Is solo travel escapism?

A millennial’s take.

I’ve been meaning to go to Barcelona for a very long time. I love Spanish and I always talked about it being my favourite language to learn when I was young but I had never actually been to Spain.

This year I finally went, and much to my surprise, I went alone. It was possibly the best trip I’ve ever been on.

Roll back a couple of years, I first started going properly traveling with my then girlfriend. We went to Bali, Vietnam, Finland, Hong Kong, Switzerland and so many other places I never imagined I would go to — we worked out the other day that we’ve been to 13 countries together. Needless to say, I got the travel bug.

Yup, still living out my student days.

Back in April 2018 we broke up, it wasn’t messy, in fact, it was very amicable. Despite how much the breakup hurt I used my time thereafter to learn so much about myself. I started journaling my thoughts, waking up early and exercising, meeting new people and bringing a new found confidence to everything I did. Around October time I decided I wanted to go on a little city break away from the hecticness of London. I asked around and though mates were keen nothing ever really came to fruition.

I then came to the realisation that I could be going on my own. I wasn’t worried. I was looking forward to it. I found an amazing hostel in Barcelona and booked it along with my flights three days before I was due to arrive.

When I got to Barcelona I didn’t know what to do. Do I go exploring on my own? Do I instantly go and find people to chat to? Am I meant to feel suddenly empowered? It has to be said, I’m a bit of an introvert but when I want to be extroverted I can be. I made my way to the hostel and was instantly greeted like a long lost friend.

We had no one with us to confirm or deny who we are as people.

We chatted around the table every night as we all ate the same home-cooked dinner. I met people who worked in Afghanistan, the US, Australia. People who were so enthralled at meeting someone from a different culture that we could talk for hours. And people who I just really felt at ease with. We all wanted to explore, everyone was so open-minded.

Possibly the best paella I’ve ever had.

I met up with a group of people from the hostel on the last day where we went for a swim in the sea, ate paella by the beach and later watched the sunset over the city. The conversations we had that day were so deep and intimate; I never knew that was possible with such relative strangers but it was so eye-opening. I felt so comfortable.

I realised maybe I’m hiding more of my personality than I first thought.

Then it clicked. We were having the time of our lives, and we were all at different points in our lives. I’m 22 and struggling to pay rent, some of my new found friends were in their 30’s and comfortably traveling without any financial worries. But one thing we all had in common was that we were all traveling solo.

Me (far right) and my new found friends.

I think we were all able to be our true selves. We had no one with us to confirm or deny who we are as people. Our actions and what we said to each other were taken at face value and accepted as us just being ourselves. I was only there for three nights but it felt like a lot more. I’m not going to say I ‘found myself’ but I did really come to understand who I am. I realised maybe I’m hiding more of my personality than I first thought. When I was away in Barcelona I let my guard down, we all did. We all became vulnerable.

When I got back to London friends and colleagues were amazed that all those people in my holiday snaps were strangers and not friends. They’re friends now, that’s for sure. We still catch up every now and again, and I even met some in London when they came over for a few weeks as part of their travels.

Traveling solo really awakened something in me. I became much more aware of how I’m being. What I’m saying and how I’m feeling. I was much calmer and happier in my thoughts and I think it was the breath of fresh air that I needed. I really grew after that trip. I changed whilst I was there and continued to after I got back. Maybe I was subconsciously escaping from things when I went out, but in reality, I just found what I was missing.

Millennial, Photographer, Struggling Entrepreneur.