A lot of us are cozied up in our comfort zones, tucked into the security of our daily routines and homes. But travelling throws all that out the window, and forces you to deal with discomfort.
We can try to minimize it, of course, there are AirTags for lost luggage, premium flights, and luxurious airport lounges, but some people try a different method — embracing the uncomfortable.
Lexie Alford has done just that and, as the youngest person to have travelled to every country, is a testament to how valuable discomfort can be. By 21 she had visited 197 countries, landing her in countless not-so-comfy situations, and she found herself alone many a time.
Don't believe it? Just have a listen to her TEDx Talk to hear just how wild it got for her.
"I've spent countless hours crammed on planes, trains, chicken buses, tuk-tuks, and junk boats, travelling with nothing but a backpack," Alford said.
"I have encountered health issues, spanning from malaria in West Africa to hospital-worthy food poisoning in Pakistan. I learned how to cope with public anxiety attacks by myself in foreign countries, and I endured the brain-sizzling frustration of dealing with bureaucrats from every country that requires a visa," she added.
It might sound like a nightmare, but these were the moments that have defined her life so far, and that left her with some valuable nuggets of wisdom.
Narcity recently sat down with Alford so we could pass some of that wisdom along.
There's nothing that can quite push you towards discomfort like travelling solo. While it's always fun to get a group trip going and share experiences, Alford is on the side of experiencing travelling alone — at least once, anyway.
Going away all on your own isn't just a nice way to escape the pains of group travel (that is finding a big enough Airbnb, planning an itinerary that suits everyone, and getting a little too much time with your loved ones). Avoiding the group chaos is a bonus, sure, but it's more about what solo travel can teach you, and Alford is a perfect example of that.
She says that everyone should experience going somewhere alone at least once in their lives. It doesn't have to be a whole Reese Witherspoon in Wild situation, but even a short trip close to home can be a good place to start. Dip your toe into the world of being your own travel buddy, and go from there.
Even that might seem intimidating, but that's exactly the point.
"The biggest takeaway that you can get from it is a deep sense of independence, and being able to navigate on your own in the world can give you a sense of confidence in yourself that I don't think really anything else can give you as effectively," Alford said.
If nay-saying thoughts are swirling around your head already, it might be all the more worthwhile to consider, because there's nothing quite like accomplishing something you didn't think you could do.
"You have to navigate complicated situations [and] language barriers. When things go wrong, you have to really become independent and realize through those experiences that you're capable of doing anything on your own," Alford added.
Being able to push through and do it on your own can be "a huge, huge, one for self-confidence," she said.
One scroll through Instagram can make you feel overwhelmed by choices. Pictures of sandy beaches, hidden coves, old architecture, and mountain retreats overflow our feeds, making it nearly impossible to choose just one spot.
To help narrow down the ever-growing bucket list though, we asked Alford where aspiring solo-traveller should seek out. The flashcard version: cheap spots where other people go.
More experienced solo travellers may venture to the off-the-beaten-path destinations, but for all the newbies out there, you probably want to stick to the path mostly taken. Bigger tourist spots will often be easier to navigate, and give you the opportunity to bond with fellow travellers while away.
Budget-friendly places with lots of backpackers are probably your best bet. In spots like these you can bunk up in hostels, save some money and get a bit of company. While you're away from family and friends, it doesn't hurt to have some social interaction — and maybe you'll even make a new friend or two.
Alford says there are three great regions to find this type of experience — Europe, South East Asia, and Central America.
"Travelling in Europe is the best for solo travel, especially the western side of Europe like France, Italy and Switzerland — you can meet a lot of other great travellers there," she advised.
In Southeast Asia, you can explore travel hubs like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Indonesia, which Alford says are "very affordable" destinations.
"The last one would be Central America, so travelling to places like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama. There are tons of other travellers down there as well, so you can kind of share the experience of being in a new place," she added.
It doesn't hurt that these spots also have stretches of white sand beaches, clear warm water, and countless opportunities for adventure to top it all off.
You can stroll around the streets of Venice and enjoy the culture in solace, or maybe even find yourself in a slightly nerve-wracking situation that you can gain some big takeaways from.
There's a lot of unknown to travelling on your own, but judging by Alford's experience, it's worth every bit of discomfort.
Of course, it never hurts to save some money while you're exploring the world, so Alford also shared some of her biggest tips to save money while on your next adventure.
If you're already planning an epic solo trip after reading this, make sure to do your research. You want to be as safe and as prepared as possible before heading out alone.
Happy travels to all those adventuring out there!2023-08-21T12:01:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd