A lot of people seem to think that I’ve always been this crazy, globe-trotting, super independent Solo Travel Girl. So it might surprise you to hear that two years ago, I had a very normal life.
I was in a long-term relationship. I had a stable job – like, in an office. I’d only been to a few countries. I didn’t have any real interest in traveling (I’d even turned down an opportunity to study abroad!), I hated change and spontaneity, and I was actually terrified of having to do literally anything alone.
…So wtf changed?
WELL. This is the story of how I fell, completely by accident, into a better life than I could have ever imagined – a life of adventure and excitement and spontaneity, where I get to make a living doing what I love.
And it started… well… with a pretty rude wake-up call 😂
How the “Solo” Part Happened
Just over two years ago, I got dumped in the middle of the San Francisco airport.
Me and my boyfriend of 7 years had just gotten off our flight. We’d flown 15 hours from Sydney, where we lived together, to San Francisco, to attend my brother’s wedding. The flight had been completely normal, but the second we landed it was like a switch flipped.
I won’t bore you with the details, but the gist of it is — we walked to the subway, I went through the turnstile, he didn’t, and our incredibly awkward conversation culminated in him handing me a pre-written letter over the gate. My life.
The letter basically said, I don’t love you anymore. I think there’s someone better out there for me. I hope we can get lunch someday and catch up.
I spent my week at home pretty much inconsolable. My brother’s wedding was a simultaneously sweet and gut-wrenching experience — watching two people profess their undying love to each other the day after the person you love said it would be cool to maybe get lunch one day is… not the ideal way to spend a Saturday.
But I lived, and I decided I was going back to Australia anyway, at least to finish out my visa. I loved Sydney, and I wouldn’t let this ruin my experience.
Since, you know, the whole plan was for us to spend a week in California together, it so happened that my ex was also returning to Australia. We flew back on the same plane – me in the front, him in the back.
Mid-flight I got the text I knew would come eventually. He f*cked up, could we talk. I didn’t answer, so he came home while I was in the middle of moving out, and we had truly the worst and most painful conversation of my entire life. He begged me not to leave, I left anyway, I cried for hours lol, and that was the end of it.
How the “Travel” Part Happened
As dumb and pathetic as it sounds, finally leaving my ex threw a lot of my identity into jeopardy. We’d broken up before, but even when we weren’t together, I always knew we’d get back together. I always figured eventually we’d end up with each other, and that was firmly cemented in my mind as The Future.
So for the first time since we’d started dating – when I was just 19 – I had no idea what my life was going to look like or what I wanted to do. It was really scary.
I had to start somewhere, so I decided to give myself – the most codependent woman alive – a little training program on How to Be Independent. I gave myself a challenge to do something new alone every week. I inched my way up to new things – first dinner alone, then a party alone, then a new city alone. I started being more open to new things and new people. My social life blew up, I started dating someone new. I slowly realised how ridiculous it had been to think my whole life revolved around one person when there was so much ELSE out there.
After a few months, my Australian visa expired, and I decided I wanted to go on a vacation before heading home to the States.
For some reason I got it into my head that I was going to go to Komodo National Park in Indonesia. I’d never traveled solo before, and certainly not to a remote island in the middle of nowhere, but I booked the flight anyway.
It might have been a grand gesture, but I really was used to doing things alone by then. So it didn’t seem like such a crazy decision — until I started telling people. I got an absolutely FRANTIC all-caps email from my mom begging me to cancel the trip.
(Just the vote of confidence a would-be solo traveler needs 😂 Will my mom murder me for posting this? Probably. But I think it’s funny. And hopefully now that I’ve notched two years of solo travel under my belt – she’ll find it funny too)
I went anyway. I think there was just this little feeling in me, like, begging to f*cking do something, to LIVE a little, to put myself out there, to try something new, instead of doing the same safe and stable and comfortable things I’d always done.
When I landed I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I cried in the airport bathroom (lol) and for a moment considered turning around and heading home. But I powered through, and the fear melted away.
It was the best trip of my life. I trekked with Komodo dragons and climbed mountains and swam with Manta Rays and snorkeled in the clearest, bluest water I’d ever seen. I never knew what it was like to explore like that!! To be in a new place all alone and do whatever I wanted. I never used to do things like that… just DO. Everything was always planned.
Still riding the high from Komodo, I headed to Bali, then Singapore, and then I came back to the USA, convinced that my life would never be the same.
