It’s currently 10:58 pm L.A. time and I am sitting on a plane, somewhere over the Pacific heading home after seven weeks in the USA, solo. The past seven weeks have honestly been, so far, the best of my entire life. Don’t get me wrong, traveling with a partner, your best friends or your family is incredible, but I have found something truly invigorating about traveling alone.

This was a total first for me and I’ll be honest, I was completely and utterly afraid diving into it. BUT I have come out of this experience a totally new and improved version of me! When traveling alone, there is so much more time for introspection, meaning more time for self-reflection and you’d be surprised how much you learn about who you really are as a person.

So, all it took was just seven really quick (too quick) weeks to become a better version of me, to learn seven things about myself I probably wouldn’t have learnt sitting at home.

1. How to enjoy my own company

Anyone who knows me well knows I HATE being alone. To give you a few examples of what I mean (this is a no judgment zone) – I only just got super comfortable with staying in my own home alone, I can’t sit at my work desk alone for too long without needing to go and hang with someone else in the office and I struggled to sleep in my own bed alone until I was about 13 years old.

To overcome this fear, I threw myself face first into something which made me feel completely alone – solo travel. I was forced out of my comfort zone and forced to be happy with my own company and own thoughts. I was super worried I would hate it.

When you’re in a foreign country with no one to turn to, who do you have? You have yourself. So I had to be my own best friend, my own partner, my own mum, my own dad and just be solely with myself. Now, after seven weeks of being alone, I can confidently say this fear has gone. In fact, I now crave my own company and alone time.

2. To always trust my gut

Travel puts you in some crazy and interesting situations. When traveling alone you have no one to turn to for advice when things go south, which is why you need to trust your own instinct and listen to your gut. Something super important I learned along my travels – your gut is usually always right…

If something or someone doesn’t feel right and your vibes are all over the shop, then trust that feeling. When I’m at home, I would feel a lot more comfortable in certain situations because I am in comfortable surroundings.  I would ignore the gut feeling because I’m at home, it doesn’t really matter. I have friends and family to turn to. So during my travels, this whole gut instinct thing really kicked in and I will for sure be taking this new skill home with me because it could really help in particular aspects of life.

3. How to stress less and stay calm

Something I have always tried to live by is why stress over something you can’t control? Quite frankly, this is something I’m not very good at. I am usually such a big worry wart over the smallest, silliest things and I work myself up and generally get super stressed out which is just not healthy.

This trip really taught me how to calm down and not sweat the small things. Traffic? Who cares! Having to wait too long for a reservation at a restaurant? Ah well, I’ll get a table eventually. It’s the small things like this I notice in day-to-day life that I find myself getting annoyed over. But why bother? Life’s way too short to worry about silly things and this trip really taught me how to properly live by this and just enjoy being in the moment.

4. The type of people I want to be surrounded by

Solo travel basically forces you to make friends and meet new people. Which is totally what I did. I would just go up to whoever and introduce myself as the Aussie traveling with no friends! People loved it and I certainly enjoyed meeting cool new humans.

This lead me to realise the type of people I want to surround myself with in life. I met some truly inspiring and motivating people of all ages and walks of life, each with a totally different story and a path which they’d like to explore. These people were supportive of my dreams, motivated to pursue their own and living their life to the absolute fullest and having so much fun along the way! These types of people are who I need in my life and from now on, I won’t be settling for anything less.

5. What’s important in my life

Holidaying can sometimes be quite materialistic. You go shopping and buy things you probably don’t need. Trust me I am coming home with an entire new suitcase filled with clothes and shoes and whatever else I bought. Even though fashion is my thing, I love buying beautiful new pieces for my wardrobe and I am totally obsessed with every item I bought on my travels, I realised these items don’t define me and they aren’t the most important things in my life. What made me realise this? Let me tell you a little story…

On my very last day in New York, when I was leaving to head back to L.A., I accidentally left my carry-on luggage next to my Uber whilst we packed my suitcases into the back of the car. I got distracted doing this and, yes you guessed it, left my carry-on luggage on the street outside my Air BnB in the East Village… It wasn’t until we were four minutes down the road that I realised this, asked the Uber drive to turn back, got there and, yep you guessed it again, my bag was gone. What I packed in this bag were my most loved, most expensive clothes. Think pieces by Zimmerman, Manning Cartel, Bec and Bridge and Alice McCall… Heart-breaking…

However, this situation opened my eyes to the fact that I can live without a few dresses or skirts or tops and I will be okay. At first you could imagine how upset and frustrated I was, but in the end, I was still breathing and they’re just materialistic items that are replaceable. The most important things in life are those that aren’t replaceable, like your family and friends, health, memories, laughter, happiness, etc. I could go on and on, but you catch my drift. These are the things I will cherish forever and ever.

6. How to stop worrying about what others think of me

At home, there’s no way I would go out for dinner and get a drink alone… What will everyone around me think? That poor girl has no friends, no man, no one. But really, who the f*ck cares what some stranger thinks? And usually, these ideas of what someone is thinking aren’t true anyway and they probably wouldn’t notice you sitting alone at a table in a restaurant.

So, to overcome this fear, I took myself out for dinner and a vino or two (or three) on my first night in L.A. to a restaurant called Cecconi’s in West Hollywood.  I was a little nervous. I walked up to the waitress and asked for a table for one. I watched her face to find any kind of judgemental look. She sat me at the bar, which is where “singles” usually sit. I was instantly anxious. It’s L.A. the place was filled with fabulous people everywhere I turned and there I was, this 23-year-old Australian girl, alone…

It was at that moment I realised it really doesn’t matter what a bunch of strangers think. I will most likely never see them again, so why on earth would it matter? That’s the thing about travel, everyone will always be strangers, so it would be exhausting if I constantly worried about what they thought. After deciding not to care and stop looking for those judgemental eyes, I was totally happy and content sitting at that bar alone enjoying a glass of Pinot and a bowl of spaghetti and will be happy doing that from now on, even in my own home town.

7. How to be more independent

Independence is something that takes time to learn. It’s not always an easy journey but it’s worth it when you make it to the end. Relying on people is totally okay when you need to, but if you can’t rely on yourself, then what’s the point relying on others?

Traveling solo fastened this journey for me. You don’t have to answer to anyone else, you can determine your own schedule, you depend on yourself and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do anything. These things I found you’d do subconsciously when solo traveling, meaning you’re learning to be independent without realising you’re doing it.

Independence isn’t something that happens overnight and you need to throw yourself into something that will bring out your independent side – as solo travel has done for me.  I am nowhere near the end of my journey to true independence, but I’m certainly a huge step closer.