People ask me all the time how I feel so comfortable traveling alone. They tell me that I am really brave, and after hearing a story or two, they ask – how do you have so many cool experiences? How do you wind up meeting so many cool people?
How do you find more adventure when you travel?
Traveling isn’t always as clearly perfect and adventurous as it seems. But most of the time the reason I have cool experiences is simple: I’ve learned to say yes more.
I said yes to trying that weird item on the menu I’ve never heard of before.
I said yes to going out for drinks with young American travelers I met on a free walking tour.
I push myself to go to a Couchsurfing meetup in Brno, Czechia even though I was nervous about having no friends to go with.
I hesitantly reached out to distant family living in New Zealand (I mean very distant) and asked if they could host me. It was enlightening in ways I couldn’t have imagined – I learned so much about my family history and came to understand our family’s experience in a deeper way.
I said yes and changed my plans when a generous couple offered to drive me to my next destination on New Zealand’s south Island. We wound up meeting again several times throughout the trip. We wound up at a First Care in Greymouth when a health issue came up. It turned out to be a bonding experience!
While reading in the common room at my hostel in Nelson, New Zealand, I struck up a conversation with a younger guy next to me. A hippie-type who was engaging and loved photography. I said yes when he asked if I want to go for a walk. As I walked with him and his girlfriend on the beach, he assertively ran up to a couple juggling. Five minutes later we were discussing permaculture and how expensive New Zealand is while drinking box wine out of tin mugs. I wouldn’t have had this unexpected, beautiful moment if I stayed inside with my book.
Saying yes (and having more adventure when you travel) can be challenging. I am very comfortable being on my own – exploring new neighborhoods, trying new foods, or taking time to relax. It’s much easier to bury my head in a book than approach a group of friendly strangers at a hostel. But I always get more out of my trip when I do.
When I take that first step and just say yes – to people, social engagements, adventures, new cuisines – it always leads someplace unexpected and thrilling.
I never regret saying yes, I’ve only regretted not pushing myself to do something outside my comfort zone.
Traveling someplace new is already challenging for a variety of reasons. You are in a new country and must learn to navigate the unfamiliar culture, a different language, and take care of yourself in the process. For my last trip not only was I going to the other side of the world, but I arrived in New Zealand with no plan except my first accommodation at a hostel in Auckland. That type of travel doesn’t work for everyone, but I love traveling spontaneously because I know deep down that everything (twists and turns and all) will be okay.
You will find more adventure when you travel by saying yes – to adventure, to spontaneity, and to the unknown.
After traveling to more than 25 countries I’ve found that the best experiences don’t happen when I’m eating a fancy expensive meal or taking photos next to a world-famous attraction. More adventure when you travel happens by saying yes to novel experiences and making connection with people.
Since it’s easier for me to do things alone, I just say yes by reminding myself that I don’t know anyone – if I put myself out there and get horribly embarrassed or rejected, I will never see these people again!
The universe has your back, and everything happens for a reason. Things have a way of working themselves out (often in awesome ways) so just say yes and let your life unfold before you.
I realized that saying yes more wasn’t just about having more adventures when I traveled, it was a lesson in pushing my boundaries. By approaching that group of travelers who all seem to know each other and are having a great time, I prove to myself that pushing myself not so scary after all.
Pushing ourselves to do the uncomfortable is how we grow. And we should be doing it whether we’re traveling or not.
Say yes to things that scare you works those resilience and confidence muscles. Nervous about taking a solo trip? Make it happen. Scared to speak in public? Say yes to that presentation. Hesitant to ask for a job promotion? Just do it. It will make you more fearless, confident, and willing to take more and more leaps of faith.
But how do you take that first step?
I’m never going to feel like pushing myself to talk to people I don’t know. It’s a big push to get up out of your seat and approach a new group of people – fear of rejection, embarrassment, etc. But after I’ve done it, I laugh at the hesitation and anxiety I felt beforehand because they are welcoming and friendly to me.
From the moment an idea goes through your brain – to talk to someone, to make yourself a sandwich, to book a solo trip to Nepal – you have 5 seconds to act on it. Your brain immediately tries to talk you out of it. Your mind is hit with thoughts – I don’t feel like it, I’m too tired, what if they don’t like me, ahh I’m nervous, maybe I should just make some avocado toast.
Get your body into motion – start walking. If you’re already walking, you’ll probably make it over to talk to the friendly people sitting at that table. If you don’t do something in the first 5 seconds the idea pops into your head, it will go in one ear and out the other faster than you can blink.
As soon as a yes thought pops into your head, see it and do something about it. Put your body into motion and say yes to more adventure when you travel.
That being said, saying yes should never come at the expense of your safety. Trust your intuition, especially if you’re traveling alone for the first time. If saying yes means putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, the thrill from saying yes doesn’t outweigh that uncertainty. Put your safety above your adventures.