There was a recent story I read about a bride, Katy Colins who was left standing at the alter. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she swapped weddings for wanderlust and quit her job, sold ‘anything that wouldn’t fit into a large back-pack’, her house and her car and booked a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. Little did she know that backpacking around Thailand, India and Nepal on her own would lead to her achieving a childhood dream of becoming a published author.
Katy said, “Everyone did think I was a little mad, especially as I’d never travelled anywhere by myself before, but it just felt right. I needed the time away from everything and everyone I knew to find myself, but it wasn’t as cheesy as that.”
To read more about this story and see what incredible experiences Katy went through, click here.
So then, what is it about solo travel that has caused it to become more popular than ever before?
The greatest thing you get with solo travel is independence. It’s not just about the trip, it’s about you; taking on new challenges and finding out what you can achieve when you take yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s also an opportunity for self-discovery away from family and friends who may expect you to act in a certain way.
Traveling alone also makes you a better observer of people and places around you, which in turn has the power to make you more compassionate and a better person overall. Being an outsider automatically changes the way you interact with others, and these changes are positive when it comes to travel. In addition to making you kinder and more patient, solo travel increases your curiosity about your surroundings, and chances are you’ll learn a lot about others simply by paying more attention than you would if you were with a travel companion.
Solo travel also offers up some much needed ‘me’ time. In our ever-connected world filled with digital distractions, it can be a challenge to take the time that’s necessary to recharge one’s battery and get away from moments in your life that you don’t feel are healthy for you to be in right now. Fortunately, solo travel offers the time and space that’s necessary for some valuable alone time.
What’s more, you’ll learn a lot about yourself in a way that’s simply impossible when you’re in the midst of your normal daily routine. You may surprise yourself by the new interests you develop when traveling, or the way you interact with strangers differently than you would when at home. It also gives you the opportunity to look at life with some distance and think about future goals with a fresh set of eyes.
You will find you also become more accommodating in life. Not everything works your way, this is life, and solo travel will help teach you not to get disappointed when things don’t go according to plan. Why? Because it can open up new doors and take you down new pathways of adventure. Itineraries are only there to give you a broad picture of what you CAN do on your trip; they don’t decide what and how you should get the most out of this experience. There will be times on your trip when you wake up late or you miss your bus but you don’t get disappointed. Instead, you make an opportunity out of it to explore.
Travelling alone also gives you the opportunity to make new friends. Without a doubt, one of the biggest deterrents from solo travel is the fear of feeling lonely. However, this doesn’t have to be the way. For meals, find restaurants where you can dine at the bar and interact with the bartender or skip restaurants altogether and stick to street food or groceries. Want to meet some locals? Research lively cafes or bars that appeal to your tastes, try to find spots that are popular with other travellers. Sign up for adventure sports or museum tours to meet people with similar interests.
Speaking the local tongue will be a great help in interacting with strangers. But keep in mind that English is as close to a universal language as we’ve got, so you’re already in good shape. Also, bear in mind that being a solo traveler automatically makes you an interesting person with a story to tell anyone you meet, so capitalize on that.
On the other hand, if being sociable is really the last thing you want right now, solo travel gives you the time and space to be on your own and allows you to be a bit anti-sociable for a while, away from all the people and drama back at home. You don’t know anyone, and you don’t necessarily need too, just enjoy the time by yourself and allow yourself that much needed time alone.
Travelling on your own will definitely boost your confidence as well. Successfully ordering a meal in botched German, picking up the latest slang, chatting up locals at a farmers’ market in Vermont, making new friends in Hong Kong, navigating the idiosyncrasies of train systems all over the world—these are just some of the rewards you can gain from solo adventures. It’s nice to have someone to rely on, but it’s particularly satisfying when that someone is you.
The more you travel alone, the more likely you are to feel like you can tackle any challenge with self-confidence. No English menu at a Bangkok restaurant? Not a problem. Transit strike in France? No sweat. Stuck overnight at O’Hare? You can deal with that. Of course, the more confident you feel when traveling alone, the more confident you’ll feel at home. Whenever one of life’s little challenges emerge, you can simply remind yourself of all that you’ve handled on your own all over the world—it’ll put your problems in perspective.
Finally, solo travel allows you to take time for deep thinking and offers a new perspective on life, often allowing you to find the answer to an important question. If you’ve never travelled alone because your first thought is, “What would I even do with myself?” I implore you to plan a solo trip immediately. In addition to everything I’ve mentioned above, you will daydream, you will read, you will have exciting adventures, you will encounter funny things to tell your friends about, you will sleep well, you will eat new things, you will discover new people and their ways of living, you will want to learn new languages, you will think about your next trip, you will talk to strangers, you will take risks, you will buy new clothes, you will learn about history and culture, you will go to concerts, you will stroll through parks, you will explore cities by bike and so much more. In fact, there’s so much you can do when you travel alone that you’ll wonder how you ever managed to travel with someone else in the past.