Typically, I’m one of those people who hates being alone with their thoughts. But traveling nonstop with 60+ people and living with another human being means that there is no solo time, ever, and five months of it has made me crave privacy in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
By the time I got to Serbia, after exactly 137 days of non-stop group time, I figured it was time to take the plunge and book at trip alone. Not only did I feel like I needed some one-on-one time with myself to relax and re-center my thoughts, but I also figured it would be a huge growing experience to get me outside of your comfort zone. “You’re going to love it!” everyone promised, “It’s the absolute best.”
After consulting my Facebook feed, I settled on Croatia as my destination of choice. I would spend two days in Split and two days of Hvar, both of which are known for their beaches, history, food, wine, and, most importantly, safety. It was exactly what I was looking for in a destination, and figured I would spend the entirety of the long weekend drinking wine, reading books and writing in my journal — basically all the things I felt like you’re “supposed to do” when you travel alone.
When I said goodbye to James, I was equal parts terrified and excited. I had put together a pretty solid itinerary, and figured that no matter what happened it would push me outside of my comfort zone and I would come back from it a slightly more mature/worldly/grown-up woman. So, I boarded the plane and hoped for the best.
At First, It’s Awesome
I arrived in Split around 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, and said a polite “peace out” to the friend I’d flown in with — after all, it was time for Zo and Zo’s excellent adventure. After checking into my AirBnB, I set out on my first solo activity: Running around the harbor. “I could do this forever!” I thought to myself as I bopped along with a big, goofy grin on my face. I was elated to have the time to myself. I spent the next 3 miles weighing the pros and cons of quitting remote year and traveling on my own. After my run, I went home, parked it in my apartment for an hour or so to get some work done (which was super productive because there were no distractions! Another “pro” in the “QUIT REMOTE YEAR” column), then popped in an audio tour and walked around Diocletian’s palace. It was so peaceful to just enjoy the scenery, listen to the tour and not have to talk to anyone (filed under: things I never thought I would say). When I got bored of the tour, which happened before it was over but it didn’t matter because there was no one to judge me for opting out early, I sat at a café by the river and sipped an Aperol Spritz while watching sunset.
“I am into this,” I thought.
It Can Get Really, Really Lonely
After I downed my spritz, I realized I didn’t know what I would do for dinner. The thought of fine dining by myself seemed super weird and depressing, so I caved and texted a friend who I knew was in town and ended up meeting her at an amazing Croatian restaurant. I spent the rest of the night bar hopping with she, her friend from home, and the guy I’d flown to split with. It definitely felt like cheating (on myself, I guess?), but helped me adjust to being by myself. After that, though, I was completely on my own.
The next day, the actual loneliness started to set in. I took the ferry to Hvar, which I kind of failed to realize was a huge party destination (I know. I’m an idiot.) and felt super left out among all of the big groups of cute European girls chatting and laughing together. After I checked into my AirBnB, I headed down to the ‘cool’ beach bar, where everyone was hanging out with their friends or boyfriends and getting drunk in the sun. I felt like a complete freak laying there by myself, and started to get really down about it. I had to keep reminding myself that I actually have friends, they just happen to be in other places, and that I’m not a total loser. Still, my thoughts kind of started to spiral and it made me feel really, really homesick. It wasn’t good. After the beach, I grabbed some seafood pasta and a glass of wine for one, and called it a night early.
Meeting People Is Harder Than I Expected
I think part of me assumed that I would be able to make new friends in Croatia and that I wouldn’t actually be by the whole time, but that definitely wasn’t the case. I was already feeling like a weirdo for being alone, which made me feel super shy about going up and talking to big groups of strangers. Probably because Hvar is suchhh a party destination (again, I’m an idiot), I felt like I was the only solo traveler on the whole island which definitely didn’t help. Looking back, I probably should have chosen a place that was a bit more low-key so that there would be other people on their own. I also obviously wasn’t looking to hook up, so Tinder — which a lot of travelers use to meet people — was completely out of the question. As a single person, it probably wouldn’t be as lonely, but I’m not about that life anymore.
Eventually, You Kind Of Get Used To The Loneliness
After that first day of feeling bad about myself, I decided that it was time to re-check my priorities. I really wasn’t on the trip to club or meet people, I was there for myself, and realized that I needed to stop feeling bad about being alone and do things that helped me get my mind right. On day three, I woke up, went on a gorgeous hike by myself, then laid on the beach all day reading and writing in my journal. I didn’t care that other people were giving each other champagne baths and partying on yachts all around me (NERD ALERT!!!) — I hung out, drank a lot of Aperol Spritzes and had a genuinely nice day.
The Typical “Solo Activities” Really Help
I actually can’t stress enough how much better things were when I really committed to the standard “solo activities.” Throughout the weekend, I found that reading my book, listening to podcasts and writing in my journal actually did help me feel less alone. It gave me something to do, and made me look a lot less pathetic around all of the big groups of friends having fun. At one point, I even tried meditating, because Tim Ferris told me it would basically change my life (it didn’t, and I hated it). Still, all of the “mindfulness” of my solo activities helped center my brain, which was really the whole point of the trip in the first place.
Clubbing By Yourself Is Super Weird, But Also Fun.
All of that mindfulness stuff aside, I figured that since I was in one of Europe’s hottest party destinations I needed to at least try the clubbing scene. So, on Saturday night, I headed over to Hula Hula Beach Bar at sunset by myself. I had just spent some me-time writing in my journal on a nearby rock (lol.), and was carrying it in my hand the whole night which definitely didn’t help me look any less weird as the only solo girl in the bar. The place was packed with drunk bachelor and bachelorette parties, all of whom were slurring their words trying to pick each other up. I sipped on some gross fruity drink taking in the scene, when a girl walked up next to me wearing a fanny pack. “Nice fannypack!” I told her, dead seriously. “I was wearing mine all day!”
… That was all it took, and I had a friend! She brought me over to her group (all of whom commented that it was weird that I was in Hvar alone) and then we linked up with one of the bachelor parties. Within the next 20 minutes, I was one of the girls dancing on a table and getting a champagne shower. COOL! The best part, though, was that when I was over it, all I had to do was say “bye, guys!” and could be on my merry way. I didn’t have to wait for anyone or feel bad about wanting to leave, which was pretty great.
After the club, I treated myself to a solo plate of risotto and glass of wine, and even made conversation with the guys at the table next to me (yes, I was still carrying my journal). Pathetic, lonely Zo was officially gone!
I Don’t Know If I Would Do It Again.
As you can probably tell, solo travel has some pretty high highs and pretty low lows: The loneliness sucks, but the freedom is amazing. I do feel like the experience helped me grow in a lot of different ways (For example, I’m a member of AirBnB now!), and genuinely think that I am marginally more mature/worldly/grown up. I missed my friends, though, and I especially missed my boyfriend. If I were to do it again, I would pick a place with a more low-key vibe than Hvar… SO really, anywhere else in the world. Generally, I would have to say I prefer traveling with at least one other person… preferably one who won’t judge the number of spritzes I can consume in one sitting. Even so, I’m proud of myself for surviving three days with my (occassionally dark and twisty) thoughts, and for somehow managing NOT to lose my journal at the night club.
Also, I learned to to take a really, really good selfie.