By Alba Lanuza
Before my solo experience on Spain’s Camino, I had visited many places in Europe and in the U.S. but in the company of others.
When I set out to walk alone for five days on the pilgrimage route in Spain, I had a feeling it would help me to grow as an individual, but I didn’t expect such a significant inner change to take place in those few days.
My little foray into solo travel taught me four lessons that I try to keep in mind every day.
The world gives to the givers
When vagabonding, your possessions are few. However, it is very common to find people willing to share the little they have with you: water, some food, a floor to sleep on.
I have warm memories of travelers sharing food in a hostel at night and that lady who was waiting for me at the top of the hill with fresh water. And the time when it was pouring rain and I shared my cookies with a bartender who then gave me an umbrella.
My days on the Camino showed me that it’s true, if you give you will receive.
To travel alone you need to have a desire to be challenged.
Things will go wrong and you need to learn to rely on yourself. This scared me at the beginning but once I started walking down that road, I became empowered by it.
It was during those five solo days that I learned to push through my own self inflicted boundaries, and taught myself how to be brave.
Accepting the ride of a stranger, or walking despite hurt feet and rain, might not seem like much, but it made me conscious of how many decisions in our lives we leave to others.
Trust your instincts
Alone on the Camino I fine-tuned my instincts. Once, a local man stopped me, and asked why I was alone and complimented my appearance. Something clicked inside me. I lied saying that my partner was ahead. He offered me a ride to the next town in exchange for some “love”. I said no and I moved on.
It was uncomfortable, but I was pleased to see my intuition kick into action. This is something you learn to do quickly when traveling solo.
It is complicated to balance our desire to trust with the need to identify warning signals. However, learning how to do it is one of the gifts of solo traveling because it helps you to meet incredible people and stay safe.
Step out of your comfort zone
When we are on our own we are pushed to be extroverted. On the Camino I walked and talked with young and old pilgrims from all over the world. Making the effort to open up to others made me more confident and took away my fears.
I stayed up discussing life questions, I made a poor attempt to play a violin, and I volunteered to translate in front of almost one hundred people, which I didn’t think I could do. It turned out to be great and the owners of the guest-house invited me to stay with them and work as a volunteer during spring season.
Unexpected opportunities open to you when you are willing to break down your own limiting beliefs.
Those five days of solo journeying empowered me so much more quickly than anything else I’d done. I am now ready and willing for more adventures, not only related to traveling. I found the courage to become a freelancer and take my writing seriously, and I seek new ways to challenge myself.
Solo travel enriched me tremendously, changing the way I perceive my life. And I am sure that if you give it a go, you will be surprised.
Alba Lanuza was born in Spain and loves traveling, reading, eating chocolate and writing. She recently decided to stop dreaming about writing and start being a writer. She created her website, The Awakening to encourage herself and others to achieve their goals.