I’ve traveled solo on four Flash Pack adventures – Peru and Tanzania before the pandemic, and Costa Rica and Thailand since. Each time people have said, “It’s so brave going it alone.” Yet I don’t see it that way.
Everyone’s in the same boat at the beginning of the trip – all solo and all strangers. But rather than being nervous when I join a group, I’m excited at the possibilities that lie ahead.
Growing up, I was always the kid that people came to for advice. I had this innate need to help others. Later in life that led to me becoming a psychotherapist. I realized I wanted to utilize my own struggles to give strength and hope to everyone else. I now have my own private practice in LA, along with a weekly live-stream relationships show.
We all go through these cycles of fear or insecurity
What I’ve learnt from helping people with their emotional challenges is that we have more in common than we think. Whether someone’s experiencing profound sadness or suffering from imposter syndrome, we have a tendency to think that we’re in it alone, that we’re the only one feeling that way.
It’s my job to remind people that we all go through these cycles of fear or insecurity – we’re all in this messy, beautiful, turbulent life together. And not only that, but the obstacles we face make us wise and bring growth (even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time).
Another truth is that everyone has that desire to feel special and appreciated. You can’t tell people enough how much they mean to you or what they bring to a particular friendship or relationship.
Every now and again those extra special adventures come along
What I’ve noticed about Flash Pack is that every trip I’ve been on has had a slightly different dynamic. Sometimes it’s more intimate and you really get to know one another. On other occasions, the group is bigger with more energy behind it. You’ll always have a mix of quieter people and more outgoing personalities, too.
Every now and again those extra special adventures come along when everyone gels together even more than usual. For me, that happened in Costa Rica. Our guide, Joe, was so energetic and kind and we bonded really quickly. The group was wonderful and I made a lot of friends. In fact, I was in London recently catching up with some of my tripmates.
On all Flash Pack trips, we tend to meet one another on our own terms. A key part of my role as a therapist is to be non-judgemental and accept everyone for who they are. And that seems to always happen naturally on these adventures.
No-one’s sleeping late – we want to get out and do stuff
From the outset, I go in with the attitude that everyone is going to be different and figure out how to fit around that. Everyone has different moments when their character shines through. You start to recognize who’s more laid-back and who you can share a mellow experience with, versus the perfect person to go dancing with at the end of a night.
It helps that we’re in a similar age range, too. No-one’s pounding beers or sleeping late; we want to get out and do stuff.
When people first find out I’m a therapist, they assume I’m going to try and analyze their subconscious. Or they might bring up a problem with this or that. But for the most part, Flashpackers tend to be quite self-sufficient. I have my altruistic hat on if needed, but it rarely is. And everyone is pretty mindful of the fact we’re on vacation, too, and we’ve switched gears from our careers back home.
You really get spoiled and you don’t have to think about logistics
The way I see it, during my adventures with Flash Pack I’m on Kelli time. My life is pretty hectic the rest of the year as I have my practice, I’m a mother to two boys and I’m writing another book. The children stay with my parents or their dad while I’m away; I try and set it up so they get an adventure of their own.
I value my trips because I can get into a mode of “You’ve worked hard, you deserve this and this is your time for enjoyment.” It’s all the more true in the wake of the pandemic, a time when I was homeschooling, demand at my clinic soared and everyone needed therapy (including myself).
I think that element of escapism you find with Flash Pack is key. Everything from boutique hotels to meals to the ability to immerse yourself in a local culture is arranged for you. You really get spoilt and you don’t have to think about logistics.
Flash Pack trips are a chance to meet like-minded travelers
The activities are amazing, too. I’m a bit nutty by nature so I gravitate towards full-on moments of adventure, such as the seven-hour hike up Machu Picchu or the terrifying tarzan swing we did in Costa Rica, way above the forest canopy. I also like the moments that focus on people. For example, in Thailand we got to meet with a Buddhist monk and ask him personal questions. How often in life does an opportunity like that come around?
Flash Pack trips are a chance to meet like-minded travelers and experience the world together. It’s a great format for a single traveler like me. But even better than that is the ability to step out of your day-to-day world and connect with local people and communities. Whether you’re cooking together or attending a local ceremony, that’s where the real magic lies.
Kelli Miller, LCSW, MSW is a psychotherapist, author and live stream host who traveled with Flash Pack to Peru, Tanzania, Costa Rica and Thailand. Her book Love Hacks: Simple Solutions to Your Most Common Issues will be published by New World Library in Feb 2024.
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Images: courtesy of Kelli Miller