Y’all know how *obsessed* I am with traveling (understatement). Not sorry, not one little bit. In fact – I currently have TEN flights booked in the next ten weeks. Yes, you read that correctly: NYC – Toronto – NYC – Milwaukee – NYC – DC – NYC – DC (yes, twice in a row) – NYC – London – Mystery European Location – London – NYC – San Francisco – NYC… all before the end of October. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover how I am feeling. And while I will be taking most of these trips with the Enemy of Fun (proof that he can be coerced into doing fun things, sometimes against his will or better judgement), I am a huge believer in traveling solo. Here’s why:
Taking a trip all by yourself can be scary
It can be daunting to travel to an unfamiliar place – it takes guts! And if you’re going alone, it takes even more courage. Traveling alone forces you to face your fear of not only being alone but also going somewhere you have never been before. This pushes you far outside of your comfort zone, forcing you to discover exactly how strong you are. You will feel empowered, proud, confident and able to conquer the world… literally. And you may even come to love your own company. Best feelings ever.
No need to compromise
One of the greatest perks of traveling solo: you don’t have to take into consideration anyone else’s schedule, opinions or attitude. You want to snake charm in the souk in Marrakesh? (you nasty) You want to kiss a llama at Machu Picchu? You want to jump out of a plane over the Gold Coast in Australia? I only did one of those… for now… I am coming for you llamas. The point is – DO YOU. Do whatever it is your little heart desires – sleep in, get up early, do something, do nothing – this is YOUR time.
You can set the budget AND stick to it!
Similar to having to compromise when traveling with others, setting a budget and sticking to it can be painful. When you are flying solo, you get to make all the monetary decisions. Take the red-eye or the early morning flight (and spend the night in the airport to save money without anyone judging you), order a cheese platter as your meal of the day, splurge on wine but save money by staying in less fancy hotel. I did this in Berlin – took super cheap flights, stayed in a hostel (yes, I was over 30 at the time) but had a fancy dinner out – balance, my friends, balance. Treat yourself or don’t – it is all up to you.
You learn more about the local culture
When you are on your own and in a completely foreign land with no contacts, context or cultural understanding, you are forced to learn and adapt quite quickly. You have to get from the airport to the hotel, order dinner, hail a taxi, check into a hotel where no English is spoken – you get the picture. You have to fend for yourself, all by yourself. Doing these things (successfully or unsuccessfully) opens your mind to the wide world beyond your daily life at home – plus it makes for excellent stories.
My favorite example of this was arriving at a hotel in Koh Tao, Thailand where I was learning to scuba dive. The person at the reception desk took me to my hotel room and explained to me (at least 7 times) how a manual flush toilet works… and by the end of it, we were both in complete stitches over our inability to communicate how a toilet works. For the rest of the week, I would get a giant smile and wave every time I walked past reception.
You meet other solo travelers
You can meet so many fascinating people from all over the world when you are traveling solo – out of social necessity more than anything! While you may never see those people again (or very rarely), you never know when your paths will cross again. I keep tabs on several people I have met traveling (through the marvels of social media) and have even met friends of friends through them… small world, indeed.
So take the plunge – book that solo trip. If that is too big of a step, start small – take yourself out to dinner, take yourself to the movies – then move up to a weekend escape… then a big trip – somewhere far away and completely foreign. You may surprise yourself!