How solo travel helped me reset after leaving a soul-destroying job

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The perfect job can nourish and uplift you – but the opposite is also true. When I was made redundant a few years back, it was a blessing in disguise. More than just being numbingly dull, the role in question left me mentally, physically and emotionally drained. It was like part of me had been chipped away at, and I needed to patch it back up.

So, I followed my instincts and decided to take a solo jaunt around Spain – a country I barely visited before, but have always been inspired by. Whether it was the balmy sunshine, the amazing food (Paella! Patatas Bravas! Gambas al ajillo!), or the culture fix promised by the land of Pablo Picasso, there was something about the EU’s second-largest country that called to me. It felt like travelling there could spread a healing balm on me and my dented confidence; while also stemming those negative thoughts that spiralled during the course of my erstwhile job. 

My job left me mentally, physically and emotionally drained

I wanted to travel with someone else initially, but none of my friends or family were available at short notice. So I took off on my own, meandering between a roll call of Spanish city greats, including Barcelona, Granada, Seville and Málaga

And it turned out, the opportunity to roam free, marvel at impressive sights (I moseyed around the immaculate Alhambra Palace for six hours straight) and meet so many friendly Spaniards, was just the tonic I needed. It meant that finally, I started to feel like my old self again, with a renewed sense of purpose and identity.

It was a trip that reminded me of who I was, and what I liked to do – other than stress about how unhappy I was, work-wise. Here’s why a solo trip might have the same impact for you:

Time to reflect

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The beauty of travelling solo is it gets you physically away from your home environment. Inevitably, you’ll feel calmer and more ready to process what you’ve been through at arm’s length. Work incidents that might have stung, or been a major source of stress, a few weeks ago, will start to loosen their grip.

Read more: The Great Resignation: travel the world to reframe your relationship with work

“Solo travel after a soul-destroying work experience creates a healing space outside of everything you’ve become familiar with up to that point; including the roles you’ve played, and any behaviours you’ve previously accepted as normal,” says Emilie Jones, a life coach who specialises in empowerment and mindset. “It’s an invitation to dive deeper into your true self, and think about what you actually desire and value out of a career.”

Space to enjoy the little things

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When you’re knee deep in an unhappy job, every little thing becomes a source of frustration. When you’re travelling solo, on the other hand, you have the luxury of enjoying mundane moments; and even mishaps. 

Taking a walk, drinking a warm cup of coffee or poring over a map and wondering where you’ll head that day. Solo travel gives you the freedom and time to enjoy what you’re doing as you’re doing it instead of thinking ahead to your next task and bemoaning that you have to do it. 

The power of fresh perspective

Travelling alone can help you see more clearly all the things that were wrong with your previous job, and why it no longer serves you.

When you’re out exploring a new city or frolicking on a beach, you start getting a clearer handle on where your priorities lie, and what you might like to do next. For me, travelling alone provided a crucial window of time that prevented me from jumping straight into the wrath of another job I didn’t like. 

When you travel, your awareness expands and your boundaries solidify

“When travelling and being in new environments, your awareness expands,” says Emilie Jones. “Your boundaries solidify, your communication improves, and from this new perspective, you come to understand how you may have ended up in an unhappy work situation in the first place – and how not to ever again.”

Comfort zone, be gone

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When stuck in a draining day job, it’s easy to become limited by the same old daily routines, or even unhelpful thought processes; because it feels like there’s no room to manoeuvre. 

Read more: Find your people: why friendship could be the key to better mental health

By setting out on a solo travel expedition, however, you’re far more likely to meet others and strike up conversations with strangers. This can feel daunting or awkward at first but you quickly come to realise that other people, especially fellow travellers, have fascinating life stories that can widen your own views and beliefs about life. They may even have gone through a huge life change that prompted them to travel, too.

Room to indulge in new hobbies

Solo travel also helped to remind me what I actually *enjoy* doing in my spare time. Instead of my hobbies being a simple escapism strategy (hello, Netflix), I could carve out space to rediscover the things I find joy in. 

Signing up to a cooking class; wandering around an art gallery; nerding out on the history and architecture of an ancient palace fortress. These are all ways that I reminded myself of what I liked doing outside of work. It gave me back my ground-down sense of identity and worth. After indulging in reams of tapas, sipping on Rioja and gazing at Gaudí’s works, I felt myself return. 

While solo travel can seem daunting, it certainly doesn’t have to be. Travelling with other like-minded adventurers on a boutique Flash Pack trip might just be the catalyst to that major life change you’ve been yearning for. 

Find out more about Flash Pack adventures right here.

Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveller like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.

Images: Laura Field and Flash Pack

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