For some, it’s the dreaded two words, you’re going out alone, going on vacation BY YOURSELF!? For others, it’s a sense of adventure, a quest to live life on your own, unapologetically and unattached. You may not know which side you’re on until you go out on your own and discover for yourself. Whichever place you find yourself in, I implore you to explore solo travel! I’ve been to over 70 countries, traveling for over five years on my own and here are 19 of the many things I’ve found that are the best about solo travel.
1. You Push Your Comfort Zones
Going to a restaurant, walking around a museum, talking to strangers, or even flying, any of these things done by yourself can be a daunting task at first. You have irrational fears of sitting down for dinner at a table for one, or being on a cruise with other couples and you are solo. Move past the initial scary feelings and you’ll see that it isn’t so unusual at all. Some of my tastiest meals have been enjoyed alone, or with a good book, some of my incredible experiences have been the “third wheel” on a snorkeling trip. The best things happen outside the box.
2. You Make Mistakes
You won’t get everything right, and that can be the fun of solo travel. It’s a humbling experience when you are the one accountable and you realize you’ve made an error. I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong and revel in the little victories of being right. Solo travel reminds you that you’re human on a daily basis.
3. Sometimes, it’s OK to be Selfish
Solo travel essentially allows you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. There is a freedom that comes along with solo travel that you won’t get with anyone else. Independence can be perceived as a negative attribute, but I can only take away the positives from being so self-reliant. I think in the end when you solo travel it can only make you a better partner, whether you are single at the moment or not.
4. It’s Even Better to be Selfless
You learn that what you thought may be a trip for yourself can become much more. In traveling along I’ve found a passion in giving back to others. The thing that I’ve learned while solo traveling is that if there is one thing I can do to feel more connected, it’s by volunteering, or being a more mindful person. In all of the places I’ve visited, I’m more attached to the places where I’ve participated in a project or worked with the local community. It’s a way for us to be more global citizens and in that regard, solo travel can be more inclusive than a group trip or family vacation ever will.
5. You’ll Learn More About Yourself than Ever
You’ll grow and learn as a person and you will find out more about yourself as an individual than in doing any other activity. I know this is that annoying existential, philosophical line you hear all the time from solo travelers, but, it’s because it’s true.
6. You’ll Learn to Trust Your Gut
There is something about routine and living in a developed world where you don’t use your senses to the fullest. Instincts tend to fade when we are in our day to day, but being in a new place, relying on yourself gives you a chance to trust yourself again.
7. You’ll be Lonely
I’d challenge anyone traveling solo to say they have NEVER been lonely. It’s going to happen at some point, as a single person you’re going to have the occasional bout of loneliness, but my philosophy is that it can happen anywhere, I better make it happen somewhere wonderful to distract me. When I have a few days where I’m by myself, or maybe I’m in a location where couples are everywhere, a beautiful place can be good for turning your attention away from your feelings of loneliness, for just a moment. That will pass and then solo travel is a great way to embrace it and move through. It creates a moment to look more intentionally at your thoughts and feelings, it gives you permission to pause. Maybe, you learn on a solo trip that you don’t like being alone and thats OK too, but if you push a little past that, it subsides and you may surprise yourself!
8. You’ll Make New Friends & Strengthen Old Bonds
Whether you relish in your alone time or not, being by yourself makes you a better communicator with others and in turn shows you who your good friends are, while helping you make new friends on the road. Communication is paramount when you are traveling alone, and that can come in many forms. From getting the courage to stammer out a sentence in a new language, or jumping around doing make shift sign language to video chatting with family back home, friendships are made and strengthened while your away.
9. You Realize What Really Matters
Norms in society can start to dictate how you live your life over what will really make you happy. Travel can shake that up and let you see what is important in your own life and what will make you happy, not what you think will make you happy or what you think others want you to have to achieve happiness.
10. You’ll Have Unimaginable Highs and Crushing Lows, Sometimes all in the Same Day
You get your bag stolen, but you master the Cambodian Law Enforcement System. You miss your flight, but you tackle public transit in Nicaragua. Your grandfather passes away, but you reflect on his life in a Basilica in Turkey. There are ups and downs in travel, just like in life, and how your react and process those as a solo traveler can be character defining.
11. You’ll Learn More Than you did in School
The world is your classroom. We say it at my house all the time, and travel is a history lesson, a geography class, a sociology experiment and a philosophy course all wrapped in one and more.
12. You’ll Eat the Best Food
My waistline can attest to the fact that you’ll eat some of the BEST foods when traveling, and I’ve noticed you’ll be more likely to try new things or eat locally if you are traveling solo. You don’t have someone in your ear telling you that street meat looks disgusting, you won’t have someone to disagree when choosing a local restaurant and tagging along on that food tour will give you a taste of the country you’re in while making new friends.
13. People Are Inherently Good
No matter where you travel, how far from home you roam, you’ll find that people have a lot more in common than you’d realize regardless of color, religion, culture, language, economic status or gender. This has been one of the strongest, most impressive lessons I’ve learned.
14. The World is a Truly Amazing Place
Superlatives get thrown around all too frequently. Amazing can honestly, accurately describe my thoughts on the world and solo travel gives you the space to feel how small we are in it while somehow simultaneously making you realize how big your presence impacts it.
15. You Change Stereotypes & Push Boundaries
I think this may be one of my favorite parts about solo travel as a woman. You visit a place that has deep patriarchal roots, and teach others a little bit more about traveling solo and living as a single woman.
16. You’re Stronger and Smarter than you think
You can learn languages, navigate foreign roadways, you conquer fears and gain confidence. Solo travel can have the ability to take “I can’t” and spin them into “I can”, there are moments when you have no one to rely on but yourself and you have to be your own cheerleader. It’s in these times on your trip when you realize you can fix just about anything.
17. You can ACTUALLY Dance Like No One is Watching
Ok, it’s a bit of a joke but it has some levity to it. I’ve noticed that, while it may not be dancing, I am more likely to do something I wouldn’t try if I’m in a place where I don’t know anyone. You are free from judgement so try that salsa class, dive into that ocean, fail in an art class or step on a karaoke stage. The longer you are on the road alone, the more self confidence you’ll gain and I promise, it’s fun.
18. You get to do it NOW
Don’t wait for anyone, or anything for that matter to stop you from doing something you dream of. If I would have waited for a boyfriend to take me to Paris, or my husband to honeymoon with me in Zanzibar, then I’d still be on my couch watching others take the leap. You aren’t promised tomorrow, so visit that bucket list place today. You can travel on the cheap or if you have the means, splurge. Take a weekend, take a year, take as much or little time as you need but for the love of everything holy, just GO. You’ll thank me for it.
19. You’re a Total BADASS
I think this one speaks for itself. Enjoy your next adventure!