Solo Traveling: How To Be Alone 101


Last winter break, I went to Costa Rica by myself for two weeks. I booked a ticket during Christmas, packed all I needed in my volleyball travel backpack, and went to San Jose, Costa Rica five days later. 

Some of my friends thought I was crazy and were actually scared for my life. 

“Please let us know at all times where you are, Steph!”

“You better not get kidnapped.”

Alright everyone, thank you for encouraging me to go. 

To be honest, I was not scared at all while getting ready for my trip. While I was packing my bag or looking for things to do in Costa Rica I only felt really excited and I could not wait to go. It was the moment when I left the plane at the airport in San Jose. I started to feel nervous because that was when I realized: I am here, I can’t go back now. Oh right, I am also all alone… 

For fourteen days, I traveled around Costa Rica on my own. I stayed in hostels (so I shared bedrooms with at least six other travelers), spent hours on fully packed busses that would get me from A to B, and I am pretty sure I ate rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for at least three days in a row. 

Throughout those two weeks, I was entirely alone. 

But at the same time, I was not. 

I was always surrounded by others, by other solo travelers. I met people from Finland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, and so many other countries from all over the world. 

There was a Dutch guy who played Fleetwood Mac on his guitar every night at the bonfire on the beach; there were three girls on a six-hour 6 a.m. bus trip who became my best friends for the two days that followed; I spent days playing beach volleyball with a guy from California; and one night, after we came back from the bars, I made grilled cheeses for people from France, Canada, and the Czech Republic. 

I was alone but I never felt lonely. 

And you know what? Traveling alone felt liberating. Not once did I have to worry about anyone else. I could do whatever I wanted to and go wherever I wanted to go. If I did not like it somewhere, I could leave; if I wanted to stay longer somewhere, then I extended my stay at the hostel. Easy. 

I never felt disconnected. Most travelers were also on their own so it never felt weird to just go up to someone and have a chat. Each one of them was always interested in everything and everyone. 

Okay, I lied. I did feel lonely. Twice. I admit it.

The first time was on the very first day. My flight had landed around midnight that night before and when I woke up the next day at my hostel, I found out I lost my credit card. 

I felt so stupid and I was ready to give up and go home. How could this happen and why did it have to happen to me on the very first day? I was hopeless. I did not have someone with me that I could fall back on; there was not really someone to share my problem with. 

I mean, yes, I told my roommates I lost my credit card but what could they do other than look out for it? It was not their problem. 

After my mom talked some sense into me over the phone, I accepted the fact that I would have to get cash from the ATM with my Dutch debit card from now on and I moved on. It all went fine from there but for those three hours on the first day in sketchy San Jose, Costa Rica, I was alone and I felt lonely at the same time. 

The second time was the day that I missed the bus that was going to bring me to my next destination. The bus left really early in the morning and I just completely slept through my alarms. I woke up four hours later. 

The thing that pissed me off the most was that I already had paid for my bus ticket and now I had to basically put down the same amount of money for the next bus on that day. 

That bus trip took seven hours. It was absolutely terrible.

After one hour on a boat, I arrived at my hostel. This hostel was probably the worst one of the whole trip. I stayed there for about 10 dollars a night and looking back on it, the price explained a lot. I slept in a room that had enough bunk beds for eight guests but the upper beds did not have any sort of railing or protection whatsoever. 

“If you hear a big thud in the middle of the night, that is me. I apologize for the noise in advance.” 

That is what I told my roommates when I climbed up the bed that first night. 

There were also tiny little crabs in the bathroom. Yes, crabs. 

This place was in the middle of nowhere. The river town was definitely not as touristic and the foreigners that were there were couples who looked like they were 50 years or older. It is only possible to get there by boat since it is surrounded by water. People that I had met in the other hostels had never heard of this place and after missing that bus, seeing the crabs in the bathroom, and finding out there was no ATM anywhere, I was just done. I felt really sorry for myself for the entire afternoon.

But, then I also realized, being alone and feeling lonely sometimes, is good. 

It gave me time to organize all of my thoughts and it put things in another daylight. It was also nice not having to socialize for a little bit. I could read my book, make my own dinner, or go to the beach whenever I felt like it. A little actual alone time was refreshing and it also made me realize that I got to be really proud of myself because I just went through all that, all by myself. 

So yes, I did feel lonely on my solo trip. But, I only felt lonely for ten hours out of a total of 336.