15 LESSONS LONG TERM SOLO TRAVEL TAUGHT ME
It’s officially been a year since I left my past life, and went on the road in pursuit of my dreams to travel the world and become a digital nomad. Yay me! As you can imagine life constantly on the move is totally different than life with a steady 9-5 job. There are many things you learn when you’re alone, many hurdles you cross, and things constantly happen that are completely out of your control and you learn new ways of dealing with them. There were days that I wanted to give up, there were days I wanted to cry, there were days I completely missed everyone (even my eyebrow threading lady back home). But at the end of the day, I was completely ok with all of this because this is the life that I have dreamed of and made for myself. So here are 15 lessons I learned after 365 days of solo travel.
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My new lifestyle is more affordable than living back home
When I started my digital nomad life I didn't give up my adulthood, I still have rent to pay (even if I'm renting from Airbnb month to month), buy groceries and have credit cards to pay off, but I quickly learned that moving every 3-4 months is costing me less money than living back home. Sure I lived in one of Americas most expensive cities, so anything compared to Chicago will be less expensive. However, I’m not always picking the cheapest cities to live in (I lived in one of Asia's more expensive cities for a few months). Airbnb is an amazing option to rent apartments month to month without a lease, shopping at local markets or supermarkets can be very affordable, and you can book flights with budget airlines out of the country for as low as 5€ sometimes (I once got a flight from Berlin to Cologne for 1€).
I become creative with how to earn money
I took a huge pay cut when I left my corporate job. Even though my actual living expenses aren’t as high now, it kills me not having that bi-weekly steady paycheck and knowing I can't afford everything anymore. As I’m still growing my online businesses and this blog I had to come up with creative ways to earn money. I taught English online, translated, wrote, designed, programmed, corrected grammatical mistakes on restaurant menus and found other creative ways to earn money. Things I would have never imagined doing, but had to and enjoyed.
I've made sacrifices
I’ve missed holidays, birthdays, weddings, and everything in between. Sometimes I feel down (and a little bit of FOMO) that I wasn’t there for the people I love but I have to remember that their life, as well as my life, has to keep going and this is the life I chose. I'm making my own memories.
I learned who my real friends are
These are the people that I still talk to on a regular basis, that check in with me to see if I'm ok, the people that I still have massive group texts with and it feels like I've never left. I’ve had friends that I used to talk to every day slowly fade away because of the distance but I talk to my best friends and family on a weekly basis. These days technology is amazing! These are the friends that are there no matter the distance.
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The world is a pretty safe and generous place
The media really loves to talk up the terrible things that happen in this world. Sure there are terrible people in this world, but there are far more good people in this world than bad people. I have experienced strangers welcome me with open arms (in third world countries) to their house and these were some of the most generous people I’ve ever met.
I've pushed myself to my limits
Because no one else is there to push you. I’ve done things that I have never in a million years thought of doing, I faced my fears, built a new career, and learned new skills. All of which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t push myself. I learned to be my biggest cheerleader and my own worst critic.
It’s important to have a like-minded community
I’ve always had groups of friends that supported me no matter what, but living on the other side of the world has made me realize how important a support group is. Having like-minded people there (even if it’s virtually) is soooo important for long-term travel. I’m part of many Facebook communities that connect like-minded travelers. Some days if it wasn't for them I would have quit.
I've had good days and bad days
We all have good days and bad days no matter where you are in the world. There have been days I’ve missed my family and friends more than other days, and there were days I haven’t felt as happy in a really long time. These days happen, it's only natural I just have to remember that the good days outweigh the bad ones.
Solo does not mean alone or lonely
I’ve never been a person that had a problem making friends nor being alone. But this entire year I’ve been away I was really solo for the first time ever. I'll admit there were a few days where I felt lonely but I learned to occupy my time so I don't feel alone and the next day I was fine.
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You can be whoever you want
I’m not saying I was walking around lying to every person that I meet, but this was my opportunity to be whoever I wanted. I’ve had days I wanted to be friendlier, less social, days I told someone I was a foreign exchange student, days I lied about my relationship status. The possibilities of being whoever I wanted wherever I wanted were endless. I had fun with it!
I learned to downsize my life
When I started my journey I knew I was going to downsize my life. I started off with packing up my entire house into storage and into one suitcase. I then left that suitcase at my grandfather's house in Poland and only traveled with my backpack. I realized that I don’t use half the things I originally brought with me so there was no need to carry it all. Downsize then downsize again. Sometimes it’s better to live a minimalistic lifestyle. My back and pockets will be thankful later.
I didn't like every single place I went to
There’s an awesome website for nomads called NomadList that I use religiously! I use it to pick places where I will be living for a few months. Based on these scored I chose to live in Taipei for a few months. I didn’t love living there. The city itself was beautiful but I was there during a wrong time of year, where it rained and was cold almost daily. I had a harder time meeting new friends, and the overall vibe of the city I didn’t fall in love with. I learned this to be true when traveling too. We are all different and we will not all like the same things. Cities you love, I might hate.
Traveling to new places loses its touch
I was on a train from Zurich to Strasburg looking at all of the beautiful houses and admiring how beautiful the French countryside is. Then when I got to Strasburg I was like WOW this is such a beautiful city. Then I continued and went to Colmar, I thought WOW this is such a beautiful city, then continued again and went to Dijon and this time I thought to myself, sure it’s a beautiful city yet again but it’s all starting to blend in and look the same. The touch of being in a new city slowly started to fade away for me because I was constantly changing cities. I really enjoy the 3-4 months I spend in a new city then travel a couple of weekends a month to change up the scenery. When I was constantly on the move it started losing its touch.
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Long-term solo travel isn’t for everyone
Simple as that. You really have to be a strong-minded person to be able to move to a new city every few months completely by yourself without knowing anyone. It’s not for everyone but it’s for me and I love it!
I might never come home
I always knew the world is a beautiful place but it wasn’t until I really went out there to see for myself that I realized how beautiful it was. I've spent 25 years living in America, 3 years living in Poland, and the last year living on 2 different continents in 4 different countries. It's great to come home and see all of my friends and family, but I love doing what I do from the other side of the world. I'm not sure if I can ever settle back in America.
Here’s a snippet of my life from the last 365 days (1 second a day).
Xoxo Ania Travels 💜
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