn more about how I learned from my solo travel mistakes.
Happy lemon-repurposing and happy travels,