3 Interesting Abilities You Gain When You Travel Alone

29 November 2014

Traveling alone means, having to navigate around, taking photos for memories (or in my case for my blog), absorbing as much of the city, as well as capturing as much detail and information of places you go to all by yourself. Traveling alone can be really fun, and also stressful at times. 
Case in point: waking up to catch a 7am train with no wakeup call!

But along the way you learn to rely on yourself, be a lot more independent, and also develop certain "special" skills/abilities. Here are some that interesting abilities I've inherited and starting to become a lot better (almost a pro!) at:

1. Handling Multiple Objects At Once
Bag, iPhone, wallet, DSLR, Umbrella - all with 1 pair of hands.

Using your DSLR to take photos whilst holding an umbrella so the rain doesn't slap against your face is actually A LOT harder than it sounds. Especially so when you're trying to prevent the strong threatening England winds from destroying your new cute purple umbrella (my room mate bought me one for my birthday!)
I initially struggled with holding my umbrella with one hand AND trying to adjust my DSLR. The result? I got rain all over myself AND my camera (don't worry my camera is fine! Thank God). Now, I have the ability to use my neck/elbow joint/cheek/ whatever else to hold the umbrella while taking photographs! Otherwise, I estimate how much zoom is probably needed on the camera for a shot, adjust it, and then operating my camera with one hand. 

Another horrifying thing, happens when you have to pay for something. In that moment, you somehow end up having your phone in your hand, a camera around your neck, a dripping wet umbrella, and you have to figure out how to take your wallet out of your bag.
Well, hello to another weird new skill set. It is possible. When you don't have anyone to turn to and say "Could you hold my umbrella for one second?", your fingers/knees/elbows/whatever available body part becomes your next best shot.

2. Conversing With Strangers
Traveling alone encourages you to go out there and talk to other people. You're completely alone, there is no pressure to be a certain way, no expectations, no desire to please or accommodate to anyone. The only barrier you have, is the one with yourself.

I've always been quite outgoing, which means talking to strangers was something I seldom shy away from. But what I've realised is that there is a difference between small talk and actual conversation. When you meet people for the first time, it's pretty easy to strike up a conversation, but being able to make conversations last, is a lot trickier.

I was able to hang out with 3 strangers for an entire afternoon when I went on a solo day trip to Oxford - well they were really nice people so that made the conversation a lot easier.
I remember going on a day tour alone for the first time to Normandy and having trouble with continuing conversations over lunch. After the first 15minutes where everyone sharing who they are, and what they are doing in the city had passed, the conversation died down and the silence got awkward.

So I guess after a few more tries of talking to strangers, and meeting different people, you figure out how to go about continuing the conversation. You figure out how much of yourself you'd like to share, what you can ask other people to find out more about them, and you start to appreciate the initial awkwardness that comes when you meet new people.

For me, I don't share too much about my thoughts, emotions and life with people who aren't close to me. Somehow, there was always a wall. This meant that despite being an extrovert, at times I second guess if I should approach other people, and I become a little too self-conscious.
Its not as though i'm being a different person, but its more like they're only getting 50% of who I am - a more toned down version. So figuring out how much I'd like to share with people I meet for the first time took a while, but I realised I definitely got better at holding conversations with new people I meet, and better at getting over my self-consciousness.

P.S. You also learn not to get offended when someone chooses to not talk to you ;) I think this means greater self-confidence, and thats always a plus!

3. Entertaining Yourself/Talking to Yourself
I listen to music or books from audible on my phone when I'm alone. Unfortunately, my iPhone is old and has a crappy battery life. Also, having to handle multiple things at once (see point 1) means that you rather not have the additional problem of fumbling around with your earphones.

Being able to hold conversations in your head, I've come to realise, is a VERY good ability. I used to think most people do it in general (you know, like have little conversations and debates in their head/play both the angel and the devil/have a Lizzie-Mcguire-esque alter-ego), until one fine day, people started telling me, I talk to myself.
Yes, occasionally I think aloud without realising.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm literally talking to myself instead of keeping the conversation in my head.

Then again, in a new environment when you're all alone, you don't have to be too self-conscious. Nobody is around to judge. At most, you'd just look like 'The weird girl talking to herself'. It's not like they'll remember you. Right?

I start to understand why children from single-child families have the ability to be alone ALL THE TIME - *cough* Jerald *cough*, or why my brother had imaginary friends when he was younger.

I can now hold hours and hours of conversations in my head, pretending to talk to somebody, or just thinking about what I would say to whoever when I would next meet them. I imagine what I would say if I had someone on the trip with me, I imagine what I would say if I were to be writing a diary entry about the trip - diary entries that unfortunately have yet to materialise.

I must say, skill 2 and 3 complement each other really well. After adopting both abilities, you can pick and choose to either hang out with yourself and enjoy the company of 'Me, Myself, and I', or build new friendships to expand your social circle, find out more about people coming from different parts of the world, and listening to their stories.
I would say I'm pretty much an expert on skill 3. But, its a good thing that i've been getting better at skill 2!

Hmm, after typing that, I now wonder if I'm an introvert or an extrovert. People who've known me for a long time will say I'm the latter, but I think i'm in transition. Whatever it is, as long as I'm comfortable. Thats all that matters. There's no reason to put a label to it!

What other interesting skills or abilities have you gained while traveling? Do you think there are any other i'll learn along the more I travel to and explore different places alone?

Pictures from my recent trips to Oxford, Barcelona and Brighton.

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