This past Memorial Day, I did something that I’ve wanted to do for years but didn’t think would actually happen: I went on a vacation by myself.
For many people, traveling alone is as normal as ordering extra fries in the McDonald’s drive-thru; you don’t even think twice about it. But for me, this was uncharted territory. I’m fortunate enough to say that I have been to a lot of cool places around the U.S., but it was always with family. Even when I started embarking on my own trips that were not coordinated by my parents, I always had a friend with me. The thought of actually getting on a plane and flying to a place thousands of miles from home to sleep in a strange bed by myself was both exciting and nerve-wracking as hell.
But one dreary March afternoon I found myself on the Expedia website during a slow day at work, and I was thinking about how envious I was of my friends who are always traveling somewhere new, especially on their own. The whole “I never get to go anywhere” mentality started eating away at me, so I decided right then and there to shut that annoying voice up and go on my own trip already.
I booked a three-night stay at the Walk of Fame Hostel on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being one of the most amazing experiences of my short 24 years so far. I met so many cool people and saw places that I’ve only seen in movies. I was hooked, and now I can’t wait for my next solo adventure.
Here are three things I learned after traveling alone for the first time:
- Hostels are really community-oriented. I purposely chose a hostel for my accommodations as opposed to a regular motel because a) it was cheaper, and b) it would force me to socialize with new people. I shared a room with five other women, none who were from the U.S., and it was great to talk to people from the other side of the world. I made fast friends while eating breakfast in the dining hall, hiking to the Hollywood sign, and taking the Metro down to Santa Monica Pier.
- You’ll have to set limits for yourself. When you have a travel companion, you can ask them to watch your stuff while you run to the bathroom real quick. Not so when you venture out on your own. Since I was by myself, I had to be more cautious than usual and really plan out what I was doing. For me, this meant not leaving the boulevard after sunset, only taking public transport with the hostel group, and watching my alcohol intake. I still had a broad range of awesome experiences, but I also needed to ensure my well-being.
- Vacations are so easy when you get to be in control of everything. Do you know how much time I had to spend in souvenir shops while on family vacations as a kid? Too much. For my Hollywood trip, I realized this was the first time that I could literally do whatever I felt like and not have to compromise or worry that someone else isn’t having fun. I got up at sunrise to hike Runyon Canyon, I explored Madame Tussaud’s wax museum for hours, and I stayed at the beach until sundown, not worried about the time or where I was going to eat dinner. It was glorious.
Needless to say, I have been bitten by the travel bug and I have many more adventure plans to make happen!