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How solo travel changed my life

“You are so brave,” “I could never do what you’re doing,” and “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be lonely?” are just a few of the questions I was asked. I had just announced that I was leaving my home in Seattle to live in Australia for a year…on my own.

girl standing under tropic of capricorn sign
Image: Not a single soul to disturb your self discovery (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

Many family members expressed their concerns about traveling alone as a female. Luckily, Australia is a relatively safe place to embark on your first solo trip. If you choose to travel solo, always do your research and take the necessary safety precautions.

The solo travel movement is growing rapidly and Australia’s Working Holiday visa and the abundance of backpackers makes it all the more appealing. Now seven months into my journey, I can wholeheartedly say that venturing to Australia alone was the best decision I have ever made.

The Benefits of Going Solo

From discovering new personality traits, becoming more independent, triumphing through tough times, and overcoming periods of homesickness, I’ve learned more about myself and the world than I did in my first twenty-two years of life.

Here are a few reasons why I believe you should head out on a solo adventure at least once in your life:

Develop New Personality Traits

One of my first jobs in Australia was working as an Event Promoter for Wake Up! Sydney and Side Bar. Beyond being one of the most fun jobs that a backpacker can find, I changed as a person through this position.

Image: Confidence grows with traveling solo (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

While on the job, a guest told me that I was the most outgoing person he had ever met. I laughed as if he was joking, but today still see that statement as a turning point for me. I had become so much more confident talking to new people, speaking in front of crowds, and feeling free to have fun.

Create Your Own Itinerary

The first time I truly appreciated my independence while traveling alone was at the Australia Zoo near Brisbane. I love animals and although I have mixed feelings about zoos, I wanted to gain a stronger understanding of Australian animals. I spent two of my eight hours at the zoo simply sitting and petting kangaroos. If I were traveling with someone else, I wouldn’t have been able to chill out with the kangaroos for so long.

girl with quokkas
Image: Keep these cute quokkas company (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

But since I created my own schedule, I could spend my time however I wanted without someone pestering me to move on. In addition to the carefree experiences like this, your ability to be independent will improve. You’ll confidently navigate complex public transportation systems, make new friends on a daily basis, and maybe even try finding a job in a foreign marketplace.

Persevere and Overcome Homesickness

Even with three jobs and an incredible group of friends, I felt homesick for part of the time that I was settled in Sydney. It would come in waves, sometimes desperately wanting to book a flight home and other times feeling like I wanted to live in Sydney forever.

two girls at a cafe
Image: Catching up with friends always helps (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

Although being homesick isn’t enjoyable, it was liberating to embrace the feeling and persevere through it until you feel comfortable again. Choosing to stick around in Sydney led to moving to Wake Up! Bondi Beach were I found a group of travelers that became my family.

When I left them to travel the West Coast and Outback, I even found myself feeling homesick for Sydney. Traveling alone enabled me to discover that I can make a home anywhere in the world by just being me.

Make New Friends and Keep The Old

My biggest fear in leaving home for an extended period of time was that my friendships would slowly fizzle out and I would arrive back home feeling alone. To my delight, I have experienced exactly the opposite. The close friendships in Seattle that I yearned to maintain have, if anything, become stronger.

girl and friends
Image: Working and making friends (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

At the same time, I’ve been able to create friendships with people from all over the world. I even have plans to visit or travel with friends I met in Australia! When traveling solo, you are forced to put yourself out there a little more than if you were traveling with a friend or a group. With each new friend I make, I feel a little happier about my decision to travel alone.

I’ve Learned So Much…

Traveling alone continues to provide valuable life skills and transform my personality on a daily basis. I have found a happy balance between booking tours that last a few days with groups and finding ways to explore places on my own. Both experiences provide a different perspective on a place.

girl watching sunset
Image: Sunrise and a fresh start (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

When in a group, I oftentimes see things I wouldn’t have seen because someone else from the group pointed it out. When traveling solo, I take my time and often feel more at peace. One of my favorite aspects of the Wake Up! hostels is that there is always a social mix of solo, partner, and group travelers ready to embrace the moment.

Quick Tips!

A few quick tips I have for traveling solo:

  • Attend every hostel event offered
  • Book the occasional group tour to easily meet others
  • Wake up early and take full advantage of daylight
  • Call a taxi if you feel worried, unsafe, or are alone at night
  • As an extra precaution, you can share your phone’s location with a friend
  • Keep a journal to see how you develop the longer you travel

by Janine Denney-Mazzilli

Hi there! My name is Janine and I am a self-professed, travel obsessed foodie from Seattle. I recently graduated the University of Washington and am now living my Australian dream on a working holiday! Follow along on @janini133

backpacking australia, solo travel, travel tips australia

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