Solo traveling can be terrifying for even the most confident person. There are so many elements that are completely out of your control, and there's no companion with you to help make decisions.
Where do you go if you get sick? What do you do if you get robbed? What if you wake up in the middle of the night to the girl above you in your hostel bunk, saying, “I threw up in my bed, so can I sleep in yours?"
Here's the truth: All these things can happen (and that last one did), but when you finish your trip, you will agree that the benefits of solo traveling far outweigh the risks. Here are the five things every solo traveler discovers after his or her first big adventure:
1. You truly understand the word “freedom.”
When you travel alone, you essentially get to live without consequences. (This excludes serious crimes, of course.) You can share as much or as little of yourself as you wish. Your history does not chase you on the road.
You can be vulgar and opinionated or more low-key, if you choose. The point is, you don't have to be Facebook friends with the people you encounter if you don't want to, and you don't have to exchange contact information. You get the chance to start all over, even just for a little while.
You can be whoever or whatever you want, without anyone or anything linking you back to your “normal” life. You are no longer tied down.
2. You become more interesting.
I'm not saying that people who don't travel alone are not interesting. But, I will say that I have never met a solo traveler who is boring.
Think about it: The most fascinating people you know are great storytellers, right? They are the life of the party, the ones who always have a crazy anecdote or adventure to captivate and mesmerize a group.
When you travel alone, you will meet some of the smartest, kookiest, creepiest, most obnoxious, warm, supportive, inspiring people you will ever encounter in your life. Simply relaying the experience of meeting those people will make you a fascinating storyteller.
Bonus: Peg leg or glass eye, I have never met a solo traveler who has a hard time getting a date.
3. People respect you more.
Strong, brave, fearless, passionate, independent and adventurous: Who doesn't want these words used to describe him or her? Anyone who packs a bag and goes to another country — whether it be England, Venezuela, Laos or Uganda — is deserving of all the above adjectives.
The last thing anyone can call you is weak. Traveling alone means that you grab the reigns to your independence and to your sense of fun. Traveling alone demands respect.
4. You respect yourself more.
When you travel alone, you go outside your comfort zone. Language barriers and basic cultural differences are enough to make you more than a bit off-balance (not to mention if you're in a politically heated climate or in a country with extreme social inequalities).
When you travel alone, you only have to worry about yourself. You can sleep in if you want, or you can spend hours in a cafe or walking around a city. You can leave a country early if you aren't having a good time.
You can do all of this without ever having to worry about a travel companion's comfort level. You just have to take care of yourself.
When you travel alone, your health, your safety and your happiness are all you need to consider to make your choices. Traveling alone is a great way to cultivate strength, appreciate your power and realize that you are all you need.
5. You become a better person.
In the constant quest to be the best people we can be, a lot of us associate alone time with guilt. We believe putting ourselves first — instead of a family member, a lover or a friend in need — is selfish and rude. Instead, we should aim to be selfless and make everyone around us happy.
If you travel alone and focus only on what is going to make you the happiest (while still keeping yourself safe and healthy), I guarantee you will return home to your friends and family as a better nurturer to them. This is because you have taken the time to nurture yourself.
After experiencing a new part of the world, your spirit will be full and vibrant. You will feel energized and excited. Above all, after traveling alone, you will feel enormously grateful for where you have been and for where you currently are. You will cultivate the deepest sense of compassion for humanity, and that will help make you the best person you can be.
So, give solo travel a chance at least once in your life. You won't regret it.