So, you want to jet off to one of your bucket list travel destinations, but your usual partners in crime just don’t seem keen. Do you put the idea out of your mind, or do you plan to travel alone? Before the travel bug bit me, I found myself in this very predicament, and I am ever so glad that I didn’t allow the lack of enthusiasm from others put me off going on what turned out to be my life’s biggest adventure.
I now travel alone often and many people have asked me if it’s weird. Perhaps you have this question too – perhaps it’s the very question that brought you here!
- You will become more independent and self-trusting.
- You can be selfish or self-centered (do 100% what you want to do).
- You can have complete control over the budget.
- You can make new friends (with no pressure).
- You will truly immerse yourself in the destination/experience.
If you have never traveled alone, I recommend that you try it at least once in your life. You won’t regret it. In fact, it might spark an entirely new hobby – it did with me. The trick to traveling alone is to be open-minded about the experience. Truly apply yourself to the trip and don’t just hide out in your hotel room.
I’d like to share a bit more insight into why I believe traveling alone can be a rewarding experience in the abovementioned ways. Read on if you wish to find out.
The Art of Traveling Alone – How I Got There & Why I Keep Doing It
I first started traveling alone when a friend ditched me on a planned trip. The reasons were acceptable – no harm done, but the disappointment was rife.
Days before the flight, I sat staring at my e-ticket wondering if I had what it takes to travel thousands of miles away, alone, and actually have fun. I decided I had to do it. I remember very clearly that the very first item I bought for my trip, in the days leading up to my flight, was a selfie stick. I wasn’t going to let this holiday and its memories pass me by, and I certainly did put that selfie stick to good use!
With disappointment and the fear of the unknown still hanging over my head when I boarded my international flight, I felt some element of trepidation. I was facing two whole weeks alone in a foreign country. I had never even spent two weeks alone in my own home town before. While I remember these feelings, they do seem like a distant memory now. So much has changed, and I will tell you why. I learned on that trip that solo traveling is a valuable thing to do. In my opinion, It provides rewards and fulfillment like absolutely nothing else can.
Here are 5 ways that it did that.
1. Traveling alone made me trust myself and become more independent.
Have you ever given some complex thought to the reason why humans don’t want to travel alone? What makes us able to fly over the oceans and set foot into some of the most remote and unknown places with someone else, but not by ourselves? General co-dependency is often to blame, along with a lack of self-confidence (which I had a huge helping of just before I left). Somehow, psychologically, humans feel more confident and trust their abilities more when they are with a supportive person by their side.
I was completely gripped with internal fear when I left on that first trip. I wasn’t scared of being mugged or getting lost. What scared me was how I would have fun alone and how I would cope. I didn’t feel confident enough to approach strangers or do activities on my own, and I didn’t trust myself to plan the activities of each day and enjoy them. How crazy is that?
My solo trip made me think more about what I wanted and needed and how to go about getting those things without having to lean on someone else. By forcing me to do things alone, solo travel gave me the biggest gift any hobby could: my sense of independence. And it has certainly filtered through to other areas of my life. While it’s nice to have others around and friends to lean on, I am now confident in the fact that I am completely okay alone and that there is nothing that I cannot accomplish.
2. Traveling alone allowed me to be completely selfish.
Have you ever planned a trip or holiday with your significant other or best friend, and found yourself compromising a few things on your hit list in order to cater to their preferences? Yup, we have all been there.
While traveling alone, I absolutely reveled in selfishness. If there was something I wanted to see, I went. If I wanted to change plans on the spur of the moment, I did. If I walked into a restaurant or bar and didn’t like the atmosphere, I left. And if I felt like sleeping in late a few extra hours instead of bustling off on a tour, I did. There was absolutely no need to consult with someone else on these decisions, and so I found myself able to make decisions with more certainty.
I cannot truly convey in words just how freeing that type of experience is. I also couldn’t help but noticed several couples along the way bickering over what to do. That says a lot – I had none of that. I was free to do exactly as I pleased…and I did.
3. Traveling solo gave me full reign over financial decisions.
I have been on trips with partners and friends before where:
- I have overspent because I feel too scared to say I cannot afford an activity, a transport option, a meal, etc.
- I have missed out on doing something that would be really fun because the other person doesn’t have the available funds and won’t take a sponsored “gift”.
- I have eaten meals in restaurants I haven’t liked to fit in with other people’s budgets and expectations.
I am sure we have all been there. While I was traveling alone, I found great freedom in being able to make all the financial decisions myself and being able to stick to my budget.
I am a thrifty traveler. To save money, I will buy water in grocery stores instead of from the hotel, I will buy a sandwich instead of a fancy meal, I will ditch the guide to take a walk on my own, and I will always opt for the cheaper hotel (don’t judge – you don’t spend much time at the hotel anyway). You get the picture. As you can imagine, this isn’t always every traveler’s cup of tea. It was really great to be able to do precisely as I wanted, based on my own budget.
Best of all, I had no one to answer to and nothing to feel bad about. I had learned the true meaning behind the term “financial freedom” in the I-am-on-a-tight-budget kind of way!
4. Traveling alone enabled me to make new friends without any pressure.
Something I have noticed while traveling is that locals wanted to know just as much about me as I wanted to know about them. Instead of trying to meet other travelers, I took the time to visit the local bars (tourist trap restaurants are great too, but I avoided them). I met wonderful new people who I am still in contact with today.
It was easy to strike up a conversation without a watchful eye on me. It was great to be able to make decisions to go places with new people or stay a while longer to chat, without having to consider someone else’s feelings (there’s that selfishness again!).
I found it freeing to be able to do this. In the past, when with a friend, I might have dedicated all my attention to said friend. Being by myself forced me out of my comfort zone. I asked questions, I introduced myself, and on some occasions I found myself talking and laughing well into the early morning hours, with some of the most interesting and entertaining people I am sure I will ever meet!
5. Traveling solo allowed me to truly immerse myself in the experience and destination.
This is one that’s quite important to me. A few years back, while on a holiday in Tanzania with friends, I stumbled across a museum that was jam-packed with the history of Tanzania. The history was surprisingly interesting because, for some reason, I didn’t know any of it. I desperately wanted to continue through the museum and learn more, but my friends had their hearts set on getting to a bar they had seen several kilometers away.
And what happened?
We hopped into the car, headed out for a few beers, and completely forgot about the museum. This has happened on several occasions where the underlying reasons for me wanting to visit a destination are completely lost in the back and forth of bars, restaurants, and entertainment activities.
While I was traveling alone, I realized the value in being able to truly immerse myself in the history, culture, and people of the destination. And that experience can only be described as transformative. For once, I was completely fulfilled and my desires to visit a destination had been satisfied.
Grappling with the Idea of Traveling Alone? Just do it!
There are many other ways that traveling alone provided value to my trip and my life. If you are wondering if you should embark on an adventure alone or miss out on the opportunity, I implore you to just do it. You only live once and if you miss out on the adventure, you could be missing out on the trip of a lifetime.