I once read this beautiful phrase: “Solo traveling is the greatest gift that anyone, especially a woman, can give herself!” (Kristin Addis, Conquering Mountains)
Why would anybody see solo traveling as a gift to oneself? Because when you travel alone you learn an incredible amount about three things: yourself, other people and other cultures. All three are extremely valuable for you and will help you in your future life.
Traveling helps you to find out what you really want in life. You will meet a new version of yourself who is able to do things you never even considered. You will see that you can overcome fears and dare to be happy. In the end, you will be able to enjoy the time that you have with yourself even if you are normally not that kind of person.
You will constantly meet new people. You will make friends and learn what friendship can mean if you are not seeing each other every other day. So let me tell you: If you don’t want to be alone, you won’t be. But you should know that this is pretty much based on your decisions more than anything else. If you don’t want to meet new people, you won’t.
You will learn that there is a whole new world of cultures to discover that have nothing to do with the culture you grew up in. Those other cultures will enrich you by adding to your existing cultural knowledge.
Additionally, when solo traveling, you can decide on your own where to go, what to do and setting your own budget. When you are traveling with other people you will always reach a point where somebody needs to compromise. Let me give you an example:
In 2014, I was in Argentina. Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego were really high on my bucket list, so I took the night bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn. Although there are websites to search for bus connections in Argentina, they didn’t work well, so I couldn’t see the prices for traveling further south. When I asked for the prices in Puerto Madryn, I couldn’t believe what they told me: Almost 200 Euro to go to Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world. At that time, I was traveling with a German couple. Together we decided to skip Ushuaia and just go to El Calafate, heading over Bariloche to Santiago de Chile from there.
This was the only time I was convinced by somebody else to do something other than what I had planned, and it’s the only decision that I deeply regret. That was the moment that I knew I wanted to travel solo for the rest of my trip.
Here are some more reasons to travel alone:
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!
When you pack your bag and head into this beautiful world by yourself, you will encounter many situations that you wouldn’t if you staved at home on your couch. You will push yourself and your body in ways that you never expected before. In this way, you will discover the real you. How far can you go? When do you really feel alive? You will learn all that just by leaving your cocoon of safety’ and commodities.
Do you know the feeling when you take a decision because you think that others expect you to? Can you imagine how it feels when you are 100% independent, taking your own decisions and not being judged by others? Let me tell you that it is even better than you might expect!
For me, the best thing about solo traveling is that I really learned what is good for me, what I desire and what I need. For example, I found out that I love hiking but my body doesn’t. As I realized that I’m not made for real hiking trips, I try to only do short ones. Another good example is that I don’t like to go out at night. There are two reasons for this:
- I don’t drink alcohol and I hate to be the only “boring’’ person in the room. So, I just avoid parties where people don’t do anything other than drink.
- I know that my body needs a bit more sleep than most other people. I need to rest and not stay up long, otherwise I feel exhausted.
For years, I was trying to change, because I wanted to be involved in those party groups. I stayed up when I knew that people were going to a party. Now I know that there is nothing wrong – quite the contrary – with listening to what your body is telling you.
Meet Other Travelers!
There is nothing like meeting like-minded people. In the beginning of my life of travels, I really enjoyed meeting other backpackers and chatting with them about travel plans, places they’ve been to, places they recommend, or about the emotional side of solo traveling.
This changed after a while, because now I feel the need to meet people who are also working while on the road. So, instead of trying to meet other backpackers in hostels, I go to digital nomad hotspots (like Tarifa and Las Palmas in Europe, and Koh Lanta and Chiang Mai in South East Asia) and search for places where I can meet other nomads, usually Coworking Spaces or cafes with fast Wi-Fi.
My advice: Find out what travel type you enjoy and try to meet travelers with the same interests. Try to understand where you can find them and go there with the intention of networking.
One essential thing about solo traveling is that you are free to connect to locals. There is no better way to get to know a place, the culture of a country or the special habits of people in the region where you’re staying. I know many travelers who prefer meeting locals over meeting other travelers. A good and easy way to do this is using Couchsurfing or Airbnb, depending on your budget. These allow you to stay with locals and, therefore, connect with them from the moment you arrive in a new place.
In any case, spending time with locals and learning about them will enrich your travels so much that you will begin to understand travelers who say that connecting with locals is the main reason they love to travel.
My advice: If you don’t want to stay with locals, you can still search for local events or meetups. On Couchsurfing they have a special section with meetups. Another good option is meetup.com – a platform for meet ups of any field of interest where everybody can post meetups for any region.