7 Reasons Traveling Solo is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
Traveling solo is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. There are plenty of opportunities to take a trip alone! Your typical travel partner(s) might be unable to get time off or uninterested in your desired location. You might just want time for yourself! Treat yourself to a solo vacation – it’s one of the most valuable experiences you can give yourself. You will leave your destination with new confidence, skills, and a new appreciation for yourself and the world.
People who travel alone (at least once!) reap many benefits from a solo trip. It can instill independence, confidence, and self-awareness. It can also boost creativity and fuel gratefulness and humility. Solo trips quiet the mind and encourage thoughtfulness, insight, and respect for diverse perspectives. This can inspire new ideas and help problem solve. You will likely make friends along the way, and you are certain to learn something new about yourself!
You will learn humility
I was taught humility in a recent trip to Sedona, Arizona. I was there for a work conference by myself, but I decided to go four days early and hike Sedona. I flew into Phoenix and planned to drive the two hours north with a rental car.
After being directed to board a shuttle that would take me to my rental car, I was dropped off in a parking lot 20 minutes away from the airport, alone with my luggage. It became apparent that I was in the wrong place when my car was nowhere to be found!
I needed help figuring out what to do and where to go, but there wasn’t another soul around. I called the airport to problem solve and eventually found an employee driving an empty shuttle. He ultimately helped get me where I needed to go.
Afterwards, I marveled at how freaked out I was and yet was able to find a solution relatively quickly. I laughed at myself for the mix up and certainly was humbled by the experience!
I got lost multiple times while hiking in Sedona (at least once a day if not more) and had to ask other hikers for directions. I often tried to trust myself and kept walking the way I assumed I should.
On a separate trip coming home from India, I missed my flight from JFK to Cleveland and spent 7 hours waiting for the next one. I certainly felt humble as I sat alone in the airport, counting my change to see if I could buy a $7 container of hummus and crackers for dinner!
The silver linings to all of these experiences are the lessons learned. I learned independence and resourcefulness when I was dropped off in that random parking lot in Arizona. While getting lost hiking, I learned to stay calm and enjoy the surroundings, as well as trust my instincts (often I wasn’t off the trail, I just thought I was until I saw more hikers).
On my way home from India, I channeled creativity as I used a pay phone to call my family. When my time ran up (and so did my quarters), they simply called back the pay phone number. We talked for hours about my adventures in India for free!
You will become more independent and self-reliant
Traveling solo also allows you to make your own decisions. On a group trip, you’ve likely planned the activities of your day before it started and even decided where you’re going for dinner that night. When you’re on your own, you don’t have to ask someone else where they want to eat, how they want to spend budgeted money, or what they want to do for leisure. Heck, you don’t even have to get their opinion on your vacation destination! It’s all up to you!
There’s a freedom that comes from this. Feeling great on your hike and don’t want to stop for lunch? You don’t have to! Exhausted from your day and rather grab a glass of wine then go on that two-hour walking tour? Go for it! You will wonder why you haven’t traveled alone once you realize the freedom that accompanies it.
You will make friends
At home in the hustle and bustle of my life, I am guilty of not making time for new friendships. Heck, sometimes I barely make enough time for some of my current friendships. Solo travelers tend to attract kindred spirits. It’s easy to be caught up in conversation when traveling with a couple or group. On the other hand, you are much more approachable as a single traveler. Pick up a book or journal instead of looking at your phone and you are sure to be approached by someone.
While hiking, I met a travel nurse couple planning to get married in a few months. I also met Bob (from Detroit) who told me about four of the amazing hikes I did. I met a young woman who quit her 9-5 day job to hike across Asia by herself. In India, I met a woman at the gym who became a close friend for many years. We spent most of my 3 months in India traveling together and met up again when she was in the United States a few years later to reminisce.
Sometimes interactions with strangers hit you differently than they would if you weren’t alone. Once, after visiting a Vortex on a hike, a gentleman along the trail handed me a heart-shaped stone that he hand carved. He shared with me his goal of spreading a message by handing out these stones. His message was that unconditional love was meant for all humans to receive and we should do all we can not to stand in its way.
