Before you read this article, I must confess that it is part of a series of 4 posts about the advantages of different travel companion options. I’m going to discuss the perks of traveling solo, of traveling with your best friend, of traveling with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, and of traveling with your family.
So you’re interested in traveling alone but not sure how or where to go?
You’ve read a few articles about how traveling solo can help you find your true self?
You have a sense of adventure?
You want to take a risk?
You’re trying to build your self condolence?
Or you’re wondering what on earth is all the fuss about traveling solo about?
Let’s get down to business.
As a self-declared expert in solo travel (I’ve backpacked more than 15 countries on my own), I would like to share some things I know.
Let’s start with a hard and fast rule:
Every single person should travel alone at least once in their life.
Let’s clarify: when I say travel alone, it is not required to go far away to a foreign country where you can’t speak the language and drop thousands of dollars in the process… although that would be great, it certainly isn’t an experience that everyone would enjoy or be able to afford. Instead, when I say travel alone, I mean that you go somewhere you have never been before… a place where you know no one… and you do it solo.
The reason why I think that everyone should travel alone at least once is because I believe traveling alone offers the following benefits to anyone who’s brave & daring enough to give it a go:
1.) WTF do I do now?!! Traveling alone teaches you how to solve problems under stress. When there’s no one else around to help you navigate from point A to point B, to offer advice about where to go, what to do, and what to see, you are left to figure out the answers for yourself. And when you do that, you learn that no problem is too big, and you have the capacity to use your creativity, knowledge, and natural intellect to solve even the stickiest of situations.
2.) Hi, I’m Taylor. Traveling alone teaches you how to meet people and how to make small talk. These skills are an important part of most people’s jobs, and when you travel solo, you will become a master of introducing yourself and conversing with people from different backgrounds than your own.
3.) What time is it? Ditch your watch, because when you travel alone, you are completely in control of your schedule. What time you go to bed, what time you wake up, what time you eat, what time you go to the museum (or don’t), it’s all up to you. Everyday life involves coordinating your schedule with your job or responsibilities with others, but if you choose to travel alone then it’s 24 hours of whatever you feel like doing each day.
4.) Can you help me? Sometimes, you just can’t solve the problem and you need some assistance. Traveling alone teaches you how to be vulnerable and ask others to help. Kind strangers are often a major highlight of any solo travel journey. There is the couple that helped you find your hotel when you were lost, the lady who pointed out her favorite pieces in the museum, the guy who helped change your bike tire when it was flat, the guy who had an extra bottle of water when you ran out while hiking, and the lady who invites you for a beer because you look like her daughter. By traveling solo, I’ve become much more aware of the good inside of everyone, the compassion, the empathy, and the willingness to help that we all share regardless of where we call home.
5.) OMG, so embarrassing! Traveling solo helps you to take yourself less seriously. While getting out there, experiencing new things, and meeting new people, odds are highly likely that you will do or say something embarrassing. Traveling solo teaches you to laugh at yourself when things don’t go as planned. You learn that not every minute needs to be perfectly structured, and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Also, you are usually the harshest judge of you. So let it go, and laugh at yourself when you mess up.
6.) Everything I need to know, I did not learn in kindergarten. Or any level of school, for that matter. There are things that can’t be taught. You can only learn them by experience. The answers to your deepest questions may not be in the pages of a book, but rather waiting out there in those quiet moments when you’re alone with me, myself, & I. Most people have a hard time unplugging and listening to their own thoughts without distraction. Traveling alone creates many moments where you’re forced to be alone with your thoughts and even more opportunities for you to question your assumptions about the world.
So you’ve read the above 6 reasons and you believe the hype… you’re ready to take the next step & travel solo.
Here’s how to do it:
1.) Establish your why. Why are you traveling alone? What do you hope to gain from your experience? If your answer is to get out of your shell and meet new people from different places, a large, metropolitan city will be your ideal destination. If you want to get away from the stress of your everyday life and spend some time taking care of yourself, you’ll want to find a nice retreat near the sea or in the mountains. Getting very clear about your WHY can help you to imagine the kind of location where you’d be likely to accomplish your intention.
2.) Pick a destination that will allow you to fulfill your why. Need a big city full of interesting people? Book a flight to New York or Barcelona. Need some alone time? Head to Sedona, AZ, or Lake Como in Northern Italy.
3.) Book your transportation. Get those days off of work and book your flight/train/bus, whatever! Booking a ticket and reserving a room in a hostel or hotel makes it much less likely that you’ll chicken out at the last minute, which can happen if you are thinking of driving and not booking ahead. So buy those tickets so that you have a firm investment in your solo trip on the line.
4.) Plan some activities. (Or don’t!) Again, this goes back to your WHY and your intention for your trip. It’s your time, you can choose how you want to spend it.
5.) Get some backup. If it’s your first time traveling solo, get a backup team in place. These are people you trust and you can send your transportation and accommodation info to. If there’s any problems, these people know where you are supposed to be at and can help.
6.) Go there and be there. You decided on it, you booked it, you planned it, you made it to your destination. So don’t check Facebook every hour or text your friends nonstop. Get off your phone. Make yourself available in that place, be open to new experiences, new friends, and new ideas.
In conclusion, here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Life is not about finding yourself… it’s about creating yourself.”
Solo travel gives you the space to discover new things about the person you think you know best – you. Sometimes what you find is frightening, other times it’s exciting, interesting, or enchanting. Always you have the opportunity to embrace or work on changing every aspect of yourself.
You’ll never know until you GO.