Traveling solo can be scary, especially the first time. However, as I grow older, I find that I really enjoy my company. I must say that in all my solo travels I have never felt alone. As a matter of fact, I have always found great company in the people I’ve met and the new friendships I’ve been able to forge.
Throughout the years, I have had my share of experiencing both group and solo trips. Although I greatly enjoy my trips with family and friends, in recent years I’ve become quite fond of solo travel. Most importantly, solo travel has afforded me the opportunity to know myself. As a result, I have been able to better get in touch with, and accept, my vulnerabilities.
After my last solo trip to China, I received comments such as “you are adventurous” and “you are brave”. But, am I? I really don’t think traveling solo has anything to do with being brave or adventurous.
How traveling solo changed my life
There is something empowering about traveling solo; the more I do, the more I recapture a childlike wonder. However, I must admit that at times it can be overwhelming. On the other hand, I also find it stimulating when I’m in a new place by myself. All of my senses awaken, and I am able to establish an intimate relationship with the city or place I am visiting.
Traveling solo has changed my life in many ways:
A. Self-awareness and discovery
- Traveling solo taught me how to be more empathetic. As a result, I’ve discovered that I occupy a tiny space in this world.
- My ability to discover or develop new skills has greatly improved. For example, my patience has been tested to the limits yet I have been able to keep calm and collected in those situations that pushed my buttons.
- I have become more comfortable in my own skin and learned to accept who I really am.
B. Personal growth areas
- Flexibility: I have become more flexible and adaptable to changing situations.
- Gratitude: I have learned to be grateful and never take anything for granted.
- Decisions: I have become more decisive.
- Planning: I can proudly say that I have become a travel logistics pro.
- Confidence: My sense of confidence has definitely improved.
- Independence: Traveling to places without any support system has allowed me to learn how to be more independent.
- Problem-solving: My ability to solve problems improved tremendously.
Should you travel solo?
I strongly believe that everyone would benefit from traveling solo. Yet, I also don’t think I can prescribe it for everyone. When I reflect back on all the solo travelers I’ve met, along with my own experience, I can see that we share these common traits:
- We like our own company.
- We are not afraid of getting lost. As a matter of fact, we love it.
- We take calculated risks.
- When things go wrong, we take travel upsets lightly.
- If we need assistance, we are comfortable asking strangers for help.
To clarify, you really don’t have to check all five boxes to determine whether traveling solo is for you. In my experience, traveling solo is almost like an acquired taste. Today, while you are at home, you might not like getting lost. But, who knows if you would feel the same if you got lost in Lisbon, Portugal. You might actually enjoy it.
Traveling solo – my do’s and don’ts
Here are my top seven strategies to ensure my trip is a success:
- Budget: I create a travel budget that includes a 25 percent contingency to address emergencies.
- Travel Light: I am a carry-on guy. I have learned that I am able to survive for two weeks with a carry-on. Don’t get the wrong idea; I had to do laundry twice.
- Food: As much as possible, I try to eat where the locals do.
- Connectedness: I stay connected with family and friends back home as much as I can. I use WhatsApp to help me send text messages and make phone calls for free when connected to WiFi. I also share my location with family members using the “Find My Friends” app.
- Group Tours: Group tours are fun and a great way to meet new people. Walking tours are the best.
- Passport: I keep my passport and other IDs on me at all times.
- Alertness: I have always trusted my gut. If it doesn’t sound safe, it probably isn’t.
Here are five mistakes I avoid at all cost:
- Over-scheduling: Having learned my lesson, I no longer overcommit. Instead, I plan my trips with plenty of room to wing it once I get to the destination.
- Getting Drunk: Luckily, I don’t drink alcohol, nor do I have plans to start any time soon. But it has become a habit to ask if I am offered a drink if it contains alcohol.
- Earphones: To stay vigilant and aware of my surroundings, I don’t listen to music while walking around.
- Theft: I do my best to protect my belongings, especially my smartphone. I consider it the most valuable possession I have while I’m on the road. Most importantly, it is loaded with travel apps that help me be organized and stay connected with family and friends.
- Scams: My rule is that if it sounds too good to be true, avoid it.
I hope that this post conveys why I enjoy traveling solo and how it benefits me. I am not saying that I like it more or less compared to traveling with family members, friends, or in any group. As a matter of fact, I enjoy and have learned from both. While traveling solo, I get to go at my own pace and make my own itinerary choices. On the other hand, traveling with a group has taught me how to negotiate to reach consensus about what is best for the group.
As for safety, I have come to realize that the world is not as scary as the media would have us believe. And to overcome any fears I might have, I study the destination and make every effort to be prepared for the unexpected.
If you can afford to travel the world, you are among the richest minority. Furthermore, traveling solo is a privilege and an indulgence; soak up the surroundings and enjoy your alone time.
Finally, if you are looking for inspiration, this Condé Nast Traveller article describing the best solo-travel destinations is a great starting point.