“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” -Helen Keller
I’ll admit it —when I first decided I was going to travel alone through Europe and Southeast Asia, I was terrified. The thought of spending four months by myself, traveling through foreign countries surrounded by a bunch of strangers who didn’t speak the same language sounded…scary. Friends and family telling me how dangerous the world was didn’t help much —according to popular opinion, if I wasn’t killed in a terrorist attack or raped in a dark alley, I would be lucky to arrive back in San Francisco as a travel-hardened survivor of sexual harassment, rampant pickpockets and mosquito-born illness.
As I adapted to life as a solo female backpacker, it definitely wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There were moments when it would have been nice to have a friend along to share the misery —like the time I was lost for hours, alone in a strange city at night in the rain without data on my cell phone. Or watching a family out to dinner together and thinking, that looks nice. Oh yeah, and there was that time in Greece that I lost my passport.
But traveling solo was also…awesome. I felt strong, empowered and totally in tune with myself. I felt like I could take on the world and handle difficult situations with ease. I was confident in my ability to navigate, communicate and thrive in a constantly changing environment. It was like I existed in a constant state of flow, taking life moment by moment. Each day brought new experiences and opportunities to learn about myself and the world.
It turns out, traveling by yourself through foreign countries surrounded by strangers who don’t speak the same language is actually a lot of fun.
And, surprisingly, about half of the people I met in hostels were also traveling solo. Exploring the world alone isn’t such an unusual thing to do after all. And solo travelers have an instant common bond, which means you’ll soon have Facebook group messages and What’s App chats going with people from all over the world —just hang out in a hostel common area for thirty minutes, and you’re bound to find a few friendly fellow wanderers who are planning to check out the same temples, museums, trails or nearby beach as you are.
In fact, you’re practically never alone. Between your hostel mates and the locals you meet as you explore new places by public transportation, sometimes it can be difficult to find some solitude. Craving some time alone was the last thing I expected when I imagined myself traveling solo around the world.
So, without further ado, here’s ten reasons to take on the world solo:
- You’ll actually get to go somewhere (as opposed to waiting around for someone to decide to go with you).
- You can take your dream trip, not anyone else’s.
- Higher highs, lower lows. Triumphs are that much sweeter when it’s entirely your victory (and mistakes sting worse).
- No time wasted. Every museum, monument and audio tour lasts exactly as long as you want it to.
- No need to compromise. Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired.
- Flexibility. Destination not what you’d hoped? Thought you wanted to see the capitals of Europe but realized you prefer the countryside? Pass go, collect $200 and skip ahead to Plan B.
- Overcome your fear of being alone.
- Make friends from all over the world.
- Change your perspective on life (…and a whole bunch of other trite but true side effects of travel, like finding yourself, igniting your soul, sparking your creativity, learning to follow your bliss, and broadening your horizons). In fact, if you are like 99.9% of travelers, you will be electrified with inspiration and forced to accept that all of your wildest dreams are entirely possible and right there, just waiting for you to act.
- You might actually enjoy it. Go ahead, fall madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with travel and begin a passionate love affair with the world.
What are your thoughts on solo travel? Share your experiences —good or bad —below.