Updated: Oct 28, 2020
"A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions" -Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
I once checked into a hostel for two nights... then ended up staying for an entire year.
I was traveling alone, so I had the freedom to make that decision - without having to ask or consider anyone else's opinion.
Solo travel gives you the power to do whatever you want - whenever, and however you want to do it. And that, my friends, is an incredibly liberating feeling.
It heightens your senses and intensifies your experiences. Each day embedded with novelty, adventure, and limitless possibilities.
Choosing to embark on a solo travel journey will be one of the greatest highlights of your life. And here are 8 reasons why.
1. You Connect With Yourself on a Whole New Level
"Travel far enough, you meet yourself" -David Mitchell
We've been in the company of others our entire lives.
Parents, teachers, coaches, friends, classmates, roommates, colleagues, etc.
So this whole time, you've been constructing your identity under the influence of other people.
A lifetime of expectations, judgements, and critiques have cast a shadow over the way you've grown to perceive yourself.
When you travel by yourself, you're finally given the time and space to learn who you are underneath all that external noise.
Traveling alone gives you the permission to connect with yourself on a deeper level, because you have so much time actually alone. Alone with your thoughts; alone with the raw emotions you're feeling; alone to reflect on your life and your place within it.
2. It's Easier to Make Friends
You are so much more approachable when you're traveling alone.
Think about it.
Who do you think you'd approach first - someone lugging a 65L backpack waiting in line to check into the hostel...or the group of friends huddled in the corner laughing amongst themselves.
People are more likely to approach you as a solo traveler. But you're also way more likely to approach other people too.
Since you'll be in a foreign country not knowing a single human, your options for making friends will be pretty straight forward. Either (1) break out of your shell, make yourself a little vulnerable, and go introduce yourself to someone, or (2) don't approach anyone, remain by yourself, and hope some awesome people will miraculously find you.
The reality of traveling solo pushes you out of your comfort zone to make new friends, because as much as we humans love familiarity, we crave connection more.
3. Your Self-Confidence Gets a Boost
You're all by yourself, thousands of miles away from home in a foreign country.
Make a mistake or face any sort of challenge, and you will very quickly realize that there is no one to turn to but yourself.
When adversity arises - and it most definitely will arise - you'll be in charge of navigating your way through it on your own. And when you do get through it - because you most definitely will get through it - you'll feel strong, proud, and prettttty badass. Capable of handling way more than you thought you could.
Making all your own decisions means you get to live with all the consequences, but it also means you're the one to thank when things turn out like magic.
4. Enhanced Experience Through Exposure
Traveling alone lands you more dinner invites, more day adventures, and more opportunities to experience new and exciting ways of life.
When you're traveling alone, everything feels more intense.
The friends you make this week will feel like friends you've known for years.
The romances and connections you form are brimming with infatuation and adventure.
Solo travel brought me to the peak of a volcano in Bali with people I had just met.
It got me invited to a beach wedding in Australia, where I experienced the most beautiful celebration of love I had ever witnessed.
It got me a job working on a ski resort 10,000 miles away from home.
It brought me island hopping around the southern curve of Southeast Asia.
It sent me on a two-week vacation traveling through Indonesia with a guy I had met 10 days prior.
Of course - those experiences are not exclusive to solo travellers.
Buuut it's a heck of a lot easier to meet new people, and be flexible enough to fit into their exciting plans, when you only have your own desires to weigh into the decision.
More flexibility + more spontaneity = enhanced experiences through exposure.
5. You are in Control
You don't have to compromise...anything. Not your time, not your energy, and certainly not how you spend your day.
If you want to go scuba diving, you can. If you want to spend the day exploring a new city, you can. Feeling a bit drained? You can spend the entire day lounging around your hostel, resting, without feeling guilty that you're infringing on anyone else's time.
You can plan to go somewhere, arrive at your new hostel, realize you don't like it, and then leave that same day.
That's what happened when I arrived in Sihanoukville.
I checked into my hostel, walked around the city, and then quickly realized I didn't want to stay.
So, I walked over to a nearby tourist booth selling boat tickets. I asked to purchase a ticket for the next departing boat, which just so happened to be leaving in 20 minutes.
I quickly went back to check out of my hostel, grabbed my backpack, and boated off to Koh Rong - a small island I had never heard of before that day.
That weekend ended up being one of the best weekends I've ever had during my travels.
When you are in complete control, your days become embedded with endless possibilities.
6. Your Perspectives Change
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
At the start of life, we're all sponges. Absorbing everything we see in our environment, and then taking those experiences to create our version of what we think reality looks like.
But your perspective - that window through which you see and interpret the world - is just one of many.
Seven and a half billion people are experiencing this day in a different way.
Travel abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture completely different from everything you've ever known, and you'll see just how limited your outlook has been.
It makes you humble, seeing children with no shoes, wearing nothing but dirt-stained clothes and warm smiles, running around radiating happiness.
You meet locals who have almost nothing compared to your material wealth at home - sometimes making less than $2 a day - who are filled with love and gratitude.
It makes you realize that love will always triumph over material wealth in the pursuit of happiness. The whole experience really puts the quality of your life into perspective.
7. Your Personality Evolves
Travelling solo makes you more patient, present, compassionate, and open-minded.
You become more adaptable as you learn how to go with the flow.
Flights get cancelled. Buses get delayed. You get sick. You end up in a place where no one speaks English. Entire islands close down in celebration of some national holiday you'd never heard of. Having to handle delays and readjustments to your plans teaches you not to sweat the small stuff, because it's all a part of the journey, and life goes on.
You become more independent as you learn how to embrace solitude and enjoy your own company. Going out to dinner by yourself, going on walks, taking the afternoon to reflect on your life, untangling your thoughts from your mind and translating them into your journal.
You'll return home from your trip with a newfound appreciation of solitude.
With new layers of growth infused into your personality.
8. It Makes You Brave
I once took an overnight bus through Cambodia, by myself. It was the better option for me and my bank account at the time, since a bus ticket is cheaper than a plane ticket. And it travelled throughout the night, meaning I got to save money on one night's accommodation too.
But I was terrified. When I got onto the bus, I saw two columns of bunkbeds separated by a dark, narrow aisle. With wide eyes, I crawled onto the bottom bunk designated with the number found on my bus ticket. "This isn't too bad", I thought to myself. Moments later, an older man climbed into the bed next to mine, that was separated only by a thin set of bars. The "aisle seat" of the way-too-small bunkbed that I found myself in. A dimly-lit bus filled up with people whose faces blended into the darkness of the night. If my comfort zone had a polar opposite location, I was suddenly taking residence.
But I did it.
I rode the overnight bus to my next destination, and saved some money doing it. Sleeping next to a complete stranger on a dark bus driving through the middle of Southeast Asia turned out to be not-so-intimidating after all. When I got off of the bus the next morning, I was filled with pride. I felt brave.
Traveling by yourself puts you in situations that you probably wouldn't had found yourself in, had you been traveling with a group. It exposes you to your limits, then takes your hand as you step over and conquer them.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - everyone should take a solo trip abroad at least once in their life.
You learn more about the world and your place in it - gaining more wisdom and knowledge than you ever could've learned in school. The world becomes your classroom.
Uncertainty becomes less daunting as your comfort zone expands.
Fear of the unknown gets coated with curiosity and excitement.
But enough of my rambling. It's time for you to go experience the benefits of solo travel yourself, and come back with your own stories of growth.
“A ship is always safe at the shore - but that is not what it is built for.” -Albert Einstein
Safe travels my friends.