10 Things I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Solo Traveling Around the World


10 years ago I was preparing to depart on an open journey into the unknown. I had quit my job at the company, terminated the lease (and relationship), put off the domain for this blog, and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. Two months later, I embarked on the journey that I still take today.

10 years and over 60 singles, so many laughs, tears, zips, friendships, love and loss later, I’m sitting here in awe of the past decade. You taught me more about myself and the world than anything else could possibly have. It was a much older education than 16 years old in school.

Two years into the trip, I shared what I learned along the way 10 questions from two years of traveling the world, a publication that has won me awards, and now 8 years later, it’s time to revisit it. These are the 10 biggest lessons from 10 years of traveling alone:

10. We don’t need much to be happy (things hold us back)

When My Journey Began (Laos, November 2012)

When I sold my apartment in 2012which is a process I would like to repeat when leave Berlin After 4 years in 2018, I was amazed at how much buildup I had and how little I had to cut back. When I left for Southeast Asia I only had a backpack, and when I left Berlin, the past four years had to fit in two bags.

My daily happiness and comfort on the road was turning into a bed to sleep in, shower, and usually a mosquito net. I remember being amazed at how easy life was with a little care of it, and how little this stuff was anyway.

This is not the romanticization of poverty. Everyone needs to have their basic needs met to feel safe, but then, beauty is in simplicity. Fewer belongings means more freedom to wear what I have and walk forward, and the next adventure holds more importance than any material item beyond the basics.

9. Things change constantly and quickly

Hiking in Java
July 2013 Hiking in Java

Sometimes I remember my early travels as the Halcyon years when Wi-Fi was barely working, nobody cared about the ‘grams, and things were carefree. We will never be able to go back to that, because life only moves forward. Sometimes I long for the way things were.

But this hurts the present. Yes, the places we loved won’t always stay the same, but new opportunities are waiting to be revealed too.

One of the only guarantees in life is that it will change, and travel has taught me to stand and surf each wave, and I am confident that I will know what to do when the next one comes.

8. Social media is not a reality

hiking in china
Back when I was cruising through rural China, my bank account dwindled, March 2014

Although I miss the years before having a ‘gram was a thing, I want to thank her for pushing me to become a better photographer, for giving me another source of income, and for showing me more corners of the world than I would otherwise be aware of.

But traveling in a classy dress, pretending to eat a huge meal is more for the photo than the experience, and taking pictures in the sunset are BTS’s many Instagram shots, and it’s not a fact – it’s an art form.

The truth is the sweaty moments, when the truck breaks down, the wind blows, and the rain washes the road. Without yin to yang, travel would not be and would not be real life. The real raw beauty is the story you get out of it. It’s the unpleasant moments that build our character.

7. The most difficult moments often become the sweetest in our memories

giant south african flag
In South Africa, a life-changing journey, January 2015

This brings me to the next bigger lesson, which is that somehow, the hardest things will become the most beautiful. Those will be the times when you thought everything was going wrong, when it couldn’t get any worse, and you had to become completely self-reliant to get past the hurdle, which became the most defining.

I have the toughest moments of my life and travel to thank her for chopping up the strong woman I stand here today. Those were the times when I found out what I was made of.

And when I look back at it all, it makes sense through my pink-tinted lenses now. It has led me to where I am now, and that is exactly what I am meant to be in.

6. People are mostly kind

I sat in a circle with my new friends Mozambique Five years ago now, everyone shares what we are thankful for. It was American Thanksgiving, after all.

My friend Caspar shared that he was grateful that the people were mostly kind. He said that at the eleventh hour, even when things seemed bleak, someone always showed up to lend a hand. That was my experience too, and it was nice to hear someone else speak exactly what I know in my heart to be true.

The isolation of the past two years has made it easy to forget that people are not the angry messages they leave online. It’s been easy to be frustrated with the human race lately with so little personal interaction, but I have to remember that travel has helped me see goodness in people To see humanity in difficult things. Those with the least little to give are often the most generous, and they tend to show up when you need them most.

5. We have to look at our impact

Antelopecanyon
My first big solo camping trip, Arizona, July 2017

Traveling is a privilege, and while I think it’s not just for the rich, it certainly isn’t within everyone’s reach.

However, people in many developing countries have to deal with the presence of travelers, many of whom fail to take into account their impact. I haven’t always been perfect, but I understand how important it is to spend locally, find green options, avoid everyone else, stay in locally owned businesses, support women-run businesses, and always ask if Our presence helps or hurts.

4. You never know what small change can completely change your life

Namibia Spitzkobe road trip
Leadership BMTM Adventures In Namibia 2018, where I met my life partner

I used to think huge decisions would steer my course to the fullest, and while I decided to quit my job and travel full time, it definitely changed everything, it was unexpected encounters and chance that had the biggest impact after that.

Meet my friend Yvonne in Chiang Mai spontaneously Getting tattooed by a monk Together, I then visited her in Berlin the following fall, which prompted me to move and settle in Germany for about 5 years.

A serendipitous email from Pete, who would become my tour partner at BMTM Adventures, led us to take a trip in Namibia in 2018. The hostel we stayed at outside of Etosha was a last minute itinerary change, but as it turns out, I was going to meet my partner Futurist in a campfire there. now I’m 9 months pregnant With our first child, it’s crazy to think how random, seemingly small, and limited chance it all seemed at the time.

I can point to many examples of quick conversations, random encounters, and wrinkles of time leading me to the craziest changes of course, and the serendipity of single travel always leaving room for those changes to be made.

3. It’s never too late or too early

French Polynesia 2019, discovering my love for the heat

Over the past 10 years, I’ve gone from a 20-year-old solo traveler to a 30-year-old solo traveler, and I plan to keep exploring until the end.

As Benjamin Button said, it’s never too late or early to start over. You have one life – you have one coin to spend. How will you spend it?

2. It won’t go according to plan and that will be fine

February 2020, stuck in Gillam, a small town, after our plane landed in Canada. Watch the best northern lights in our lives!

If the past two years have taught me anything, it’s that whatever we think is coming next, we’re wrong. Traveling alone has prepared me somewhat for the constant uncertainty, because you can’t predict a wave of weather that will cause your flight to be canceled, the bus to crash, the hotel to be accidentally overbooked, or signal lights They come and almost take you away in the middle of the night.

Travel is unpredictable, life is unpredictable. It can be hard to swallow a pill when you’re planning and dreaming of a trip that goes a certain way and requires a wild turn, but by staying open to the possibilities, we can always find a silver lining.

1. Travel is what you do

White Sands National Park
Beautiful sunset after strong winds that threatened to spoil the day in White Sands, New Mexico, April 2021

It doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve visited, how many stamps you have in your passport, or how many miles you have on your account. What matters are the small, simple moments. The sunrises you’ll never forget, the people you’ll always remember, and the “wow” moments you never could have planned or imagined.

Those are the moments you’ll look back in 10 years fondly, with a twinkle in your eyes.

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