I recently returned (somewhat reluctantly) from a 5 month solo backpacking adventure through eastern Europe. During my travels, I would read stories from my favorite couple bloggers, like Dave & Deb from The Planet D, who give fabulous advice on how to survive traveling as a couple.
I would think you know, it must be nice to have someone else to travel with; someone to help figure things out or to share these special moments with. Someone who’s shoulder you can sleep on when you’re stuck on a 15.5 hour train ride from hell. Someone to do some of the planning.
Then I met up with my sister for the last two weeks of my trip and realized just what a blessing solo travel is. Just kidding! (Sort of…)
The two weeks of traveling with my sister were great. There’s a lot to be said for traveling with friends, family or significant others. But there is something you get out of traveling solo that you simply can’t get from anything else.
You might think traveling solo isn’t for you. Maybe it sounds lonely, scary, or selfish to take time just for yourself. It’s not.
Here are the reasons every woman needs to travel solo at least once in her life:
1. Boost your self-confidence.
Most women struggle with low self-confidence issues at some point in our lives, and it can be crippling. Low self-esteem is one of the biggest things that can hold you back when you’re going after your dreams. Maybe you’re not sure you can really be a leader. Maybe you second-guess your decisions. Maybe you have a hard time making decisions in the first place.
Traveling on your own is the perfect chance for you to practice being in charge. You get to make all the decisions, and there’s no one to answer to but yourself. You don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone else or letting anyone down. You do what you want & see what you want. You’ll learn to negotiate with street vendors and ask for directions in a foreign language. Your self-confidence will soar.
2. Explore your independence.
When you’re traveling alone, you get to call all the shots. Want to go see some ancient ruins? Jump on a bus and head to a remote waterfall with some new friends? Spend the day people-watching at a cafe? Or stay in your hotel room and do absolutely nothing? Guess what, your itinerary is all yours.
You can change your plans at the last minute if you want to. Head off somewhere new at a moment’s notice. You’ll be the one figuring out what to eat or where you want to go today. You don’t have take anyone else’s likes or dislikes into account. The world is yours to explore.
3. Experience the kindness of strangers.
Traveling solo essentially restored my faith in humanity. I couchsurfed with hosts who cooked gourmet meals for me and took me on guided tours of their cities. I had complete strangers take me to lunch, give me bus fare, or adopt me into their travel group to make sure I got somewhere safely.
People will go out of their way to help you when you travel solo. If someone asks if you need help, don’t be afraid to answer them with a smile and a “yes, please.” There are always a few bad apples but for the most part people are genuinely helpful. Open up and prepare to be touched by the kindness of strangers.
4. See the world in a different light.
We are the product of the people we surround ourselves with. Friends, family, significant others. Sometimes those people, no matter how well-meaning they are, can color our view of the world. Their preconceptions can become yours without even realizing it.
When you travel with others, you tend to stick together, which can hold you back from truly experiencing a new country on your own terms. Solo traveling can open your eyes and allow you to shed preconceived notions you might have held about other cultures.
5. Make genuine connections.
When you travel with friends or a significant other, there’s a tendency to be in your own little bubble. Other people are less likely to approach you, which means that you have to work extra hard to make real connections with people.
Not so when you’re flying solo. People tend to be drawn to lone travelers. You’re not as intimidating to approach and strike up a conversation with. One of the best parts of traveling is the people that you meet, and being alone forces you to make more of an effort to get to know them.
Without a travel buddy to fall back on, you’ll find yourself opening up, gaining valuable communication skills, and making genuine connections all over the world.
And if you’re single, who knows? Maybe you’ll even find love…
6. Discover your true passions.
When you travel alone you will discover ALL kinds of things you didn’t even know about yourself. Talents you didn’t even realize you had. Interests that may have been simmering in your subconscious. There’s a good argument to be made for why you shouldn’t travel to find yourself, but in many cases, you will.
Before I went on my trip I had no idea which direction I wanted my career to go in. I had a lot of vague ambitions, but the only thing I really knew for sure was what I didn’t want – to work a typical 9 to 5 job, not really doing anything meaningful, always having to answer to someone else. Spending time alone helps you clarify your thoughts and have a better understanding of what you really want out of life.
Now I know that my passion is to help people create a meaningful & adventurous life. Had I not taken my own journey of self-discovery, that might not have become so clear to me.
7. Overcome something you’ve been struggling with.
When you’re surrounded by the same things day after day it’s easy to get bogged down, and even depressed. Problems start to look bigger than they really are. Maybe there’s an unhealthy relationship you haven’t been able to let go of or people at work you’re having a conflict with. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut and you’re not sure what your next step should be.
Solo travel is cathartic & refreshing. Being somewhere totally unfamiliar helps you gain a new perspective, and often times that shift in perspective is all you need to re-jump start your life.
Stressing out about a project at work? Puh-lease. That’s nothing compared to the time your bus didn’t show up in the middle of the night and you were left stranded on a highway in Budapest. Or what about that time you accidentally got off at the wrong stop and got lost in Croatia?
Getting out of your comfort zone is empowering. Getting through challenges you never thought you’d face can make the ones back home seem a lot less scary.
8. Gain a new appreciation for your life.
One of the best parts of travel is getting to experience new cultures and ways of life. You can eat foods you’ve never heard of and learn how to live more simply than you ever imagined. After taking cold, 30-second showers, you will never again fail to appreciate a long, hot bubble bath. Even though it may seem like your life is falling apart, you can learn that you really don’t have it all that bad. As they say…first world problems, man.
When you do return home, you’ll see your own life with a fresh set of eyes. Remember, your hometown might be a tourist destination for somebody. Go explore it! Check out this great guide by my friend Adelina on how to be a tourist in your own city.
9. Indulge without any fear of judgment.
When you’re traveling by yourself, you get to be exactly whoever it is that you want to be. You’re no longer tied to the “old you” that people from your past might see when they look at you. This is your chance to be anyone you want to be. If people think you’re weird they’ll probably just chalk it up to you being a foreigner. Plus, who really cares? There is a 99.9% chance you’ll never see them again in your life.
Want to eat gelato for breakfast…every day for a week? Go for it! Eat, drink, let your freak flag fly. As a woman, few things are more liberating than being able to live your life without feeling judged.
10. Realize just how free you really are.
Sometimes it can feel like invisible chains are binding you and holding you back. You want to break free but you’re just not sure how to do it. When you travel alone you’re free to go where you want and so what you want.
Reinvent yourself, get to the core of who you are and what you really want. Solo travel helps you realize that freedom is a state of mind.
So stop making excuses & make solo travel a priority. Book a ticket, pack a bag and just GO. Whether it’s for a week or 6 months. You will never ever regret making this kind of investment in yourself.
This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. For more fantastic travel-related posts (or to link up your own) check out The Fairytale Traveler, a special kind of blog that searches the world for legend, myth and lore.
It’s also linked up with #TravelTuesday through A Compass Rose.
Feature image photo credit: Amanda Sandlin