What Happened Next
That’s where I left off the first time I told this story (back when nobody read this blog, lol). I got home from that trip November 2017.
I’d had so much fun on my first solo trip I wanted to do it again. So I negotiated a remote work deal with an American startup, planned out a crazy year of travel, posted about it, and then went radio silent on the blog while I flew – quite literally – all over the f*cking world.
One trip hadn’t been enough – not even close. I went on a three-month whirlwind across fourteen European countries. It was my first big trip and at the end of it I knew for sure this was the life for me.
And from there things just kind of snowballed. I branched out, lost count. I tackled Central Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa.
Traveling was empowering and fulfilling, sure, but it was also FUN. It was the most fun I’d ever had in my life. For the first time I felt like I had something interesting to talk about with people. For the first time I felt like my life was… well, a life — instead of a monotonous blur of subway rides and coffees and afternoon meetings.
I could barely have identified a single unique day of the previous two years, and suddenly I had all these markers for my life. March I was in Iceland, London, Paris — April I was in the Netherlands — I never felt like I was blinking through life anymore, waking up to realise three months had gone by.
My priorities shifted. Once an image-obsessed fashionista, I now dressed out of a carry-on duffel bag for months on end. I used to care so much about my career and suddenly the rat race seemed so stupid and pointless. Promotions or a new Gucci seemed so f*cking irrelevant now.
Why had I ever thought I needed all those things? None of it had ever brought me an ounce of happiness.
I wanted to eat 50c noodles in a tiny street food stall in Bangkok, I wanted to run screaming with laughter into the surf in a middle-of-nowhere Indonesian island, I wanted to drink a cheap beer under the Northern Lights.
Those were the things that meant something to me, that was what I found interesting, that was what made me interesting too.
My travel persona spilled into real life. I stopped taking sh*t from anybody – friends, guys I dated, employers. I stopped bending over backwards for other people all the time. I stopped waiting around for things to happen to me and started making things happen.
People I barely knew started asking me for travel recommendations all the time, then complete strangers. I started gaining a following on social media.
I started freelancing, then started taking blogging more seriously. I decided I was done with office jobs and the white picket fence once and for all, and that I’d find a way to create a life with less things and more memories.
And Where I’m at Now
Well… barely two years after landing in Komodo scared out of my F*CKIN MIND… life looks pretty different.
I’ve traveled to 25 countries solo (and counting!). I generate enough income online to live and travel wherever I want. I’ve helped countless people plan their travels, take the plunge on their first solo trips, and even quit their jobs. I’m proud to know I’ve directly altered the course of many strangers’ lives.
I couldn’t tell you how lucky I feel. Sometimes it feels like the stars aligned to fling me – this timid, scared, miserable person who had no idea what she wanted – into this crazy, incredible life. It’s bigger and better than I could have ever imagined back then.
Things like this used to be so scary to me. The thought of living a life with so much uncertainty and spontaneity was TERRIFYING. All the variables were unknown. My life could be anything, I could be anything. It was f*cking paralyzing.
But over the years, life with unknowns stopped being so scary. The same thing that frightened me the most about it before (its uncertainty) became its most alluring quality. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT MY LIFE WOULD BE LIKE!! I COULD BE ANYTHING!! I COULD GO ANYWHERE!!
Looking back, I literally am SO PROUD OF MYSELF lol I could cry. I couldn’t tell you how proud I am. Because I was so f*cking afraid, and I did it all anyway. And it paved the way for this unbelievable adventure that finally brought meaning to what used to be a really empty life.
Those tiny little leaps of faith set this whole life in motion for me and I think I’d be a very different person today without them. I was so scared to leave my ex. I was so scared to step off that plane in Komodo. I was so scared to start freelancing, start blogging, scared to put myself out there, scared I would fail. But I’m so glad I never stopped and turned around when I wanted to.
So this is my reminder to anyone who’s scared of solo traveling or scared to make a change in their lives. That dumb af inspirational quote ‘everything you want is on the other side of fear’ is TRUE.
Challenge yourself, push your limits, do the crazy thing you think you can’t do. Take little steps towards the life you’ve always wanted. You will look back and see they made all the difference.
Thanks for reading, guys! To see my latest posts visit my homepage here, or read my monthly travel/life/blogging recaps here. Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list below if you’d like a monthly email summary of new posts + what I’ve been up to!