Once upon a time a young, sometimes stupid, 19 year old me set about on her first solo adventure. I went on a two week trip to Iceland. That was over 4 years ago now. What solo travel teaches you is more than how to survive on beans and rice for two weeks.
A Major Turning Point
At the very least it was a pretty major turning point for me. Solo travel soon became one of my favourite ways to see the world. I remember boarding that plane and balling my eyes out because I was so scared! The trip started with a few days in Reykjavik. Then I joined some fellow backpackers I’d met on couchsurfer.com, and we road tripped across south-western Iceland. Here a run down of some lessons learned from that first solo trip!
What I did Right
Having a basic plan
I am generally not a huge fan of over-planning a trip. My preference is to research the location an absurd amount. But then I wing it all as soon as I land. For my first solo trip having a plan helped manage some of the anxiety I was feeling. I knew that I wanted to do a road trip. I couldn’t afford it and didn’t want to do by myself. So I put a lot of effort into finding road trip buddies through couchsurfing.com and Facebook groups. Road trips are really popular in Iceland so it’s pretty easy to find road trip buddies. This was a great decision, and also what solo travel teaches you. The group ended up getting along really well and I even visited one of them a few weeks later! Planning this section of the trip not only let me see parts of Iceland I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, but also helped with my nerves.
Prioritizing the vibe
For the my first few nights in Reykjavik I stayed at a campsite outside the city centre. It was significantly less expensive (~10USD) than the city hostels (~50USD). But while the campsite was nice, I was (and still occasionally am) a pretty shy person and meeting people there was very difficult. But this is what solo travel teaches you, too. I spent the first 2 or 3 days alone and terrified that traveling solo meant that I would never talk again! So I made the decision to suck it up and pay for a hostel in the hopes that I could meet some people. I chose KEX Hostel in downtown Reykjavik. While it was not the cleanest hostel, it was the right choice for me. Within a few hours I had made friends. This is what solo travel teaches you – sometimes its worth paying a little more for the right vibe!
What I did Wrong
Letting fear dictate my itinerary
Reykjavik is a nice city, but I found there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do and 6 days is a pretty long time to spread in most cities. But I thought it would be too difficult, time consuming and expensive to go anywhere else in Iceland. If I’m being honest with myself I was scared, staying in Reykjavik was the easy option. In hindsight I had enough time and there were a lot of other places in Iceland I would have liked to see. Oh well, at least this gives me a reason to go back (like I needed one).
Packing Too Much
So this was a little bit of a strange situation because I was moving to England so I had my suitcase for England as well as my Iceland stuff. I stored my suitcase at the airport, but still ended up carrying around way too much stuff – including a very heavy tent. My bag was so heavy I could barely carry it! I still remember walking from the bus stop to the campsite and having to take a break every 100m! I have since learned my lesson and now pack almost entirely in carry on.
Spending ALL my money
Seriously though! I had no idea how to budget my money AND it was in an expensive country. But that’s what solo travel teaches you. I spent more money in Iceland than any other trip I’ve been on. Budget travel is totally doable in Iceland as well, outside of Reykjavik it is not too expensive. There’s tons of resource available to help reduce costs in Iceland, but I didn’t research them before hand or read up on any budgeting tips.
What Solo Travel Teaches You
Overall I think Iceland is a great place for a first solo trip. What solo travel teaches you is a valuable lesson. It’s easy to get to, easy to get around plus its super safe! I highly recommend going on a road trip – Iceland is gorgeous and built for road trips! My first solo trip was defiantly a learning experience, but it gave me to confidence to pursue longer and crazier adventures!