Confusion, shock, pity, disbelief and worry are just a few of the reactions that I’ve witnessed in response to an announcement of one of my many solo travel adventures. Most commonly, I get “but won’t you be bored?” or “aren’t you scared?”. Though very valid concerns, I can never find an adequate explanation because I can’t imagine feeling that way – only after having done it a few times, of course. In all honesty, I think I’ve spoiled myself: travelling solo has been such a life-changing experience that I’m afraid that travelling with a companion or a group will pale by comparison.
Why do I love solo travel? Here’s 5 reasons:
1. Full control of your schedule
Undoubtedly a no-brainer. Not having to consult or compromise your itinerary with anyone, and most importantly, not having to apologize when a seemingly good idea turns sour. The ability to travel freely – quickly or slowly, with a rigid or loose schedule, to any destination of your choice without fuss, is truly liberating.
2. The invaluable ability it affords you to befriend perfect strangers
Thanks to my first solo trip way back when, I’ve had several years to perfect the art of making friends with locals, fellow travellers, or anyone willing to give me the time of day. So, my answer to those who ask me if I’ll get bored or be lonely will always be a resounding no. The ability to communicate with strangers, especially with those who don’t speak your native language, is an important skill that stays with you forever and helps you in ways unimaginable. Meeting people on the road expands your horizons to different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs, and it also provides great company, to boot! The best part about befriending perfect strangers is that there is absolutely no obligation to spend time with them if you don’t want to – because after all, they are just strangers! It can be whatever you want it to be – some of my encounters have led to long-lasting friendships, and others have amounted to nothing more than a 5 minute conversation.
3. Being able to fully engulf yourself in a foreign culture
I hold this one at a particularly high value, yet I find it a bit difficult to explain. To me, being able to absorb and authentically immerse myself into local culture is the essence of travel. The seeing of sights is important, but if I can’t experience the crux of local life and truly understand what it’s like to live there, then I haven’t gained much. Don’t get me wrong – this can certainly be achieved in group or companion travel, but I find it so much easier to ditch my inhibitions and immerse myself in local customs when I’m on my own.
4. The life-changing confidence and empowerment that remains with you forever
Yet another item on my list that I hold at a particularly high value, mainly because it is an enriching quality that will change one’s everyday life. When you arrive in a foreign country alone, you are forced to step out of your comfort zone into the unknown and somehow find your way. No matter how much research you’ve done, or how many guide books you’ve consulted, it’s never like the book – and that’s a good thing! The ability to learn about customs and local etiquette through trial and error can develop into a unique confidence – a confidence that will endure anything, even the things that you once found impossible.
5. Being able to get lost, in both the figurative and literal sense.
I think it’s nearly impossible to travel to any destination for the first time and not get lost. When you’re alone and you are forced to find your way using only a map and a few locals who don’t speak a lick of English, it can be so satisfying to find your way! For those who are somewhat lost in life, remember that “taking a year off to find yourself” isn’t just a silly cliche – it actually has some merit to it. As described above, solo travel can help you discover things about yourself that you never thought existed!
Photo Credit: [monkey]