A little over a year ago, my passport was almost as naked as Kim Kardashian when she “broke the internet.” I’ve been to seven countries and more than twice as many cities since. I was lucky enough to share some of my travel experiences with friends. But I was even luckier to embark on some of those journeys alone. Here are 10 reasons why I think solo travel is the best kind of travel.
There’s a method to the madness of successfully planning a trip. Coordinating transportation, accommodations, activities and budgets is a tall order for even the most seasoned travel planners. People have crazy schedules, different tastes and bank balances too. If planning a trip for yourself is tricky, planning a trip for two or more is tricky on steroids. From an organizational point of view traveling alone is easily the best choice.
I don’t know the exact science behind it (or if there is one at all), but experiencing things alone versus experiencing things with people can often amplify the experience on a few different levels. Your mind, body, and most of all your soul are sometimes more alert and alive when you don’t have the company of others to dull your senses. Solo travel allows you to be more aware of your surroundings, of others, and most importantly yourself. It’s the ideal means of self-reflection and self-discovery.
PLAY BY YOUR OWN RULES
In the world of travel, few things are as underrated as a rock solid itinerary. It’s fun to see where your travels take you, it’s also nice to have an idea of what your next move is. What’s even better? Having complete control of that itinerary should you decide to use one. There’s nothing worse than looking at your to-do list and seeing a bunch of places/activities that you could care less about mixed in with the things you actually WANT to do. My best experiences always seem to be when I go with the flow, something I can’t always do when I’m with others. Want to take pictures of cheesy tourist locations? Do it. Want to party and wake up a hungover mess? Do it. When you travel alone, you don’t have to play nice and compromise valuable time and experiences because your travel partner(s) want to do something else.
I mentioned this before in 6 Ways Travel Makes You A Better Person but it’s worth mentioning again; making friends is one of the easiest and most rewarding things to do while traveling. There are friendly faces all over the globe. I’ve befriended some of the coolest people in the cities and countries I’ve been to. You don’t have to be an extrovert, you just have to be open minded. When you travel with friends, it’s easy to stay in your bubble with someone you’re already comfortable with. But you have a world of friends you haven’t met yet all around you. If you can do it on Facebook, you can do it in real life.
BECOME A BETTER TRAVELLER
People choose travel buddies based on compatibility. It’s fun to travel with someone you find funny, charming or smart. But it’s also distracting at times. You’ll be much more attentive to people on your own, which should in turn make you more considerate, compassionate and empathetic. Being alone as the odd one out affects the way you experience the world. Not only will you likely become a better person, you’ll become a more curious one. And what better way to learn about people and the world around you than by paying attention, asking a bunch questions and genuinely learning?
No matter how many hours of prep you put into planning your trip, sometimes life throws a curveball. Learning to adjust to these unforeseen circumstances on your own is what ultimately makes you a more independent traveller. When you have no one to help you out of a sticky situation, you go into survival mode. You won’t get down on yourself as much when things don’t workout, because you’ll know there are viable alternatives.
You’ll be much more patient and willing to solve your problems, because if you don’t, no one else will. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how resourceful you are when you have to hack it for yourself. You’ll try harder to speak the local language and be more attentive when asking and receiving directions. You’ll be a sharper judge of character, more adventurous and at the same time more cautious. If you travel alone often enough, you’ll be more comfortable getting things done for yourself, by yourself. And that my friends, takes you one step closer to the freedom you crave.
STICK TO YOUR BUDGET
For most of us, money in some form or the next increases our ability to travel comfortably. Some people do a great job of traveling with little to no money at all. Others splurge and travel lavishly. Most people are somewhere in between. Deciding where to eat, stay, how much to spend on flights or even souvenirs, it all comes down to your budget. Someone may run out of cash and you’ll cover the bill. Maybe someone gets their wallet/purse stolen, a card gets frauded or any other number of things that can go wrong involving money. The bottom line is this, it’s much easier to keep track of expenses when you’re by your lonesome.
This point is especially important to me as a travel blogger. I take more high quality pictures and much better travel notes when traveling alone. I can spend hours getting some pretty solid photography done or writing about the things I’ve experienced. Prices, directions, tips from locals, even something as seemingly trivial as the weather. They all go into my notes. I think good note taking, photography and video can tie a trip together nicely, not to mention improve my blog posts. When my memory fades, I can look back on my documentation and be taken right back to the moments I collected during the actual trip. It also makes the storytelling experience more personal and unique.
There’s a curious thing that I sometimes notice when I’m out in the world exploring. People get upset and very unpleasant with locals when they don’t treat them as though they were in their hometown. While visiting Taipei 101, I overheard a conversation between two Frenchmen. I’ve translated and summarized it below.
F1:“I find it ridiculous that not everyone speaks English here.”
F2: “I agree, it’s such a popular destination, they should train their employees.”
F1: “We are from France and even we speak English.”
Should/could the employee have better English skills? Maybe. Is it her fault two jerks weren’t understanding enough to realize that Taiwan’s national language is standard Mandarin and not English? Not in the least. My point is, don’t be like those two jerks! Learn a few key words in the language of the country you’re in and use them every chance you get. It really is the thought that counts in those situations. Locals know when you’re a foreigner ninety nine percent of the time, but it shows respect and humility when you try to bridge the gap. Use your time in a new place to take in as much of another culture as possible, food, religion, sounds, smells, take it all in. It’s one of the best parts of travel.
There’s nothing more empowering and better for your confidence than planning your own trip, seeing it through and coming back with a bunch of memories and stories to show for it. It’s the ultimate “Yes I can.” scenario. Getting through a conversation with someone who knows as few words in your language as you do in theirs will make you feel like you can make something out of nothing. Learning slang words (or curse words … ha) in a foreign language, navigating through a busy city on the local bus or train—Doing these things successfully will make anyone feel like there’s no challenge they can’t face. Why rely on a buddy when you can rely on yourself?
You’re thinking to yourself, “Great! But I’m still scared to travel alone.” And to that I say “BS!” (baby steps). Start by doing something as simple as going to a movie or dinner alone. Next, try a weekend alone in a neighbouring city. Solo domestic travel is the perfect icebreaker before traveling to farther destinations on your own. Even if you never build up the nerve to leave the country by yourself, a weekend getaway or two-week vacation alone may be just what you need to recharge your batteries. Try it. You’ll enjoy the “me” time.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love traveling alone. Mainly because it inspires me to be a better version of myself. I never run out of things to do and to be quite honest, I know that I’m never really alone. I can start a conversation and make new friends in a matter of minutes. The benefits of traveling solo far outweigh the drawbacks, so don’t be afraid. Take the solo plunge, you’ll be a better person for it.
Want to read more on solo travel?
- Elite Daily: People Who Travel Alone All Have One Thing In Common: They’re Wise
- Nomadic Matt: Why I Travel Alone
- And for the ladies – Wander Onwards: Why Women Aren’t Helpless When They Travel Alone
Did you like this post? Have you ever travelled solo? Have you had a bad experience traveling with others? I’d love to hear from you! Hit me in the comment section! Let’s share our experiences and make traveling better for everyone. You can also mention me on Twitter [at]DriftAway2015 or on Facebook at Drift Away – Travel Blog. Hope to hear from you!!
Until next time,