The idea of going to the store alone scares some people. Traveling alone, especially in a foreign country is out of the question for them. But there are so many reasons why everyone should take at least one solo trip in their lifetime. I went on a multi-country, multi-city month long backpacking trip. I learned a lot about myself, pushed beyond my limits and gained a deeper respect for cultures outside of my own. If you’re thinking about solo travel and want to know what the big deal is, there are at least 10 inspiring, goofy or legitimate reasons you should travel solo.
1. You See More
When you travel solo you’ll pay more attention to your surroundings. You’ll notice more because you won’t be engaged in conversation with a travel buddy all the time. It’s amazing what can catch your eye when you’re paying attention. You may also interact with local residents more simply because you see more people while paying attention. You’ll notice great photo ops and explore things that weren’t on the agenda. With a group it’s hard to go off track every time someone gets a whim to do so. You’d never see the sights you planned to tour. Solo travelers can absorb more, wander more and get sidetracked if they want to.
2. You Expand Your Comfort Zone
Everyone has a natural comfort zone. We’re accustomed to being in familiar surroundings and knowing where everything is. It feels safe. Putting yourself in a situation where you are unsure, unfamiliar and an outsider is terrifying. But guess what? Once you’ve had that experience and work through it, the next time isn’t so scary. Every time you want or need to try something new, you’ll call on your experiences to calm you down. After the first few times of negotiating unfamiliar surroundings, you’ll realize that you’re capable of handling new experiences and being comfortable in a variety of situations.
3. You Learn to Rely on Your Wits
Having several people to bounce ideas off of is nice, but it definitely slows down the decision making process. When you’re solo you have to count on yourself to make solid decisions. After the first few don’t result in huge catastrophes, you’ll learn to trust yourself. It’s empowering. You learn to problem solve much quicker, using available information because you have to. You learn to rely on your own creativity, negotiation skills and instinct. These are skills that you’ll use for the rest of your life, long after your trip is over.
4. You’re the Boss
Relationships are all about compromise. Traveling with one person or a group requires discussion and compromise for every activity. Sometimes everyone will agree. After all, your friends are awesome and you have some stuff in common. But imagine the freedom of making decision about what you want. If you decide to stay in a spot for hours or leave after five minutes you just do it. Those last minute itinerary changes and whims can lead to amazing moments. You’re agenda is the one you set. You spend your time however you want. Adjust or adapt your trip based on what you like. You have every option available and no one telling you no.
5. You Meet More People
Traveling with your friends tends to make you cliquish. You have your own inside jokes; you only go out with one another. You don’t make the effort to meet people when you have a ready made group. Traveling solo forces you to meet others. We’re social creatures, so reaching out to others will naturally happen. You encounter some interesting, inspiring personalities while traveling. You also get great advice from people who have been to places you’re going. If you happen to be going in the same direction you’ll combine forces. Other solo travelers exist, especially in popular destinations. Whether you’re staying in a hostel or going to a convention at a luxury hotel there will be plenty of like minded travelers. You have to careful, but still open to the people who will float in and out of you life when you travel. Meeting new people and traveling alone also makes you appreciate your friends more. You’ll have moments when you miss them and know that they’d find something just as hilarious as you do.
6. You Learn More about Yourself
You’ll learn what really makes you tick, what you fear and what you love when you travel solo. You have the luxury of exploring these things without compromise. You also have time for indulgent self reflection, journal writing and general me time. You will get a stronger sense of who you are without the influence of friends, loved ones and familiar social codes. Your life priorities become much clearer when you have time to reflect. Traveling alone can be a crash course in self discovery and self development. Those self discoveries may have a profound impact on your life.
7. You Can Edit
Did you trip and fall flat on your face in the middle of a busy street? You can leave that part of the story out. When you talk about you’re trip, it’ll be from your point of view. Leave out the embarrassing parts that you’re best friends would never let you live down. My friends and I still tease each other about things that happened years ago, so this is an unexpected perk. Of course, the embarrassing parts are often the most fun to re tell once you get home. You can also delete the pictures that make you look crazy. If there’s no proof, it didn’t happen.
8. You’ll Have Interesting Pictures
Solo travel pis make great social media profile pics. Selfies aside, solo travel pictures are your visual diary of your trip. There will be things that you miss. But most of your pictures will be interesting because they reflect your experience of that place. I have pictures taken from crazy angles because that’s what I wanted to do at the moment. I have funny pictures with my head cut out because I didn’t get the angle right. You will also take more pictures with locals, strangers, food and travel friends. Why? Because just pictures of building or you with buildings will get boring. And no one is there to ask you why you’re snapping pictures with some stranger.
9. You Work Through Fears
Solo travel is a great way to challenge yourself and to face certain fears. Fear can stop us from doing any and everything. If you’re able to confront and defeat your fears solo, you keep that confidence. Fear doesn’t go away, but you learn how to work through it. Imagine being lost in a foreign city, late a night, dragging luggage. Once you get through that experience, being lost in your own city or town will never be as intimidating. Eating alone, going to a party alone or any number of things that seem intimidating can be conquered. Once you knock down the small fears, you feel more confident tackling the bigger ones.
10. You Become an Expert Planner
You have no choice, even if you are the laid back type, planning is an essential skill of the solo traveler. You need to book a place to stay, decide on an itinerary or tour and find a place to eat every day. You only have yourself to rely on to make these decisions. Getting into the habit of doing research and coming up with a plan will always be a great skill to have. You also become a better map reader. Handling details in your own language will be a breeze after doing it in a language you barely know. After a few days of solo travel you’ll discover which resources work best and use them easily. On the flip side, you learn to go with the flow because the best things happen when you least expect it.
Traveling solo isn’t always rosy. You have to be aware of your surrounding, travel safely and watch the budget. There is no one to blame or defer to. You have ultimate responsibility and ultimate freedom. Try it once and you might develop a solo travel habit. Now go plan your trip.
Can you think of any other solo travel perks?