Hey, my name is Abyan. I am in my final year as a bachelor student in landscape architecture, coming from the biggest archipelago country in the world, Indonesia. I am one of the HR interns for HeySuccess Internship Challenge Season 5.
Two years ago, I started investing my time and energy into opportunities abroad. Taking part in international opportunities helped me find my passion for traveling. You might be asking, “How can I travel while participating in opportunities like workshops, competitions, or exchange programs?” In fact, these programs are the easiest way to travel. When you take part in an event or competition in another country, you can easily extend your stay for a couple of days or a week. If you go into an exchange program, you will have A LOT of time to travel because you will have several weekends and school break.
Most of my traveling has been solo—probably 70% of it. I might sound like I am a dauntless, courageous, and confident person to have traveled that much on my own. However, I’m not even close to that personality.
I started traveling by myself in 2015 when I participated in an YSEALI Generation Earth workshop in Cambodia. During the event, I met a lot of people who traveled by themselves, and I was astonished by their stories abroad and how challenging and rewarding solo travel can be. Long story short, I have some solo traveling under my belt and I’m even more motivated to do more and more. Here are some lessons I learned when I was solo traveling.
Sometimes You Just Need to Shut Up and Go
I vividly remember when I was 19 and I started traveling on my own. I was terribly anxious when I was coming up with the plan for what I would do for 4 days in Milan. I kept asking myself, “What if this happened?” and, “What if that happens?” Plus, “solo traveling” sounded scary to my peers, so when I told them I planned to do it, they expressed a lot of doubt.
But the thing is, I learned how important it was to push aside my anxiety and not let the doubt of others hinder me. An important thing to remember is that people doubt because they don’t know how solo traveling really is or how it works because they’ve never done it themselves. Fortunately, I didn’t think twice and I just shut up and went.
Excuses Only Hold You Back
I remember when I was on top of Forum Romano and I had a postcard-worthy view of Rome. At that moment, I said to myself, “You made it this far.” I wondered how I could have made a thousand excuses for why I shouldn’t participate in an exchange semester. I told myself that it would be difficult to get a passport to Europe from my home country. I said to myself that I didn’t come from an English-speaking country, so it would be hard to travel on my own. At one point, I convinced myself that traveling is expensive, even though there are A LOT of funded opportunities worldwide.
The lesson I learned is this: never place blame on the things you are born with. Just keep on working and believing in yourself, because sooner or later things will work out in unexpected ways. Always remember that excuses will only hold you back.
Self-appreciation and Listening to Yourself are IMPORTANT
When I traveled with others, I would always rely on other people to navigate to my destinations. But things are different when I am solo traveling because I have to find my own way. I’ve gotten lost so many times, but I always get myself to my final destination. It was really interesting when I was traveling to Malta. Due to my clumsiness, I had to rent a scooter on Christmas Day because there wasn’t any public transportation, and I barely knew how to drive a scooter. Solo traveling helped me appreciate the fine navigation skills and self-sufficiency that I already possessed.
Moreover, solo traveling has allowed me to experience complete freedom. Since you don’t have to plan something with a travel partner, the itinerary is all yours. Through solo traveling, I started to listen to my own desires, and I discovered things that I like, things I dislike, and the things that I am capable of.
Deep Down, We Are All the Same
One of the most important parts of my solo traveling has been meeting a lot of amazing people along the way. When I solo travel, I am more open and social because, sometimes, it’s just nice to talk to someone. Thanks to technology, we can even meet locals in a city where we don’t know anybody and make connections for couchsurfing and Airbnb. I have also just met random strangers at a tourist destination or even on the metro. The conversations I have had with strangers on my travels have always been interesting. One day I will be talking about world peace with a random stranger at the park, and another day I will be hanging out with new friends in a shopping mall.
Through meeting people, I learned that kindness does exist in this world. But most importantly, I learned that despite our differences—nationality, skin color, gender, culture, or sexuality—we are all the same. We all just want to be our best selves and strive for a better living.
No Matter if an Experience is Good or Bad, There’s Always a Lesson to Learn
My solo traveling isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There has been hardship, and I have had to find my own solutions to deal with problems. I remember when I got my money stolen in Barcelona, and when I couldn’t buy a ticket to La Sagrada Familia because they were sold out. In the face of difficulty, I could have just frowned all day and not enjoyed my trip. But, I learned to view difficult times differently. I always remind myself, “You will never know when you will be back here, so there is no way not to enjoy this place and not worry about bad circumstances.” Hence, I started to move on and not get stuck on things that didn’t turn out perfectly, and at the same time try to find lessons in my circumstances.
I also believe that solo traveling experiences will always provide great stories to tell. It will be interesting, one day, when I’m old and telling my grandchild, “Well, I went to Milan by myself when I was 19,” and, “Yeah, when I was in Malta, I had a Christmas dinner with strangers I barely knew.”
When someone asks me if I will continue to travel by myself, I answer with a definitive “Yes.” I am always looking forward to what is in store for my next solo traveling experience!