There is nothing more rewarding than traveling by yourself. When you go somewhere foreign alone, you are forced outside of your comfort zone and into situations you never would have found yourself in when with a friend or group of people. You meet interesting people, make life long friends, and create meaningful experiences for yourself. Its easy to get caught up directing your time and energy towards others but it is just as important if not more so to find time to take care of yourself. Solo travel allows you to take that time, it allows you to discover yourself and what you are capable of, and it allows you to break down walls in your mind and body.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” ― Rumi
1. Letting Go
Every step it takes to travel alone, from the initial decision to communicating with strangers in a strange place, deals with the principal of letting go. For me, first it was letting go of first world comforts like cable TV, going out to eat, going shopping for no reason at all. Then it was letting go of fear, the reservations about leaving, of conquering the doubts and letting go of the excuses. And then it was letting go of that voice in my head insisting that others are judging me. We as humans tend to get wrapped up inside of ourselves, traveling forces us to see what lies beyond our little universe- especially when you’re alone. Any time I feel out of place, awkward, or embarrassed I whisper to myself, “What-Ever! People are too busy worrying about themselves to worry about you, and life is too wonderful to miss out on opportunities just because you were feeling self conscious.” and move on. Solo travel will show you that letting go ultimately means gaining so much more.
2. Trusting Others
I, like many of you, was raised on the “Never speak to strangers!” philosophy. I have to hand it to my parents and teachers for instilling such a fear in me that every stranger I met was out to hurt me in some kind of way. The truth is, people are generally good. The first solo trip I took was to a remote part of the Chihuahuan Dessert. I didn’t see many people out there but the handful that I did see were beyond generous, helpful, and downright friendly. A woman in a hardware store even gave me a blanket from her home when I stopped in asking for directions to somewhere with sleeping bags (I’m not the best packer). While I have a new respect for trusting in others I always rely on my instincts to distinguish my safety in any given situation.
3. Go Slow
It can be hard to navigate your way through a foreign place, to make a decision about what or where is next. When in doubt about the next step or whether you can fit in all of the things you want to do, remember to go slow. I was on the Belize/Guatemalan border staying in a guest house in the middle of the jungle contemplating if I could fit in visiting the Tikal ruins and exploring the ATM caves all in the same day (an impossible feat). When I asked the proprietor what I should do he told me, “Go Slow! You miss out on so much when you try to do too many things.” This is true for all experiences. We can get caught up in trying to document the moment, cramming in every sight, that we forget to simply enjoy the moment at hand. From that instant on I never traveled the same. Those simple words have given me pause at the tops of mountains, have given me rare glimpses of the otherwise looked over, and continues to permeate into my daily life. Solo travel taught me to take a moment every day to go slow and appreciate all there is.
4. Laughter is Greater Than Anger
There have been so many times a situation could have been scribed in my memory as awful if I’d chosen to get angry instead of laugh about it. The greatest advice I ever received was that you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can only control how you react. Taking a chicken bus through Belize driven by a drunk man going 70 mph on dirt roads could have been terrifying, but instead, I laughed. I could have thrown fists at flight delays, flat tires, lost luggage, mean people, but instead, I laugh. At the end of the day you have to remember that time spent angry is time wasted and the memory of laughter is ultimately time well spent.
5. Self Reliance
I haven’t always been the bravest, or the strongest, or the most confident person. But taking to the road on my own was by far the biggest leap I ever made for myself as a woman. I taught myself that I don’t have to rely on others, that I am capable of being alone. I am strong enough to climb mountains, drive across the country, camp with bears, encounter all kinds of people and come out on the other side safe and more confident than I’ve ever been. Solo travel will teach you self reliance which in turn teaches you your value as a human being. There is tremendous power in understanding your value as an individual. Independent travel was the only way I was able to find that power within myself.