I’d been traveling on a part-time regular basis for seven years when I found myself out of friends or family members to travel with. They had other plans or weren’t interested in my destination choices. I needed to make a decision. Would I wait on people or would I take the leap into solo travel? It terrified me to no end at first, doubting myself and my abilities. Three years ago I booked my first solo trip, refusing to let fear be my guide, and I haven’t looked back.
Solo travel changed me.
If you’ve traveled solo, I’m certain you’ll agree with me. If you haven’t, these five ways that solo travel will change you might be just the encouragement you need to take the leap.
It Pushes You Beyond Your Comfort Zone
The comfort and security of being surrounded by your circle of friends and family, partaking in the daily routine of work, home, repeat can pull many of us into a funk. We don’t make a conscious effort in our daily lives to divert from routine or introduce new experiences into the formula of our lives. Solo travel awards us the opportunity to break free from that routine and step out of our comfort zone. By traveling, solo you leave behind the familiar and are surrounded by new people, new foods and new experiences. All of this newness can be overwhelming, but if you allow yourself to take that step out of your comfort zone, you will be amazed by what’s on the other side. Stepping out permits you to break down walls and learn new things. It creates a bolder sense of self.
It Creates Greater Self Confidence
Most travelers who always travel with friends or family have a crutch of sorts with having the ability to consult with them about decisions and bounce ideas off them. This isn’t a bad thing, but traveling solo pushes you to make your own choices, stand by your own decision making skills, and rely on yourself. By being more independent and self-reliant, you’ll soon see your confidence grow. Maneuvering through foreign cities, connecting with locals, and filling your days with fresh experiences that bring you joy will enlighten your sense of self. You’ll realize that if you can do that – find your hotel amid the winding alleyways of Venice, communicate that you want a café con leche in a small bar in northern Spain, and allow yourself to enjoy your own company as you browse Paris’s Louvre museum – then you can probably do anything you put your mind to!
It Builds Stronger Trust
One of the biggest things you’ll develop while traveling solo is trust. There will be circumstances where you’ll think something doesn’t seem right, maybe it’s a scam or a cabbie trying to charge you more, maybe it’s that invitation to go somewhere with someone new, and it’s then that you’ll learn to trust your gut. There will be other times when you’ll put your trust in someone else, a stranger. Perhaps you’re lost and they offer to give you a lift to your destination, or a local offers to show you an off the beaten path hidden gem in their city, and your instinct tells you to go for it, be comfortable and trust them. If there is one paramount thing travelers learn about our beautiful world, it’s that it’s not the big scary place the media and news make it out to be. The world is full of warm, welcoming, and kind people. And by traveling solo, you’ll develop a stronger trust in yourself and better judgement for when to put your trust in others.
It Will Open You Up to the Unexpected
One thing I’ve noticed while traveling with others is that I am less likely to meet new people along the way. But once I started traveling solo, even the introvert in me became more open to meeting new people. I found that by traveling alone, even while I enjoyed doing things by myself, I wanted to reach out and connect with locals and fellow travelers. Being more open to new people turned into being more receptive to different perspectives. Combined with pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I found my openness brought new experiences into my travels, along with a willingness to say yes to almost everything. With solo travel, you’re less likely to have a structured itinerary, which allows you to be open to what the day will bring. I guarantee that these experiences will surprise you. If you’re open to the unexpected, you’ll have amazing adventures, those stories that you’ll share time and again, the kind of memorable moments you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
You Will Experience Deeper Happiness
When you travel with others, there are compromises. There may be places you visit or activities you do that might not be your cup of tea. Solo travel awards you the opportunity to choose the destinations you want to explore, to fill your days with things that you want to do, and skip the ones you don’t. Filling your days with places and activities you love will flood your heart and spirit with joy, and this will linger through your travels.
By traveling solo, I discovered I was happier, not lonelier. I was living life on my terms, not worried of what others thought or if friends and family approved. I realized I could be just as happy by myself – watching the sun set off the coast of Cinque Terre in Italy, hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, or celebrating with a martini in hand for my 30th birthday in Charlotte, North Carolina – I didn’t need anyone else to help me create fun and joyful memories. I could choose my own happiness.
Solo travel can be hard, but it is also deeply rewarding. It will surprise you, and it will give you a freedom that knows no bounds.
The rewards don’t stop when you get home, either. They can be applied to your everyday life. Once you start traveling solo and inevitably stepping out of your comfort zone, gaining greater confidence and enjoying a deeper happiness, you’ll probably notice a change in the quality of your life at home as well. Like me, you’ll be more likely to continue to try new things and experiences, even in places familiar to you. In this way, solo travel changes everything. It becomes less about escaping your daily life and more about enriching it. Give it a try, and afterwards your new mantra might be I Can Do Anything!
Have you traveled solo? How has it changed you?