The first time I traveled alone was in 1997 when I flew across the Atlantic to study abroad in the beautiful city of Grenoble, France. I remembered being both excited and terrified because at 21 years old, I had never been so far away from my family . But it was my dream to become fluent in French and I knew living in France would change my life. And it surely did.
Since then, I have taken several solo trips both domestic and international and I have always enjoyed the experience, albeit uncomfortable at times. This past week I traveled to Peru for a hiking trip to Machu Pichu, one of the seven wonders of the world. Beyond the obvious majestic views, the trip blew me away because I was able to trek and camp high up in the mountains with a supportive group of people I had just met two days before. And that’s precisely why I loved it so much!
So, if you’re considering doing a solo trip but are hesitant about the fact that, well, you will be alone, fear no more. Here are a few of the many benefits of traveling solo that you can look forward to experiencing plus a few tips on how to have a smooth experience.
You are your own boss.
When you travel alone you get to do whatever you want for as long as you want to. Imagine lingering at stores, coffee shops, museums for as long as you want? No need to check in, no need to wait for someone else. You are truly your own boss and you get to work out those decision muscles on what you truly want and don’t want to do.
You learn to be resourceful and self-reliant.
When you travel on your own, you won’t have a friend or family member to banter with or help you out when you realize you forgot shampoo or medicine and need to find a pharmacy nearby. You will learn to rely primarily on yourself and will find ways to obtain the resources you need to get by. If you’re in a foreign country, you will learn to get out of your comfort zone and ask strangers for directions, bargain at local markets and even try out a few phrases in another language. This is a total confidence booster!
You are more open to meeting new people.
When you travel with friends or family it is natural to exclusively socialize with your group and stay in your comfort zone. By contrast, when I travel alone, I have found that it’s easier to strike a conversation with a stranger in a coffeeshop or while waiting for the train. I remember when I was in Amsterdam at a train station somewhat lost looking for a Salsa dance club and a very friendly woman helped me out and even made sure I got there safe since it was night time. You will find that you are more open to meeting new people and thus you will make more friends.
You make room for your true self to emerge.
When we travel in company, we often feel compelled to fill in the silence with banter and casual conversation. However, when you travel alone you will naturally spend more time in silence which will stretch time for you. A nice side effect: your inner voice will be at the forefront of your mind and it can give you insight into your true desires and feelings.
You appreciate your life back home even more.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and traveling alone will likely give you time to miss those you love and appreciate the amazing life you do have: the good, the bad and the ugly. Traveling solo will also give you plenty of stories to tell when you see your loved ones again which will have the added benefit of reliving those exciting moments of adventure and wander.
You get to collect awesome pictures for your dating profile
Okay, this one may only be a benefit for those who are single and in the online dating world, but still, imagine all those cool selfies and pictures you get to take at leisure? 😉
TIPS FOR A SMOOTH EXPERIENCE ON YOUR NEXT SOLO TRAVEL
- Prepare in advance by booking lodging, getting travel insurance (if needed) and researching the area thoroughly.
- If traveling internationally make sure to get a phone plan that allows you to call home in case of an emergency.
- Avoid exploring a new city late at night; especially women should be extra careful at night regardless of how safe the area seems to be.
- Check in with loved ones at least once a day or let them know when you’ll have access to phone/internet (e.g., wifi access).
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to/from places if you don’t speak the local language. It’s easy to take the wrong turn or exit in the wrong train station so give yourself plenty of time to roam around.
- Bring a journal where you can record your thoughts, experiences and feelings. Also, a good book just in case.
- Finally, be patient and see opportunities even when things don’t go as planned. It’s all part of the adventure!
Are you ready? I hope so. I wish you the best in your next solo adventure!