“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” –Neale Donald Walsch
By: Gena Perry
Have you ever found cheap airfare or hotel accommodations for an awesome trip but couldn’t find a friend to go with you? I’m here to tell you that the next time you find yourself in this situation, book that flight for one and just go!
Traveling by yourself can be scary, especially if you are going into a different culture or language, but it can also be an amazing and life-changing experience. I’ve done some solo traveling both in the U.S. and Europe, and while I love being able to share the experience with friends, I have come to cherish those trips on my own. Now you are probably asking, “Why would I ever consider traveling by myself? Sounds so boring… I won’t have anybody to talk to or share my experience with.” Well keep reading to discover 5 reason why traveling solo is awesome!
1. Make new travel buddies.
When you travel alone, you might put your guard up a little (travel game face as I call it) but don’t be afraid to get to know fellow travelers. Every time I travel on my own, I stay in hostels because 1, they’re super cheap and 2, you can meet travelers from every corner of the world. (Shout out to HostelWorld for an awesome network of hostels all over the world.) Your fellow travelers will be very open to partnering up to explore the city. In the meantime you get to learn about their home country and culture. I’ve yet to go somewhere by myself where I haven’t met a friend to pal around or enjoy a meal with.
2. Learn to strike up a conversation.
On a recent solo trip to the Pacific Northwest, I had more conversations with random people than I ever had before. (I would say maybe it’s the attitude of the PNW, but these conversations included Australians, Canadians and Japanese folks too.) It seemed like many of the conversations stemmed from the fact that I was traveling by myself but nonetheless were great conversations. Maybe people found it odd that I was on my own, but I think they also thought it was kind of badass too. Striking up a conversation seems to be easier to do when you are by yourself; you can always use the “I’m from out of town” card or the “Where are you from?” if you hear an accent. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from the Australian at the pub or the German kid you met at the hostel breakfast table. Learning to put yourself out there and take a chance on a conversation allows you to grow and be more confident.
3. Cater to your schedule and enjoy the present.
Traveling with a friend, significant other or family member can be challenging; the stress of a journey can bring out the best and worst in folks and requires a huge amount of compromise (see K’s post on traveling with an “other”). Traveling solo gives you the complete freedom and flexibility to choose what YOU want to do and to enjoy the moment completely and fully. Want to sit on top of a mountain and enjoy the view for hours on end? You can do that! Want to visit as many of Rome’s sights as possible in two days? You get to prioritize your schedule and spend as much or as little time at the Spanish Steps as you want. In the crazy-fast world we live in, it’s nice to have the opportunity to set your own pace.
4. Become aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Learning to navigate a new city’s public transportation system or attempting to barter in a hectic bazaar can be overwhelming and intimidating no matter if you are by yourself or with a group of friends. At least when traveling with a group of friends, you have each other’s strengths to fall back on. With my friends, I’m in charge of navigating the streets and metro, K is in charge of planning the sites and J makes sure we haven’t missed any cool cultural spots. It’s great having a team to conquer a city with, but at the same time we all miss out on developing new skills and strengthening our weaknesses. Scared of public transportation? Terrible with a paper map? Not so comfortable eating alone? Well, when you travel by yourself, you are forced to face these fears and self-proclaimed weaknesses. When put in the situation, you might be surprised at how well you learn Vancouver’s bus system or how much you enjoy eating a yummy meal in silence. Or, you might confirm that you really can’t get around without the help of Google Maps (thank goodness for free WiFi), and that’s ok. Facing these fears and weaknesses is an important part of traveling and practice makes progress!
5. Perfect your selfie game.
Let’s face it, in this day in age, being able to take a quality selfie is important. Now just imagine if you can capture yourself and Rome’s Colosseum in one awesome selfie! Man, will your social media followers be impressed. Although most fellow travelers are more than willing to snap a pic for you, sometimes it’s just easier to snap a quick selfie and be on with your business. While this may take some time to perfect, your scrapbook (or Facebook album) filled with selfies will be a memento to cherish forever.
If you still aren’t convinced that you should hop on the next available flight by yourself, try starting off small. Try going to a neighboring city and exploring it solo or even go out and be a tourist in your own city. Take a chance and put yourself out there and I promise you’ll meet some amazing people and make some life-long memories. Just remember to stay safe and trust your instincts, if you feel uncomfortable, make an excuse and get out of the situation.
Happy (solo) travels! – Gena
Gena is one of my closest friends and a fellow swftraveler! She serves as inspiration and encouragment for much of the travel I undertake. She encourages me to take chances, make mistakes and enjoy life. Recently graduated with her master’s from University of Georgia, Gena will be heading to Africa this summer, and I am SO excited to hear about her adventures. Although we both hope to accomplish our Global Degree, we both believe that travel within the US is just as necessary and worthwhile. So go forth and conquer, fellow travelers! Also, follow Gena’s Tumblr and Blog for more travel insights. 🙂
Thanks for reading! Until next time, adios, ciao, sayonara, good-bye!
Published January 2015.