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Traveling solo: The five most commonly asked questions

Looking at social media I thought that by now, I’m not really being very different to anyone else but it turns out: I am.

Traveling more than one and a half years solo and about 12 months of it in a van, seems to be unbelievably strange for so many people. Some call me courageous and brave, others question if I’m not bored or afraid. Often I receive the big WHY? Why on earth are you traveling solo? Therefore I’m writing this article, to put it all in perspective and clear the myths of traveling solo.

Why are you traveling solo?

It turns out that my closest friends are deeply intertwined in family business now. If they don’t have children yet, they are just getting married and building houses. Thus, the people I love the most can’t come with me and therefore it was always clear that if I want to travel, I have to do it by myself.

Besides when I was about twenty-five I broke free from a relationship that made traveling together an awful experience. We ended up with fierce discussions about where on the map we are and where to go next. Other times I would be the all-day planner and my partner would just agree to everything I suggested and I basically just had company to wherever I would go but no companionship.

Last year in the USA I tried to travel with strangers whom I found through travel buddy websites to save some money but honestly, after two weeks we both had enough. Living the van life with a stranger can be very intense and I’m happiest when I travel by myself. Others say exploring the outdoors by yourself intensifies the situation, the emotions and sensations that float through you experiencing a new place and I start to believe that’s true, since you are there in the moment with all your senses and are not distracted by words or the thoughts of another person.

Do you ever feel lonely?

Honestly, I don’t. Our wonderful technology today make it possible for me to stay in touch daily, weekly or monthly with my closest friends. They are the people with whom I’m having deep and meaningful conversations and I spent a considerable amount of time to let them be part of this journey through sending lengthy emails, photos and videos. Sometimes I would appreciate to share the chores like checking the tire pressure, which I kind of hate for some ridiculous reason, washing the dishes and filling up the water tanks but other than that I’m very content with my own company and the space I get to explore the relationship I’m having with myself.

“You are so brave!“

Especially elderly people call me brave and I never quite know what to reply because I don’t really consider myself brave. However, before every long journey, I realized that during the last moments just before the trip is about to start, it takes courage to leave. It’s probably the hardest step and the first to your travel freedom. All the preparation before is just a lot of work and once you are on the road there is so much to see and do that you feel lifted and full of energy.

Are you not afraid?

Certainly there are situations where I will feel intensely cautious, my heart will race faster, my palms start to sweat and that happens mostly when I sleep in my van and I notice unusual things. Then I will be listening to strange noises outside, waking up from strong winds that shake my van while being on a free campground where nobody will check what’s happening. Also when I really need to get out of the van at night to relieve myself and I’m in a new area like the Australian outback or bear country in Northern Canada, I do feel a bit anxious.

In those situations I need to have faith and calm myself down. I literally feel protected looking up at the star sky. When there are no stars, I will just remember the words of locals, who have traveled the country all their lives and assured me that I will be fine out there. Finally, when I know that I have done the best and most responsible decision to protect myself, I feel calmer as well, since I have signaled the universe that I have faith but do not play with it.

Don’t you feel bored?

Never have I felt bored being by myself. Eventually it’s because I’m a single child and had to spent time with myself early on but also because I always find something to do. In fact, most days are not long enough to do everything I would want to do. Surely, photography takes up a huge amount of my time. Especially since I’m in front and behind the camera. Then comes storing, organizing and editing the photos. I do write a lot as well and I cook every evening.

When I get the chance I will do day hikes, visit museums and galleries, swim in waterholes or any other outdoor activity that the region has to offer. Some days I have to plan my route or take care of chores like washing, groceries, maintaining the van and when I manage to take a break I’m reading. And then don’t forget about the driving which probably takes up half of my road trip day time. Since my road trip through the USA and Canada, where I drove 25.500 kilometer, I’m listening to podcasts as some bits of the road can become very long, especially in Australia.

My podcast recommendations:

The goop Podcast (english)

Hotel Matze (german)

Fairqutascht - Der Nachhaltigkeitspodcast (german)

Let me know in the comments if this was helpful for you or if you have any more questions!

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Welcome to my blog and thanks for having a browse through my tips and stories from road and backpacking trips around the world. Please, leave a comment or send me a message if you have any questions. Stay safe and happy travels! 

Yours gratefully


Places I have traveled solo:

Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexiko, Chile, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Rumania, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Crete, Istanbul, Israel, Sinai, Nepal, Indonesia, Australia


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© 2020 by Isabelle Popiehn

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