From the first time I considered doing a career break and traveling I knew I wanted to go it alone. When I started talking about my plans some people couldn’t fathom why on earth I’d want to go around the world without anyone with me (looking at you, Dad).
I understand the hesitations and concerns, but here are the top five reasons I love solo travel.
1. Freedom & Flexibility
Taking a trip by yourself means you can do exactly what you want. While I was on my trip I thought about how rare it is that we actually get to do this in life.
In a new city you can check out that great museum that everyone raves about and says you must visit. Or you can skip the museum altogether because you really don’t care.
Maybe you had big plans for the day, but when you got up in the morning you just didn’t feel like it and would prefer to have time to chill out and relax. When you travel on your own you have the flexibility to change your plans based on your feelings without affecting others.
When I was in Iceland I was having so much fun talking to the people I met at a bar that I decided to talk to them for a couple more hours and put of going to a music festival for a little while. Being by myself meant that I could give myself the flexibility to roll with the punches.
When traveling with others we have to compromise and maybe cut back on some of the things we might want to do to accommodate the group. In life compromise is good, but take this opportunity only do what makes you happy.
2. Meet More People
One of the best things about traveling is meeting new people and learning about their lives and cultures.
The funny thing about traveling by yourself is that it allows you to meet more people than you would in a group. When you’re with others you have someone else to rely on for conversation, navigation, and general social interaction.
When you’re traveling solo you have to look outside of yourself and your own “friend space” if you want company. It’s almost like you subconsciously emit a signal to the world: I’m ready to make new friends.
Being by yourself also helps you build deeper connections with people. You tend to go beyond the general greetings and pleasantries with new people when you can’t just go back to talking to the people in your group. You tend to engage in more meaningful conversations.
I’ve also found that when you’re a solo traveler people make a more concerted effort to look out for you and take you under their wing. It’s easier to connect to the local community when people are more willing to show you the ropes.
3. Party of One
When you travel by yourself it’s easier to gain entry to more places. For example, when I went to see Real Madrid play I had my pick of where I wanted to sit because I was only buying one ticket, whereas others were struggling to get in. Even events that are “sold out” often have a single ticket available, as those are harder to sell.
I rarely had to wait when I went out to eat because even if a restaurant was busy it’s easy to sit a single person at a small table or squeeze into a spot at the bar. A single person is much more nimble than a group.
4. Stop Waiting!
Let’s face it, group trips can be difficult to organize. Everyone is operating with different schedules, and just trying to get multiple people to the same place at the same time can be quite a feat. Then you have to factor in everyone’s budget, travel style, where everyone wants to go, etc.
Sometimes the logistics don’t make sense because someone can’t get time off work, someone else can’t get good airfare from their home city, another person’s raise fell through. Things fall apart and the trip is canceled. These aren’t excuses, it’s just reality.
When you make the decision to travel solo you don’t have to put of taking your vacation or taking your dream trip. Give yourself permission to live your life. Sure there are some experiences and places that are more fun in a group, but there is plenty of the world that can be seen on your own.
I’ve heard far too many people say they weren’t going on a trip because no one could go with them. Don’t put yourself on hold just because you’re waiting on other people.
5. Learn About Yourself
Travel is a great opportunity to learn about the world, but it’s just as insightful to learn about yourself. This time on your own can help you discover things you might not have noticed before. As much as we go, go, go in our everyday lives many of us rarely set aside time to listen to what our souls are telling us.
When no one else has a say it’s really interesting to see patterns emerge in the types of things that make you happy throughout the day. Do you find yourself floating into every gallery you walk past? Or do you more often spend your time on a park bench people watching? You can cut out the things you “should” do and learn more about what makes you tick.
Solo travel has also helped me learn about the extent of my capabilities. When there was no one else to rely on to help me negotiate with cab drivers or haggle in a market I learned that I was fully able to hold my own. I saw sides of myself that I didn’t know were there and tapped into a resourcefulness I don’t always need to exercise. It was illuminating and empowering.
Go For It!
I don’t want this to come off as anti-social or like I hate people. Doing things with others is fun, and when you’re traveling on your own you’re not by yourself one hundred percent of the time. But solo travel offers a beautiful chance to experience the world your way.