Solo travel can seem scary. In fact, it is damn right terrifying. That is until you conquer it, then it will likely be your preferred way to travel. At least that is how it happened for me. When I planned my first trip alone, I had no idea what to expect. I took self-dense classes, packed and unpacked, contacted my phone service to add an international plan, and bought three different kinds of mace. I was nervous and scared. Scared of all the ‘bad people’ that might ‘get me’ (my mom’s words). Scared I might get lost. Scared I might get lonely. But regardless of my fears, I still got on that plane and I had one of most memorable experiences of my life; an experience that would inspire me to continue my solo travel to ten more countries (and counting).
I can assure you the benefits will outweigh your fears. The Farmington Heart Study took surveys from a group of women for over twenty years and found those who took vacations two or more times a year were eight times less likely to suffer from a heart attack or develop coronary heart disease. Now add the solo element to your vacation and prepare to reap the unbelievable benefits of travel.
Do What You Want, When You Want
Perhaps one of the ultimate perks of solo wandering: freedom. You can rise early or sleep through the morning, get comfy in a coffee shop or hike a local mountain: but regardless of what you decide, it's your choice. Forget the coordination between you and your group, you are the group. If you need a single reason to travel alone, this is it! Bask in the freedom to do exactly what you want in a foreign land, where your vacation truly becomes your own and as a result, it's more impactful.
Choose to be Alone
In a study conducted by University of Maryland and Georgetown University, researchers found that the biggest hurdle to get over is what other people might think about you being alone. Remember, you are choosing to be alone just as you are choosing to live your life in the most freeing way. Remind yourself of that before you let the fears of other people's opinion block your adventure and stunt your growth. When you choose to be alone, it is no longer "embarrassing" to be seen without friends. After all, this is just the way you want it. Enjoy your own company. Laugh at your own jokes. Dissect repetitive thoughts. Get to know yourself. Choose to hang out with your inner voice. It will be one of the best decisions of your life.
Less Distractions, More Appreciation
It's much more of a challenge to find your inner Zen with your best pal chatting away or your significant other asking for help to figure out the next few days of itinerary. This is not to say the company of others is unwelcomed, because companionship is one of the greatest pleasantries in our lives, but there is a time and a place. Finding your Zen is best done in the accompaniment of yourself. Hike alone. grab a drink at the local pub...by yourself. Rent a bike and cross a country... with only you and your wheels. Set off on foot to explore a new city... all by your lonesome. This enhances your clarity and thus increases your appreciation of all that you are experiencing on your travels.
Make International Friends
When we are with our pals, its easy to well, be with just our pals. We don't need anyone else, so we don't seek them out. When we are alone, whether it be in a far away land or at our neighborhood diner, we are more likely to not only notice others but engage. Fellow-solo travelers love to chat up a friend in a coffee shop and share tips and pics of places they have been. These encounters typically end with a swift exchange of contact information to be used when you find yourself in your new friend's neck of the woods. Through this tactic, I have made friends in all corners of the world whom many have already hosted me, despite our brief encounter. This is how the inner travel world functions. There is an accommodating connectivity where explorers want to help other explorers. It's a family of sorts. A family of like-minded individuals.
Live in Your (Un)Comfort Zone
Talk about being uncomfortable! My first trip alone was awkward. I was walking around nervous and apprehensive, questioning everyone and everything. I was living in my most uncomfortable situation. In a foreign country, no phone, no language and no idea what I was doing. And then I had a breakthrough. I grew in my (un)comfort zone. After all, that is where we do most of our evolving. If you strive to live uncomfortably (at least for a short amount of time), you will find yourself becoming more comfortable in the once unfamiliar "zone." Basically, the more you travel alone, the easier and more desirable it becomes.
My best writing is done while traveling. There is something magical in the air during an adventure that opens the doors to creativity. I took a month-long train trip across the U.S. with a single purpose: to write. As each landscaped whisked by and each state line was crossed, creative thoughts filled my laptop. The freedom of being alone and having a special purpose was a writer's dream. A dreamer's paradise. When you travel alone, you tap into an area of yourself that doesn't get much attention. This is a place you want to be and this place is easier found when your travel alone. Pick a purpose to your travel. Write your book. Find your Zen. Compose songs. Find your inspiration. Whatever it may be, expect a flow of authenticity to lead the way.