I was undoubtedly touched by his gift and his message. As I continued hiking alone down the path, I found tears streaming down my face – tears of gratefulness for the love I’d received and given throughout my life, and tears of sadness for the hurt and pain in the world. I am confident that had I experienced this same interaction with another person or group I would have likely been too embarrassed to fully show its impact. Instead, I allowed this powerful wave of emotions to wash over me. It felt real and good.
You will become more self-aware
Though you are bound to make friends as your travel alone, you are also likely to become lonely. Loneliness can be a good thing! I like to think that if you miss your day-to-day life back home, it’s a good sign that you enjoy it. Loneliness can also produce self-reflection and awareness by revealing how you like to spend your time. You will get to know your own pace, rhythms, and preferences.
For example, I’ve found that my ideal day starts with an early morning (around 4am) with time for reflection and a cup of coffee before anyone else is awake. This gives me time to be quiet and starts my day mindfully. I think part of the reason I enjoy this routine so much is because I consider it my alone time. I’ve also found that I prefer to start winding down for bed around 8pm. I realized that I care more about getting enough sleep than catching up on a TV show or the news.
I feel more genuine throughout my day if I am true to my pace and tendencies. Following this routine makes me more calm, empathetic, and open minded. What could be more important than knowing yourself well enough to respect and trust your preferences?
Another benefit of traveling alone is the peace and tranquility that comes with alone time. The mind quiets and thoughts untangle. When you’re on your own, you tend to have an internal dialogue that you may never had noticed if you’d been holding a conversation with a friend. These private moments are when I have my deepest sense of gratitude, my most empowering thoughts, my most inspiring ideas.
A lone run will sometimes do this at home, but only after a trip with a few hours or days of allowing my mind uninterrupted time will I have a thought so eureka that it stops me in my tracks! This is when I solved a problem I didn’t realize I was thinking about or have a great idea about a new opportunity or goal. I can flip a problem on its head and gain a new perspective. I often come back from my alone time more appreciative of current relationships and an intense thankfulness for my life.
You will improve your recall and have a richer experience
An unexpected finding during solo travel is the vivid way you remember specific views, meals, and events. Since there are no distractions from your surroundings, you tend to focus more on your environment. You can take in every detail of your environment – the passing landscape, the dialects of locals, the chatter of birds. This allows for a more vivid recall and a richer experience than you may have in other trips with groups.
In Sedona, I felt euphoria as I hiked along Little Horse Trail, my last hike of the trip before I had to drive back to Phoenix. I couldn’t believe I had hiked 6-8 hours a day for the last 4 days by myself. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for having the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place. I soaked up the view of the mountains and canyons.
The pictures I took, though beautiful, couldn’t quite capture the view. I scribbled notes to myself of the rock colors and patterns. I noticed that the mountains were dotted by green trees, as if the trees themselves were hoping to climb to the top of the mountain eventually.
The lower third of the rocks were a dark brick red, with a burnt orange stack of rocks separating it from the layer of rock above it. The top layer was a marbled grey and white, while the entire mountain was streaked with white stripes – it looked as though the mountain had been crying white tears. All rock formations I experienced were a variation of these colors and combinations. Taking away all distractions, even music, allowed me to drink in the surroundings completely.
You’ll become more confident
It might sound silly, but I was flooded with pride and confidence in my ability to plan and carry out this trip by myself. The things I was proud of were all things a 30-year-old should be able to do – fly by oneself, rent a car, plan daily activities, find a place to eat, make smart and safe decisions about when to walk and hike alone. Even so, I felt a new sense of independence in my new-found ability to take care of myself.
I can’t say enough good things about travel, let alone traveling solo! The next time you are longing to travel somewhere specific and your friends or family are not interested, go by yourself. If you are craving a vacation but can’t find anyone to join you, go by yourself.
If you want to visit a historical site or city but your family members prefer a beach vacation, part ways for a change! You come back to your daily life with new confidence, self-awareness, and a passion for life.
Where have you traveled to by yourself? What value did you get from it? Are there lessons learned that you’d like to share with the world? Tell me below!