How Long-Term Solo Travelling Helped Me Gain Confidence

I was never confident when I was younger. Travelling was something that definitely crossed my mind, but more as a fantasy than anything else; it was something I never expected to actually achieve. If only I’d have known then what an impact it was going to have on my life…

As an ambassador for Workaway, I have spoken to a lot of people who are curious about travelling but simply not sure if it is for them – there is always something holding them back. My journey has been an extended rollercoaster in a way; and that’s what I’d like to share because it’s something I didn’t quite expect and wasn’t fully prepared for…It certainly would have helped me to have a post like this to read before starting to travel. Now that I’m able to understand it better myself I am finally putting it into words. 

traveller posing on top of a jeep in the mountains

Making an initial commitment

I was a student with very strict routine - studying, working out, cooking, reading... I wasn't really one for spontaneous plans or big social groups. Routine was a comfort thing for me (which is funny to look back on now)

The idea behind my first Workaway exchange was to improve my German. I had a prior connection to Germany because of doing work placements over there during high school, but I was afraid to lose my knowledge of the language if I didn’t keep up the practice. And so that’s what got me started – I found an incredible little family in south west Germany who hosted me for around 5 months. What I did not anticipate is my first trip would turn into an extended adventure that’s been going for 3 ½ years strong now!

Related blog post: Be a more confident traveler: How to pick up a new language in no time

group of friends making empanadas

Taking the first steps

Making the initial commitment was hard – it’s a daunting thing to do, especially alone. If you’re going from a strict student/working lifestyle to one of a completely different nature there will inevitably be days where you feel lost.  I remember how much I felt like I’d made the wrong decision when I arrived with my first Host. Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth and was nothing personal to the Hosts, but at the time that was hard to grasp. The early days of travelling are the scariest in many ways, and habits and big changes like this don’t happen overnight with ease. But in fact my German family are like a second family to me even now. We keep in touch and hope to meet up again soon. My German mum, as I like to call her, helped me to realise that a 9-5 job was definitely not what I needed to do next. She definitely encouraged me to expand my horizons; to not simply follow the crowd but to think outside of the box and make decisions that had a purpose and would make me feel good. I was lucky to make such a deep connection at the start of my Workaway journey, and I’ll be forever grateful to her and her two boys.

Related blog post: Top 5 Excuses not to travel and how to overcome them

group of workawaywers posing in a farm

Accepting the journey

Even if you’re someone who’s been on holiday a lot and visited many cities previously, travelling (not to mention travelling as a workawayer!) is a whole different game – at least in my experience! I simply couldn’t have the same level of control in my own life that I used to have when I was a student, but it also meant my daily life is filled with surprises and adventures I wouldn’t even dream of having! While yes, it can be quite scary to let your guard down and accept whatever comes your way, I was no longer dwelling on my old routine and what I was missing, but instead simply being present and enjoying where I was now.

Related blog post: Your Ultimate Guide For Travelling Solo as a Woman

solo woman traveller hiking

Forming new habits

The idea of forming new habits is exciting to me now; it’s no longer scary. As is meeting new people, something which would have daunted me initially. It’s all part of the adventure – part of what makes travelling so fun! As soon as I realised this I felt so much more open and sociable, and also motivated to keep going! I’d accidentally discovered a more intrepid version of myself – one that is content with what I’m doing, appreciates spending time with people, understands the fun in spontaneity, and realises how much more there is out there to discover still!

And it’s a version I never anticipated to find… I figured that after school and university, I’d get a job and that would be it; a house would follow and a family life soon after. I never expected to be here now, like this – with so many amazing people I’ve met along the way and stood by my side. That’s also what I love about Workaway – you can find great Hosts where you will meet many like-minded people. There’s so much to learn from one another and so many opportunities to grow together; it’s such a special community.

friends working on banner

Embracing the changes

What really put all of this into perspective for me was going home. Throughout my travels I do visit home from time to time, though I will admit that this is usually only when something has gone wrong and I need to ground myself again (like losing all my belongings in Spain, or having a nasty car crash in Ireland!). The first time this happened I felt really negative about travelling home – unexpectedly so. It just didn’t feel like home anymore. My family and friends were all still there for me, – but I just personally felt like I’d changed too much for them to accept.

I didn’t feel like I fit in at home anymore; I wasn’t the same Ellie who graduated in 2019 and set off for a short break to Germany. In fact, my sister finds it highly amusing and now has two nicknames for me: boring Ellie vs. European Ellie. I definitely prefer the latter, but it took me a while to accept how much I had changed. Rather than being insecure about what the future holds, I just feel relaxed and content, able to go with the flow and enjoy the moment I’m in, and to embrace my journey and feel confident in what will happen. 

Related blog post: 5 Universal life lessons you’ll learn from your Workaways

friends in the sea love heart

Would you take the leap?

To everyone that talks to me about Workaway, telling me you are afraid to make that initial jump, I will only ever encourage you. There are no wrong decisions to be made and no wrong ways of doing Workaway –  I’ve seen and achieved so much out there without ever expecting any of it, and I certainly wouldn’t be the character I am now without having met everyone and experienced everything I have done over the past few years. So stop overthinking, and just go for it to see what great things the path is going to lead you to!

travellers watching sunset in the mountains
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About Ellie

Having caught the travel bug after finding the perfect first Workaway Hosts in Germany, travelling around Europe for the last few years has not only boosted my confidence but also made me some of the ... show more...

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