'I never thought I'd travel solo to Peru. Here are 7 things I learned when I did.'

If there's a thing you must know about me, it's my outrageously impressive ability to get lost in a place I've spent almost my entire life. I'm really very good at it.

Ask me the name of the streets surrounding my childhood home. Go on, ask.

Because I have no idea. 

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Credit: TikTok @durbinmalonster.

For this reason, and the fact my husband has to use 'Find My Friend' to pick me up when I don't know where I am, I've never travelled alone.

You see, together with my troubling sense of direction, I also get a wee bit nervous when I'm travelling. Also, I'm terribly clumsy and quite partial to losing everything I've ever owned.

All of these things boil together in a really nice big pot of CRIPPLING DEPENDENCY, and for this reason I've never really considered travelling alone.

In the 32 years of my life, I've taken one trip overseas by myself to visit my husband in the US — where I was swiftly transported to and from the airport, leaving little room for error. (I'll never forget the card my mum wrote me before I took off. It read: "Please don't get lost. And don't get burnt.")


Where am I going with this dribble? Well, I recently flew all the way to Peru by myself for 10 days. Alright, alright, I had Intrepid waiting for me there with a small (very amazing) group of people. But! I made it there and back in one piece, with a fat sack of great experiences and memories to boot.

So, you know what I thought I'd do? Razzle up a list of things I learnt travelling alone for the first time. 

Walk with me. (Please. I don't know where I'm going.)

1. Sometimes you get a bit lost in Chile — and that's okay!

Sometimes your travel time is like 32 hours all up, and you land somewhere in between in Chile and Peru and miss the bit about whether you're supposed to collect your suitcase or not? And everyone you ask doesn't speak English?? And the gate has now closed?? And you don't know where to get your bag or what direction the gate is in???


If there's a thing I learnt, it's to try not panic because you can just give the kind people at the desks all your details and get another flight. I also learnt that sometimes your phone just decides not to work in a foreign country and maybe you actually can't... do that... which, in this case — yeah, probably just panic then?

And I did! Goodness, I panicked real nice. Like, I vaguely remember hugging a confused flight attendant at the gate for letting me through and saying 'have a good day' at 11pm at night.

But look, I got there in the end! I had to run on the tarmac about 0.5 seconds before the plane took off with an entire 25kg suitcase. I've never been so happy sitting right next to a toilet, ever.


2. You won't know if you're jet lagged or... afraid?

It's hard to say! The fear of meeting a new group of strangers and spending the next 10 days with them made me a little bit (a lot) nervous.

As soon as I arrived (at some vague hour of the night), I spent about four hours practicing saying my name and listing my hobbies, before double checking my passport was still in my backpack 84 times and deciding whether I should maybe put it in the security box? But then what if I couldn't get it out again??

3. You're going to make some new besties. Quick.

But you'll soon forget everything because omg everyone is so nice! And did you meet Michelle?? HOW NICE WAS MICHELLE?! And turns out that thing everyone said about there usually being at least one a** hole on group trips isn't actually true, because everyone is just the best! And let's not even consider that the a** hole could be you! Not a chance!

Image: Ryan Bolton for Intrepid Travel.


But seriously, the instant besties are real. If there was one thing I learnt travelling alone, it's how much easier it is to meet new people — I found myself interacting with a whole lot more people than I ever usually would. And it was way less terrifying than I imagined. In fact, I was generally way more sociable.

I spent 10 days with a small group of people from all over the world and I felt like I'd known them forever. I made so many good friends during the Intrepid trip that we were literally CRYING when we had to separate at the end of it.

4. You suddenly become a photographer.

My husband is a photographer, so when he and I travel he's always behind the lens. Without him there, I was kind of forced out of my comfort zone and suddenly became a person who really loved to take photos (because, Peru), waking up early before our tours to catch sunrise and take photos — and WHO IS SHE.

In all seriousness though, it was a beautiful way to explore each destination, and I even met up with a couple of other group members and went on a little photo walk with them (cute!), taking in the sights. It was unreal.


