Traveling with people you love is arguably the best way to go about it. Sharing the experience allows the excitement to live on for months or years after the actual trip and inserts a sense of timelessness into memories made over the course of a few days or weeks at most. Yet, despite the obvious advantages to traveling in the company of others, there is a heck of a lot to be said about traveling in the best company of all – yourself. Sure, it can be intimidating and it can be scary (in fact, if it’s your first time, it probably will be) but it is also the most empowering experience you will ever have. And the truth is, I miss it.
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Jean-Paul Satre
Years ago, I boarded a plane to Singapore with a one-way ticket and no idea of what would come next. I remember passing through security, seeing my dad fade into the group of people saying their farewells on the other side of the gate, and thinking: What the hell am I doing? I wasn’t a first-time traveler and I was use to spending months away from home, but this time it was different.
This time, I wasn’t heading towards anything specific like a 6-month exchange, or a volunteer trip overseas; this time, I was taking off to plant my feet somewhere they’d never been, without any notion of what I’d do once I finally arrived. I mean, I had a rough idea; I’d booked some of my flights before leaving, and sort of, kind of, planned to end up in London where I could stay with family and figure out my next move. I was shocked at the fear that swept over me as I boarded the plane, backpack in cargo and Frommer’s “Guide to South-East Asia” plunked solidly on my lap. Little did I know back then that that whirlwind trip would be the beginning of a love-affair I would quickly develop with solo travel.
5 Reasons You Will Fall In Love With Solo Travel
1. You will feel empowered: When you’re traveling by yourself, you have no choice but to dive headfirst into uncomfortable situations. Uncomfortable, not dangerous – they are very different and you have to be careful (particularly as a female traveler) to distinguish between the two. From linguistic barriers to directional mishaps, and plans gone array – when you’re away from home, anything can happen, and you have to be able to rely on yourself to find a solution. The best part? The moment you realize you can. After that, the world truly is yours to discover.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
2. You will feel free: Life is full of compromises, but travel doesn’t have to be. Well, solo travel doesn’t have to be anyway. When you travel alone, you have the freedom to explore things on your own time. You can take your time sauntering through an art museum or explore the best bakeries in town, one by one, by one. Thirsty? Drink! Hungry? Eat! Tired? Stay in with your book and a steamy cup of chai. Sunrises to sunsets, when you’re not on someone elses clock, there’s absolutely nowhere you need to be.
3. You will re-discover yourself: Being able to suck the absolute most out of your visit to anywhere new is a really unique experience and allows you to discover more about yourself than you might have known. What do you like to do, to see, to explore? Being able to prioritize your time with no input from anyone else is an insanely liberating experience and really helps you reconnect to who you are, not who the reality of home demands you be.
4. You will see things differently: When you’re traveling with friends and family, there is always someone else taking up some of your attention. Being in the company of others shapes the way you understand the world around you. Once you step back and focus less on the social interaction of being with another person, you can focus more on what’s directly in front of your face. There’s a whole world to see, and you can experience it all – on your own.
5. You will realize that you are never alone: One of the most ironic side affects of solo travel is the realization that wherever you are in the world, you are never really alone. No matter how hard you try, when you’re traveling by yourself, you will unintentionally run into people who will weasel their way into your travel plans, and then, before you know it, become a huge part of your life. Next thing you know, you’re planning semi-annual trips to Finland, stopping over in Sweden, swinging through Denmark and by-passing Munich in order to visit the friends you met around the world.
That’s my experience anyway. Are you ready to shape yours?