I stood on a rock overlooking Stockholm on my first solo adventure. I had promised this trip to myself a long time before, as a present for my 18th birthday. So there I was, alone, with only a backpack, 18 years old and ready for an adventure. And on the verge of sobbing.
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t plan this enough. As much as I could have read about my peers travelling solo and backpacking through Europe, hitchhiking through the US or walking the great wall of China, I wasn’t ready for what solo travel had in store for me. A great amount of plain loneliness and anxiety.
The moment I stepped out of the airport bus in Stockholm city centre and had to find a way to the hostel I had a panic attack. I had no idea where to go and for a brief moment forgot how to use a map or that I can actually ask for directions. The very moment my trip began, I already wanted to go home.
I wrapped up the rest of my ridiculously expensive sandwich and headed back down. My backpack was crazy heavy, nothing to spend the day sightseeing with. But I was strong and I could do it. Or at least that was what I was telling myself. So pushing away the tears I looked at the map and tried to remember what was the next thing on my agenda.
The Modern Art Musem, yes. I had never been particularly interested in art or maybe I just couldn’t understand it. My dad is a big museum goer though. So every time I would end up in a museum it was because of him. But I had him to explain everything and tell me the life story of that particular painter which maybe made me a little bit more interested in his paintings
But again, this was my solo adventure and no one was there with me. So I just strolled through the museum, not really taking notice of anything there and went out again. At the beginning of my stay I had bought a travellers card so I had discounts so all the major tourist places. So I just went to all of them for a lack of a better idea.
I strolled through Södermalm, the neighbourhood which was the background for the story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larson. My whole family had been devouring the books one by one so I spent that time thinking how we would all enjoy seeing it together.
I went for long, irresponsible, late-night walks through the city-center. Mainly to pass the time cause I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking why I miss my family so much after not seeing them for only 24 hours, what was wrong with me if this trip was everything I ever wanted. Yet I barely remember any of the things I saw there. I have literally no picture of my time there.
It’s not a story of how I discovered I don’t like travelling solo. I do, although it took some more trips to overcome the anxiety and loneliness. It did make me believe in myself more and believe that I can do the things I want to despite the stress and anxiety.
This is meant to be the story of how I discovered that solo is not always the synonym of strength and self-sufficiency, though. Paradoxically, while learning my independence I also realised how much I need all the people I have in my life and how much I love them. So it’s just part one of my thank you letter to all of them. For letting me learn all this by myself.
I’d love to hear your stories of solo travel, too 🙂