5. You'll do stuff you never would've done.

The joy of travelling solo with a company like Intrepid is that I got to experience a whole lot of stuff I would never have experienced. Like, it was probably the greatest adventure I've ever been on.

The thing I loved most about this trip was that we got the chance to experience Peru through the lens of two local communities — no fancy hotels, swanky cities and all that jazz. Just real people, real homes and real experiences.

In the Sacred Valley, we spent the day with the Huilloc people, one of the oldest Andean communities. It's a female-dominated community that still maintain native traditions and speak Quechua — the language of their ancestors. We learnt about their culture, food (they cooked a big communal meal in a rock pit) and they also showed us the art of weaving (it's so insanely impressive) (I was terrible at it).

We got to sit with these women, learn from them — and although there was a language barrier, you still felt like you really got to know them.

Image: Ryan Bolton for Intrepid Travel.


These women (who were referred to as 'the mamas') are actually the true descendants of the Inca people, which is just... mind blowing. However, very few of them have ever visited the sacred site of Machu Picchu (due to costs and accessibility). So, Intrepid organised for these women to join the group for a tour of Machu Picchu.

And I... just...

Hiking the Inca trail with literal descendants of the Inca people was like nothing I could've ever imagined myself doing. We literally had 14 Huilloc women with us, dressed in their traditional clothing, making the (long) journey up to Machu Picchu to see and hear stories of their ancestors sacred site.

It was incredible. Moving. Once-in-a-lifetime kind of stuff.

Image: Ryan Bolton for Intrepid Travel.


Also, we were literally all wearing hiking boots and Kathmandu raincoats and fancy backpacks, and these women hiked up the trail in tiny handmade leather shoes and skirts, in like 0.3 seconds.

Image: Ryan Bolton for Intrepid Travel.


From the Sacred Valley, we also journeyed to ancient Lake Titicaca (the world's highest navigable body of water) (meaning altitude sickness and seasickness at the same time ha ha ha), and slept in a mud-brick hut in a traditional Andean community. 

We each had our own 'families' including a 'mama' and a 'papa' — and it was the SWEETEST THING EVER. And so, so cool learning about the culture, their traditional clothing and how these communities work together to provide income and food.

Image: Supplied.


With no hot water and no internet, it was the perfect escape from the modern world. And gosh, just so picturesque?!

We also visited the floating reed islands of Uros, went to Puno, explored Inca temples and Spanish cathedrals in the cobblestone streets of Cusco — it was all just very authentic, meticulously planned kind of stuff I would never have been able to organise myself.

6. You're now in charge of making decisions. 

Unusual for me! Hates decisions! But when you are travelling by yourself, even if it's in a group setting, there are times where you have to make decisions about what you want to do. Because as it turns out, no one is going to make them for you. Weird!

The joys of a tailor-made trip meant I didn't have to really plan anything, but there were many instances where I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and flex my decision-making skills. Like, do you want to eat deep fried guinea pig, the traditional Peruvian dish? No. Not today. 


But seriously, I loved the independence of deciding whatever you wanted to do and I honestly came away from this trip feeling a lot more confident and better at trusting my gut.

7. You'll learn so much about yourself.

Travelling solo on this group trip with Intrepid made me realise so many things about myself. I know, I know — it sounds a bit wanky, but I honestly came away from this with a whole newfound sense of confidence in myself. 

Stepping away from my normal life, family and friends, and travelling alone was a challenge for me, but it gave me the opportunity to just sit with myself — without phones, internet, daily distractions — and just... be. 

It also made me realise I can actually do stuff! On my own! Without being terrified! Not having my usual safety net of my partner, family and friends genuinely gave me a new self-confidence and independence I don't think I had before. Or at least, brought it back to the surface.

And I get all these new personal experiences and memories to boot! How good!

Now, where to next?

Have you travelled alone before? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Mamamia travelled a guest of Intrepid travel. All opinions in this article are the author's own.

Feature image: Ryan Bolton for Intrepid Travel/Canva.

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