In one year, I went from having a naked, stampless passport to having visited three different countries. While every traveling experience has been rewarding, my most meaningful experiences transpired while traveling alone.
Although domestic travel is certainly the easiest, traveling internationally presents a greater risk with a potentially greater reward. Check out the top 10 reasons it’s important to travel alone:
Traveling alone and outside of your comfort zone teaches you so much about yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise learned. It requires more organization, but you'll likely learn more about the types of activities you enjoy most.
2. Meeting new people
It can be difficult to meet new people when you’re not traveling alone, but eating and drinking alone presents an easy way to strike up a conversation with a local. While in Montréal last October, I met a guy who hitchhiked from Berkeley. He had very little money, no Internet, no television and no computer; he had just a cell phone, a record player and was living with the bare minimum. I found him to be inspiring and we still keep in touch.
3. Making — and sometimes breaking — your itinerary
While it’s important to be organized while traveling alone, sometimes deviating from your plan will lead to the most inspiring and interesting experiences. If you’re an excessive photographer, there is no one around to judge you — except for maybe the locals who shake their heads at you for being a stereotypical tourist. But, who cares? You’ll probably never see any of them again.
Skip the museums if you’re not interested. If you’d rather check out the nightlife and arts scene than historical landmarks, go for it. It’s your trip and you’re calling the shots, so take advantage.
4. Work with your budget
A downfall to traveling alone is that there is no one with whom to split bills. However, if you budget what you have and plan accordingly, you should have no problems. Travelling frugally can be quite fun; often, you’ll find hidden gems like delicious food only the locals know about.
5. Meditation and self-reflection
Experiencing things alone is good for your mind, body and soul. For yoga lovers, a mountain pose at the pinnacle of a trip while in nature is a beautiful thing. Sometimes it’s important to take advantage of the quiet, so enjoy the moment and reflect on your emotions and sentiments.
6. Independent problem solving
It’s okay to be lost as long as you’re polite and considerate when you ask for help — try to learn at least a few phrases in the native language. A little bit can go a long way, and learning not to get down on yourself leads to embracing life lessons. Stretching your budget and preventing problems before they occur, like by notifying banks of your travel plans, are effective problem solving tactics, as well.
7. Messy hair, don’t care
I have friends who spend tons of time in front of the mirror, so I usually feel obligated to put on makeup as well. Traveling with guys makes me feel bad about spending too much time on my appearance. Whether you enjoy primping or just like the option to do as you please, traveling alone is the easiest way to rock whatever look you want.
8. Nerding out
While traveling in San Diego, I found myself with not enough cash for a cab ride back to my hotel. As a result, I had a pretty long walk home, so I put ear buds in and literally skipped along the marina on my commute back. If you’re alone, you can do that unabashedly.
9. Cultural immersion
If there is a language barrier where you’re going, there is no faster way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in the culture. Without having a buddy who shares your language, your only option for verbal communication is to learn the native dialect. Being alone allows you to absorb your environment and notice the people around you — how they talk, dress and even walk.
10. The storytelling experience
You’ll create endless memories when you tell friends and stories of your travels. Because the trip was only yours, it’s a unique experience many people will love to hear about. As long as you make the most of your solo expedition, your stories will be epic accounts you’ll never get tired of telling.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It