#FOMO Travelling on your own - Five reasons to take a trip alone at least once
Or how I managed to fit a dream gap year into a three- week trip to Peru.
I always wanted to be a free-spirited brave traveler, going from one place to another on my own - country after country, adventure after adventure. I wanted to be one of those people going with the flow, camping in the wild, getting seasonal jobs, not knowing where they will find themselves next week.
In reality though, I am a city girl with an office job who screams every time she sees a mouse, worries about being late at the airport and mostly travels with company. OK, this was my #fomo speaking! My life is really not that boring, but there is so much I still want to do.
I never took a gap year after graduation, for example, and was regretting that for years. Until one day I impulsively decided I was having my adventure despite having a full time job at the time. I took nearly a month off, signed up as a volunteer with a charity in Peru and off I went!
Here is why I believe you should do a similar sort of trip at least once in your life too.
1. Getting out of your comfort zone feels better than you'd think.
I have a real love-hate relationship with leaving my comfort zone as change truly terrifies me, but at the same time my #fomo is constantly pushing me out of it. And I am really grateful for it.
I remember very well the feeling when I landed in Peru, the realisation that I am in a different continent and I don't know a single soul there; The nearly numbing fear when taking a taxi for the first time as everyone was warning me to be cautious with taxis in South America; Getting into the volunteering house full of strangers, feeling like I was entering the Big Brother house; Getting in front of a full class of Peruvian kids to try and teach them some English.
It was stressful and terrifying for the first few days. But it was followed by some of the most amazing days in my life. I came out of this adventure braver, more confident and mature and I know that if I had let the fear stop me, I would have regretted it forever.
Here is a good time to mention I had two of my best friends join me towards the end of my trip. Seeing them made me feel much more comfortable straight away and I know I would not have challenged myself the way I did if they were right there with me from the beginning.
2. Meeting people you wouldn't otherwise meet
An Israeli guy travelling around South America, an elderly Japanese man collecting butterflies, dozens of Peruvian kids shouting happily "Profesora!" at me whenever they saw me. And of course, a lot of fellow volunteers from around the world, hungry to explore the country like me.
Travelling alone does not by any chance mean being lonely. Quite the opposite, it gives you the chance to meet amazing people who you probably wouldn't have met if you were only visiting a country as a tourist with your family or friends.
3. Doing things you wouldn't do as a tourist.
Teaching English is definitely something I don't tend to often do as a tourist :) But on this trip I also ended up trying new activities, which I had not planed at all, such as surfing and sand-boarding.
And I very much doubt I would have had these experiences if I was just visiting Peru as a tourist.
4. Seeing the country in a way you wouldn't otherwise see.
Peru is a fascinating country and I will be writing a separate post about its wonders. It is worth visiting by all means and I even if I was only visiting as a tourist, I would have seen some spectacular places such as Lima, Cusco and of course Machu Picchu.
But I probably would have never ended up in northwest Peru and visit sites like Huaca de la Luna, part of the ancient capital of the Moche civilisation (way before the Inca Empire) or Chan Chan, which once used to be the largest city in the Americas. I probably wouldn't have ended on a Pacific Ocean beach either.
And very often going to places with hardly any other tourists helps you really see and experience a country.
5. The long-term impact such a trip has on you and others.
For me that impact came from my volunteering experience with the non-profit organisation SKIP [Supporting Kids in Peru], which helped economically-disadvantaged children in the area receive quality education.
I don't know how much English language those kids learned from me, but that is not the point. The exposure to different cultures and languages, the enthusiasm and positivism of the volunteers, the fact that somebody was there for them - that is what really mattered! And I am sure it made some impact in their lives, the way it made huge impact in mine.
So don't be afraid to take that trip on your own as a volunteer or a traveler. I had a lot of trips as a tourist and only one as a volunteer and that is the one that really stands out.