You know that trip you have been dying to take, but no one will join you for? Why not take it alone? I know, traveling alone, scary right? Well, not really. At least not if you think about all the things you will gain.
About five months ago I decided that the company I was working for was no longer a good fit. So I quit. I didn’t know exactly what my next step was, but I knew I wanted to travel. I had wanted to take a trip to Europe since as long as I could remember, but it was never a good time for anyone. I figured this was my chance; I had the time and finally mustered the courage to go it on my own. Deep breaths.
After three months of solo travel, I can tell you that although it was scary at times, it was way more liberating. Here are the things I gained from traveling on my own that will make you excited to get out there by yourself.
When you travel alone you are the only person you have to rely on. For some of you this might be terrifying, but if you look at it from a different light it becomes empowering. In life we have so many decisions to make and the results of those decisions affect us, not those who gave us advice. So we need to be able to make decisions on our own and be confident in them. As you travel alone you will have to navigate cities alone, decide who to trust, eat alone, connect with strangers, balance your budget and make snap decisions. Once you get comfortable with doing these things sans another person’s input you will realize that you are capable and in control of your own destiny. You are a strong, intelligent individual – embrace it. Confidence will help you in every part of your life.
2. A new outlook and acceptance for differences
Every place you visit will be slightly different; from the food that is eaten in each country you visit to the way that the people there interact. We all have biases and many of these are purely because we have never known any differently. When you travel alone you will spend more time getting to know the people and culture of the places you visit. You will gain a deeper understanding of why different cultures are the way that they are. These experiences will allow you to come to see these differences as interesting instead of frightening. You will learn to embrace them, and hey, you might even like them so much that you adopt them.
Believe it or not, people are the same everywhere you go. We might look or dress different, speak different languages or eat different foods, but we all have the same needs. Connection is one of the strongest needs we have. You will meet so many like-minded people while traveling alone and you will build deep connections with them, because you don’t have a safety net to fall back on. You will learn to listen and connect on a new level. These people may turn out to be life long friends or even the love of your life. Being alone forces you to risk rejection and learn that it’s really not so bad. More often than not people will welcome you.
There are so many outlets to help you meet new people while traveling and people really are the foundation of an amazing trip. You could couch surf or use airbnb to stay with a local. You could attend a walking tour with a large group, or you could sign up for a Lokafy tour that matches you with a like-minded local with intimate knowledge of the city for an authentic experience. Whatever you do, getting out of your comfort zone pays off.
Flight delays or cancellations will happen. Sometimes it will take a very long time to get your meal. In some countries (cough, Italy, cough) they may view bus schedules as suggestions rather than timelines. These things are out of your control and you will learn not to waste your energy fussing about them. Miss your bus? You can catch the next one, and in the meantime focus on taking in the scenery. You might just meet someone in the same situation while you wait who you’ll connect with. To me, that sounds better than having caught the first bus. Always look on the bright side. It’s true what they say; patience is a virtue, one that we often take for granted in our fast paced lives.
There are going to be times where you are hopelessly lost and no one around you can speak a word of English. You will learn quickly that hand signals and certain words are universal. As you navigate each new place you will become more resourceful. The things you thought would be too hard to figure out, like how to use public transit, will all have a way of working themselves out. People are willing to help and you will find crafty ways to get things done. You’ll even learn new skills along the way, like how to speak another language. Running out of money? Sleep in a Jimjilbang. Most things aren’t as bad as we make them out to be, you’ll figure it out.
6. Openness to experience
Openness to experience is one of the “Big Five” personality factors. A person who is high in openness to experience is thought to be creative, flexible, curious and adventurous. There are going to be so many new things you experience wherever you go. It might be trying new food, like snake venom in Taiwan, or going bungee jumping. I know that getting out of your comfort zone can be hard, but it’s essential for growth. The more you experience, the easier it becomes to try new things and your risk tolerance will go up. Aristotle says “we are what we repeatedly do”. If you want to be adventurous, start going on adventures.
As humans, we are creatures of habit and if you have only ever lived in one place, with one constant as your reality, it becomes hard to imagine anything else. Creativity is built off past experiences that allow you to think about how things can be done differently. When traveling alone, you are calling the shots and can try things you might not have done with a group.
So what started as a trip to Europe turned into a trip to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I met so many amazing people, experienced serendipitous events wherever I went and learned that doing things on your own is only as scary as you allow it to be. No one is watching and no one really cares what you are doing, so do what you want. Go experience the world, have dinner alone, walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself, eat a cricket and have fun.
Every trip will be different, but it’s important to take your time and be open to chance encounters. It’s the people you meet that you remember the most and that really make your trip what it is. If you’re ever nervous, just remember these words of wisdom from Hilary Duff: “never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”.
So start planning that big trip you have been too scared to take on your own. It could open up so many doors you weren’t even aware of and change your life. Maybe I’ll see you there.
What’s holding you back from solo travel?