Traveling solo can be
scary. Initially you might feel like you are jumping off the edge into a world of unknown possibilities and letting go of your comforts, control and security. You might first question yourself, but hopefully you ‘jump’ and find that you’re stronger than you thought you were and experiencing personal growth while having the time of your life.
After going solo through my study abroad program and backpacking through Europe for about four months, I have found traveling solo is probably the best thing that you could ever do – let me convince you further.
1. Freedom to do things on YOUR time, HOW you want to and WHEN you want to. Time is the most valuable thing you have while traveling and how you use it will create your personal experience. It’s a freeing feeling to not be pressured by other people’s ideas of where to go, what to eat and how to travel.
2. You’ll learn to communicate like a boss. Language barriers often deter people away from traveling, especially solo. Fear not, keep an open mind and try your best to assimilate into the culture. You’d be surprised
how far you can get with patience, body language and a smile. People want to help you out, especially if you show that you are actively TRYING to learn things about their country. Sure, most people will speak English; but the last thing you want to do is be an ignorant tourist and rely strictly on your primary language. Before you know it you’ll be picking up some words to take home and share with friends.
3. Meet a lot of crazy people, and get sucked into the madness. Some people worry about traveling alone, and actually being alone. What you don’t realize initially is how many friends you WILL make abroad, especially when you are alone (catch 22?). The thing is, if you’re traveling alone you are more inclined to
go out of your comfort zone and talk to people, planning anything from dinners to weekend adventures. It’s also easier to be incorporated into unique happenings (polish weddings, random dinner’s at strangers homes, crashing on people’s couches, cheap ride-shares; just to name a few.)
4. You are free to express yourself without caring about what other people think. This is a unique time to explore who you are. You are in a place where no one knows you. There are no expectations for you to live up to. You can experiment with different styles that express your personality. I personally chose ‘the daily hobo look’.
5. Experiencing emotions freely. It’s not to say that you don’t have days that you laugh with your friends or cry with your family, but this is completely different. When you travel, you will experience a series of emotions ranging anywhere from ‘so excited you might die’ to ‘so stressed I want to die’. When you
travel alone you are given the opportunity to gain insight on why things make you feel a particular way. No one is around to judge your thoughts or feelings. The places you go will instill a sense of awe. That there is something more to life. That you have a purpose to live. Being able to fully experience these emotions and reflect on them is the best thing about traveling, period. [Read “My Experience in Lourdes, France”.]
6. Learning to fend for yourself. For maybe the first time in your life you will be completely on your own. You are responsible for managing all of your finances, planning your days, adapting to new environments and learning important things to keep yourself safe and happy. You become really efficient at choosing between; necessities or wants, sitting to enjoy the view or exploring the city further and most importantly your choice to dream or live (I like to choose both).
7. Opportunity to reflect on your life. Our lives are so busy sometimes that we find ourselves without ANY time to think. When traveling alone time becomes your best friend. You have downtime between cities, you can choose whether to spend time alone or go out with friends and you finally have the flexibility to spend time with your thoughts. While you’re abroad you are faced with so many new decisions and opportunities that is can sometimes be overwhelming. In order to gain personal growth from these unique experiences it is SO IMPORTANT to
reflect on your life, the choices you’ve made to get you to this point, where you want to go and how you want to live. Write down as much of your experiences as you can; it’s amazing how many details you can forget within a few weeks.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
I wish I could tell you that solo travel is a ‘walk in the park’ but I will warn you that it’s not. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.
1. You will get lonely, at least once. Maybe sometime during your crazy adventures you will be sitting alone and find something incredibly funny that you want to share. You will quickly realize that y
ou’re are alone without wifi and the stranger next to you thinks you’re crazy because you’re loling for what appears to be ‘no reason’. Count it as a simple life blessing.
2. Homesickness. You may or may not experience this during your trip, at least a bit. You will find yourself at some point completely exhausted, sleeping in ridiculous places and maybe it’s been a few days since you’ve showered, eaten a good meal or weeks since you’ve done laundry (truth). You may think back to how good you had it back home – but there is beauty in the struggle. [Read “Strange Places You Sleep While Backpacking”]
But if you do find yourself getting homesick…snapchat, whatsapp or facetime your fam and friends back home.
3. Health and Safety. You are traveling alone, and need to consider your health and safety a main priority. When you are planning your itineraries, make sure to avoid unnecessary risks (arriving places late at night, ATM machine legitimacy, locking up your things, securing your purse, not keeping large amounts of money on you etc). You should educate yourself on the areas that your going to ensure plans run smoothly. Make sure to drink lots of water, get ‘enough’ sleep to avoid getting sick abroad (a nightmare) and wash your hands AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it. – John Mayer