Why you should go on a Solo Trip & what I learnt from mine [Part 1]
Wow, I haven’t blogged for more than a month! I was taking a break from life, from blogging and my career; I took a month long solo trip to Europe and visited cities in the UK and Spain.
Honestly, it was quite The Journey. I’ve always wanted to travel alone and I loved Europe. Contrary to what alot of people say/think, I think it’s a great place and rather safe. So when I had the means (time/money) to do it this year, I went for it.
Of course, that didn’t mean I was free from all sorts of limiting beliefs about money and safety and what not come up for me. I wasn’t. But I still went through with it. And gosh it’s been the most awesome, life-changing thing I’ve been through so far. A lot of reflections and feelings came up for me during the trip. It felt like the Universe made this happen so that I could see things in my life even more clearly. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I had set the intention to work on clearing my inner beliefs and thoughts earlier this year.
So, without further ado, here’s what came up for me on my trip. I hope it can spark off something for you as you embark on your own journey of self-care and self-love.
Listening to my Inner Voice
This whole trip was one big “listening to myself” journey and I made quite possibly every single decision based on how I felt and what my body was telling me in the moment.
Wake up at 11am? Sure. Have breakfast at this intriguing restaurant I’ve not heard of? Sure. Should I stay in this cafe and read or take a walk? I relinquished my head and ego of the decision-making and was just going with whatever I felt like doing in the moment.
And guess what? It was liberating. It felt so good to be able to just do whatever I felt like. No overthinking, no pondering, no deliberating. No resistance.
In fact, anytime my mind/ego will start weighing up the options, or my inner critic will weigh in and start criticizing me for lazing around in my hotel room, I will thank it and tell it to sit down and be quiet for a minute.
This turned out to be possibly one of the only trips I’ve taken in recent years where I wasn’t planning everything inside out and turning my trip into some sort of to-do list. See this, tick. Eat that, tick. Go there, tick. My past trips were a constant tick, tick, tick exercise and I just came to realise how stressed out that made me feel!
I think vacations are a great chance for us to do something different and since I was always in a constant cycle of planning and doing back home, I took the chance to just not do anything this time around. It was uncomfortable at first but when I managed to get a handle on my ego and it stopped panicking, things just flowed beautifully. I simply followed my intuition and allowed it to show me the way.
The need for Boundaries & Slowing Down
Prior to my trip, I was stressing, worrying and planning my itinerary. Fussing over how I could squeeze in sightseeing to 10 different sites in a day.
I remember grumbling (seriously!) to friends about how stressed out I was and how I disliked travelling cause of the anxiety it gave me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to plan the “perfect trip”.
The first few days, I packed a lot of things into each day. Each time I felt exhausted I told myself I couldn’t stop. I had to keep going or else the trip would be a waste!
After a couple of days of doing that and crashing immediately after dinner, I realised that it was physically impossible for me to do that much. My body wasn’t co-operating, in fact it was telling me to rest. Deep down, I was actually craving rest and relaxation. My body was telling me to take it easy.
That’d mean I didn’t get to see or do some things. But did it matter? Not really. Putting this in the context of working life back home – some people can work for 14 hours a day, in very fast-paced and high-demand job environments.
I was never one of those people and I used to feel so bad about it. It took this trip for me to realise that…it’s fine.
We all have different thresholds and boundaries in life. Some of us can tolerate much more than others. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It just means we are different. We’ve got to be true to ourselves and get closer to what represents the real us. And not what others determine is the real us.
The need for Perfection + controlling the future
The first few days when I didn’t follow my pre-planned itinerary, gosh I gave myself quite abit of crap for it. I constantly asked myself what would happen – I didn’t visit this place there, oh no I only have 4 days here, what if I don’t see everything? What if I never get to come back here again?
My mind/ego would keep bringing it up over and over again and sending me into a panic of sorts. But my body just refused to listen. It just wanted to take things easy.
So I abandoned my plans. Several times actually. I threw all my perfect plans out the window. And u know what? I lived! I felt uncomfortable at first but I got used to it and really enjoyed myself.
Letting go of perfection, perfect plans, the idea of how a “perfect day” looked like and just going with the flow was the best thing ever. And it’s something I intend to bring into my daily life.
If you are anything like me, you tend to over-schedule and over-commit yourself and then beat up on yourself when you are able to complete things, cause it means your “perfect day” is ruined.
Sound familiar? If it does, try under-scheduling yourself instead. Put one thing on your to-do list instead of five. And then be open to what your body is telling you. When you try to pre-empt what will happen or control how you’ll feel or how things will be means you are looking for a perfect situation and it introduces alot of resistance.
Because perfect situations/feelings/people don’t exist. And in order to be happy and enjoy the present, we need to let go of the need to control everything.
Putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself in my daily life
This is somewhat related to the previous two points, but slightly different. I always think of myself a pretty laid back person. But going on the trip and being far removed from any of my usual habits, I realised how much pressure I was giving myself daily.
Go home, wash up, then do an hour of meditation, study one chapter of spanish, finish the mindmaps, read one chapter of this book… I made sure I did as much as I could each evening.
Did I really enjoy the process? Deep down – nope. I rushed from one thing to the next and I wasn’t doing it from a place of relaxation and calm. More from a place of anxiety. And when I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do? I beat up on myself, creating more stress and anxiety. I had totally underestimated how tired I’d be feeling from an entire day at work.
If you are like me, I understand the desire and impulse to take action and constantly be doing things and accomplishing things. Some of us are motivated by a sense of achievement.
However, over-scheduling yourself is never gonna lead you to anything productive. Focus on that one thing you need to accomplish each day.
Say, planning to study 5 pages of Spanish. And leave it at that. You’ll be surprised how much clearer your head will be – when you aren’t constantly panicking over the one million things waiting for you in the background – and how much more engaged you can be in whatever you set out to do.
Overthinking random crap
I tend to overthink things in my life way too much. This is gonna sound ridiculous but even a simple decision – like getting out of bed to go to the washroom can result in a 15 minute back and forth in my head.
Should I go now or later when I shower? I’m not kidding. Even things like deciding what to do at this moment. Overthinking, especially over small issues like this in life isn’t healthy!
Firstly, it generates a great deal of unnecessary stress. Simple things in life should be kept simple. Overthinking a toilet trip, or anything similar, like you are about to drop a million bucks on a new house or something is hella unproductive.
There’s something about the in-equivalence of spending so much time, energy and cognitive resources giving thoughts to things that really serve no significance or major importance.
If your thoughts are spinning about your head like a load of wash in the washing machine, it can easily lead to analysis paralysis and leave you in a state of crippling fear and anxiety, rendering you unable to make a decision. It can leave you feeling helpless in the long run, and can also lead to overwhelm and procrastination.
Secondly, it shows a lack of clarity, that you aren’t in the present. When there is clarity from within, you know exactly what action to take next. You will rarely second guess or doubt yourself.
Overthinking sometimes means you are worrying too much about the future and probably projecting/reading too much into a situation based on your past experiences.
You are oriented towards the past and future; not the present where you should be.
The constant stream of thoughts that is really just background noise can block out your inner voice and inner clarity, leaving you feeling quite confused.
If you are an over-thinker, the next time you make a decision that isn’t going to be life-changing, get conscious and snap out of that cycle of thoughts. Focus on doing what you need to presently. Trust in yourself.
What to do next?
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Drop me an email or a comment, have you been on any solo trips yourself and what did those trips teach you about yourself?
Also, if you’d like more of this, I continue my reflections in part 2 of this series.
With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice.