Traveling solo can be incredibly daunting. The thought of feeling lonely and homesick stops many from packing their bags and going it on their own, but if you can pluck up the courage, you likely won’t regret it. Here, we’re taking a look at why you might just want to take your next trip unaccompanied.
Learning to Rely on Yourself
We are a social species, having evolved to rely on each other for just about everything. As such, we draw much of our sense of self from those with whom we choose to mingle with. It can be hard to imagine tearing yourself away from the people you associate with — from those you love, or even those you don’t. But with distance comes a fresh perspective.
When you choose to travel solo, you’re the one who controls the itinerary, and accompanying that freedom is the necessity of personal responsibility. With nobody to hold your hand or confer with, you’ll likely make a few mistakes, but look at those mistakes as lessons. You might make a few errors when traveling alone, but owning them and seeing the challenges through will make the experience all the more rewarding.
Traveling to “find yourself” might seem like a cliché, but time alone on the road will have you realize why the phrase has become so commonplace. With no one but yourself to rely on, you discover which parts of yourself are connected to people you know and which come from within. Breaking away from the loops and routines you shape your life around (even if inadvertently) may cause you a fair bit of homesickness, but it also offers the opportunity to forge new pathways of personality. As you discover new places, you’ll confront aspects of yourself that you would have never faced within the safety of routine.
Discovering the Beauty of the Unexpected
When Passion Passport writer Joseph Ozment visited Malta on a solo trip, he spent a few days playing it safe and working up the courage to do some proper exploring. After researching where he most wanted to go, studying the public transport system, and battling a bout of homesickness, he was fully ready to step out into the country as if he had always belonged there. For his first excursion, he had resolved to visit one of the country’s megalithic temples, a comfortable trip that only required two buses and a few hours.
The first bus retrieved and deposited him at the capital city’s main bus terminal. It was the weekend, so the station was packed with travelers and locals alike. Confident of his route, Joseph sat on one of the few buses that did not have a queue of people formed to board, thinking nothing of it, even after a passenger got up to clarify the route number with the driver about five minutes into the journey. The bus approached the road to the temple — and kept going. Frozen with indecision, Joseph rode on. Worry came, but he was determined to have an adventure.
Eventually, he alighted the bus with a few people close to his age, overhearing that they were heading for the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. That was another destination on his list for this trip, and luckily another bus came along that was unmistakably heading straight there. When Joseph arrived, the sleepy streets he had expected were alive with celebrations for the village feast, or festa. A brass band serenaded revelers underneath colorful banners that draped down from rooftops, and fireworks erupted above. Joseph joined in the festivities, grateful that he had embraced the unexpected.
Whether it’s missed connections, spontaneous changes of plan, or random encounters, rolling with the punches is the key to enjoying the experience of solo travel. Our daily lives revolve so heavily around routine, so accepting the unexpected is difficult. But one of the benefits of traveling by yourself is that you will develop the capacity to weather the uncertainty that comes with not having familiarity to fall back on. At the very least, you’ll end up with great stories from your journey.
Pushing Yourself… Or Not
Traveling alone isn’t all about self-discovery. While you’ll have many days when you have to push yourself to meet new people and find new experiences, you’ll also have the opportunity to simply slack off and spend an occasional day by yourself.
Not having a group or companion to consider when making plans can be liberating in the sense that your time is wholly your own. You might spend a day exploring back streets, or delving into a creative endeavor that you’ve never tried before, or finding a quiet bench from which you can people-watch for hours — your possibilities are defined only by your ambition.
When I took a solo trip through Southeast Asia, for instance, I realized that I actually had time to write. I devoted entire afternoons to simply scrawling down whatever stray thought or observation popped into my mind. It came to be a therapeutic exercise and one that I’m entirely glad I began to this day. Having that time to myself allowed me to rummage through my thoughts like never before. Conversely, I would also spend days lazing around in bed, a glorious activity (or lack thereof) that requires time for reflection, relaxation, and, as is often the case when traveling, recovery.
When traveling by yourself, you’re the only person who can take initiative. Should you want to go somewhere or partake in an activity, you might find that being on your own, rather than in a group, will make you all the more approachable. Groups of people that know each other well enough to journey together can often be less receptive to newcomers as they throw around inside jokes and past memories. Without familiar faces to depend on for banter, you’ll learn to put yourself out there and meet people on your own terms. Also, rather than having the attention of other people and groups distributed among your friends, you will be the sole focus of the people you come to meet.
During a trip around Thailand, I met a friendly group of Canadian travelers who, after a few drinks, started discussing their travel plans and invited me to join them on their way to Ko Lanta on the southwestern side of the peninsula. A quick image search of Ko Lanta’s pristine beaches was all the convincing I needed. I spent three days in their company, and once it was time for them to move on with their trip, I was so enamored with the peace of the area that I remained for another four days. My direction was entirely up to me and, for the while, I was content to stay put.
Taking time to indulge the side of you that can sleep in late or read a good book for hours on end does wonders for your peace of mind. With nobody to hold you to a schedule, it can be positive to spend time by yourself. Learning to be selfish in this way will help you understand that you’re master of your own keep.
So, when planning your next voyage away from home, consider making it a solo one. While it may seem daunting to venture into the unknown alone, you may find your journey to be even more fulfilling. It may be scary, and you may feel out of your depth at times, but persevere and you’ll discover the world in new light. The paths you walk are yours and yours alone.