For me, travelling has always been all about the experiences. I may be visiting the same places and sampling the same food as my friends, but because we view the world through different lenses, what’s significant to me may not have as profound an impact on someone else.
Of course, traveling in a group has its perks, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you’re on your own. Loneliness is a feeling we all abhor. No one wants to be isolated and all alone, especially while overseas, when you don’t know a single soul.
But get this: a solo trip doesn’t necessarily mean a lonely trip – that’s a misconception we’ve got to tear down. You may be traveling by yourself, but there will be a whole bunch of fellow globetrotters and locals you can hang out with if you just put yourself out there and be open to whoever comes across your path. Don’t worry about people perceiving you as a ‘loner’ just because you’re dining by yourself. I admit, it can be pretty daunting at first. But you’re in an exciting new country – just shake it off, let loose and enjoy yourself.
If that isn’t convincing enough, here are 5 reasons how a solo trip can change your life.
It’s exhilarating to experience that feeling of complete and utter freedom on a solo trip. You are your own person; only you yourself can dictate where you go and what you do… and guess what? There’s nothing stopping you from unleashing your inner adventurer. Always wanted to bungee jump off a cliff with the wind in your face and your life solely in the hands of a rope? Strap on. Got hunger pangs in the middle of the night? Go ahead and pig out at the nearest hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Never had the chance to swim with the sharks (or crocs… or any other deadly creature)? Dive in. You’re in charge, you’re holding the reins, and you’ve got the final say.
1. THE REVELATIONS YOU DISCOVER ABOUT YOURSELF ARE NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING
It goes without saying that, since you’re on your own in a foreign land, you’ll probably spend a good deal of time alone – and that’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Ditch technology and learn to rely on yourself.
Do a bit of self-introspection, roam around with no agenda and strike up conversations with strangers. Basically, take a step out of your comfort zone to do what you normally wouldn’t do (unless it’s, well, life-threatening) and even take time to reflect on your life back home – it might just strike you that your troubles pale in comparison to what’s going on around the world. Or you might surprise yourself with newfound social skills. Just don’t stand by the sidelines – challenge every single one of your fears, insecurities and misconceptions.
On my trip to the UK, I realized I had all these assumptions and false impressions of the people there. So I forced myself to let it go and start on a clean slate, keeping an open mind when meeting new people (with my surprising new sociable nature). Long story short, I ended up with friends from all over Europe, who happily gave me a glimpse into their fascinating culture and brought out the inner thrill-seeker in me.
2. IT’S ONE OF THE FEW TIMES IN LIFE WHEN THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
You’re not constrained by deadlines, time restrictions, rules or travel companions whining about everything under the sun. The scent of freedom is absolutely intoxicating. No one’s breathing down your neck about eating your veggies or going to bed before the sun rises.
Munch on chocolate for breakfast or wear crazy mismatched clothes – just because you can. Jot down your bucket list and start checking boxes. If you’ve got even the slightest amount of interest in something, as long as it’s within the realm of basic common sense, just do it. Because no good travel story ever started out with: ‘that one time I stayed in the hotel room…’
3. YOU’LL COME ACROSS ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE, WHO JUST MIGHT SURPRISE YOU BY BECOMING LIFELONG FRIENDS
But first you’ve got to toughen up and resist the temptation to hide out in your room. Who cares about the stares of judgment you might get? You’re probably just imagining them, anyway. The only way you’ll meet new people is if you make an effort to reach out and open up. Don’t be too quick to turn down an invitation to hang out, or better yet, do the inviting.
You may not speak the language, but a smile is a universal greeting – just take it from there. This might surprise you, but people will actually strike up conversations with you more often because you’re by yourself – you’re not as intimidating as tourists in pairs or groups. Some of my closest friends now are ones I’ve randomly met while traveling alone, so you really never know what might happen.
4. THERE’S A WORLD FULL OF BREATHTAKING CULTURE AND LIFE-ALTERING EXPERIENCES THAT LIES AHEAD.
So you prefer to trek through off-the-beaten-path locations instead of the latest hotspot that everyone’s heading to? Hop on a plane and go for it. Don’t let the lack of a travel companion or others’ hectic time schedules distract you from your own fulfilment.
Explore gorgeous ancient ruins, scale the heights of great mountains, admire iconic landmarks across the globe, or attempt adventurous stunts for an adrenaline rush. There’s nothing stopping you from holding all these stunning memories except yourself.
5. YOU WILL RETURN HOME A WHOLE NEW YOU
When you muster up the courage to undertake a solo trip despite your friends’ confused looks and your parents’ (or other half’s) worry, you leave home one person and come back another. It’s pretty much guaranteed.
Confidence is one of the great things you’ll gain – because not many people can say they’ve navigated the intimidating waters of the unknown and come back (mostly) unscathed and even rejuvenated. There’s so much to learn: fresh perspectives, boldness in the face of failure, a new love for solitude, recognition of your inner strength, greater appreciation for the little things, feeling more than comfortable in your own skin… It sounds clichéd to say this, but it’s honestly truly rewarding.
About the writer:
Alicia Lee is a dessert junkie with a serious (and probably incurable) case of wanderlust. Never one to pass up on retail therapy, she loves a great bargain and can usually be spotted on weekends browsing through quirky shops or chillaxing at a quiet cafe.