I have always been a large group type of gal. I was a firm believer in the mantra the more the merrier…that is, until I ended up on my first trip with only me, myself and I. Don’t get me wrong, vacationing with others has its up shots. People to share meals with, someone available for conversation, ya know, the easy interactions we crave on a daily basis. However, amidst these crowded trips with friends and family I discovered that I quickly became a passive traveler.
I typically let my companions figure out itineraries, public transportation, excursions, and the like. While this certainly was convenient and simple, it lacked the excitement and spontaneity that I was longing for in the first place. There’s something magical about exploring and deciphering a different point of the world all on your own. Whether it’s owning your independence or creating a journey tailored to you dreams, there’s an inevitable rawness you feel when you start to trust yourself. It’s both amazing and frightening to learn that you can, in fact, make it on your own. Here are the perks I’ve found when I lost the companions and gained the confidence to head out solo.
Despite the fact that I consistently peruse no less than three guidebooks before any adventure, there have been a few times when I simply have no idea which train goes to which station and ends up at which crossroads. If you throw a language barrier in there, it’s just about as jolly a time as stepping on a Lego. While getting lost in a new environment is stressful and overwhelming, it’s part of the experience…to not-so-nicely be forced into the uncomfortable zone you were so eagerly seeking out. After all, if you wanted smooth sailing, you would have opted to hit the Continue Next Episode button while chilling on your loveseat.
With no one else to rely on, solo traveling will teach you how to find suitable strangers who can offer guidance, use an actual map and never (Re: NEVER) rely on a WiFi-fuled GPS, and always be prepared to have the appropriate currency necessary for an unexpected cab ride home. Even further, it shows you that when your destination is not quite what you thought, you can roll with the punches and confirm that getting lost in a new world can mean just that, getting lost. Ultimately, the greatest lesson is that while you’ll quickly realize you may [definitely] not know all the answers, you’ll have the tools to find ‘em.
When you’re paired off, it can be hard to leave the comfort of your current relationships in order to interact with new people. But if you’re traveling for the experience (as most of us are), half the adventure is learning other people’s stories, their ways of life and their cultures. When you’re alone, you’re forced to engage in conversations with those you might ordinarily bypass when consumed with your own crowd.
New friendships are especially easy to make when staying in young hotspots, such as popular hostels that hold their own daily gatherings or trendy events held in various cities that attract people of similar age and interest. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, understand that each person is in a similar situation. My go-to ice breaker: what brought you here? It can be as simple or as complex as necessary.
When you’re planning to spend 14 hours alone on a plane across the Pacific, it’s important to enjoy your own company. Do you think positively? Are you comfortable with who you are, and, in turn, sharing that with people you have yet to meet? Traveling alone gives you the time to reflect on how you act and interact with your environment. It allows you to evaluate your responses and adjust them appropriately. With no one to listen to your complaints or struggles, you learn how to work through them on your own, building the necessary skills of resiliency and endurance.
The simplest pleasure of traveling alone is that you get to do what you want to do, all the time. If you prefer to spend six days making your body impression in the sand, then by all means, go for it. If you’d rather sacrifice all your sleep by signing up for every tour imaginable, more power to ya. Find what you enjoy doing most and, in turn, you’ll spend time with the people, or the solitude, that makes you happiest.
Your suit of independence is not something to shove away once you’re back on the home front. We often fall into the routines and structured patterns of our daily lives as soon as that last load of laundry is folded away. As a solo traveler, you’re more likely to maintain your momentum of freedom and to not feel restricted by the life those around you lead. Instead of falling into the crowd, you feel comfortable venturing out to a concert you want to see or taking a hike through the mountains, whether you’re alone or not.
Have you ever taken a trip solo? Of not, what’s the one thing holding you back?
I’ve traveled by myself in the U.S. but am looking forward to trying a trip abroad on my own. I’ve signed up for a work-away program that hooks me up with hostels around the world so I’ll be staying with like-minded folk who are seeking adventure!