Why You Should Travel Solo and How
The prospect of traveling alone can be daunting. Where do you begin? Will you be safe? Lonely? Bored? There are a lot of things that can keep you from taking the leap and going alone. It’s like the illustrious Jan Levinson-Gould said — “there are always a million reasons not to do something.” I’m here to tell you why you should take the leap anyway.
We’ll start with a list of the various benefits of solo travel and then get into some strategies and tips as to how to go about it. Keep in mind that these lists aren’t exhaustive.
Why to plan a trip to travel by yourself
YOU have the freedom to do what YOU want:
Want to sleep in late? Or skip the “must-see” museum that you couldn’t care less about? Or spend far too long admiring that one painting that attracts you in a way you can’t explain? With no one else but yourself to worry about, you can spend your time exactly the way you want. You can see what you want to see, and explore what you want to explore. Perhaps the most powerful upshot of this is that you can discover what you yourself truly enjoy doing, without the outside influence of others.
You have flexibility:
When traveling in a group, making plans in the first place can be such a hassle, and once these plans are made, they’re all but set in stone. Indeed, changing course on a dime is nearly impossible. But when you’re solo, you have the gift of flexibility. Let’s say you hear that the next town over has the best strudel that you have to try — just go! Or maybe the hotel you’re in gives you the creeps — just leave! Or if you want to stay a few days longer to spend more time with that cute guy from the bar with the charming accent and the super tight pants — guess what? There’s no one there to stop you.
You’ll be more engaged with the destination:
When on vacation with your friends, it’s easy to get swept away in the conversation and the company. You’ll be laughing and talking and laughing some more, and after a while you’ll notice you’ve hardly looked around. While these moments are undoubtedly valuable, it can impede your immersion in the destination. On the other hand, if you’re alone, and there’s nothing to engage with but the destination itself, you’ll notice things you wouldn’t otherwise.
You’ll meet new people:
Travel offers the opportunity to meet some of the most fascinating people. However, if you’re with friends, it’s not hard to spend the whole time talking to them and never meet anyone new. When you’re alone, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger, or for them to strike one up with you. You’ll make new friends and expand your circle — you never know what kind of crazy connections you’ll make.
You’ll gain confidence:
If you’re traveling alone, you have no one to rely on but yourself. You have to figure things out, problem solve, and make decisions on your own. It’s certainly a challenge, but guess what? You’re up to it. You are more capable than you know, but it can take assuming responsibility in a foreign environment to discover that. You’ll come back from your trip more self-assured and independent.
You’ll be forced out of your comfort zone:
Being in a foreign place alone is certainly not a comfortable position. You’ll experience things you’ve never experienced before, and that prospect can be scary. But, as we all know, getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. Who knows what these new experiences will bring you, or what new things you’ll fall in love with? While traveling solo, you’ll face your fears and become more comfortable with your discomfort. You’re sure to return with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
You’ll learn how to be alone:
Alone time can be hard to come by in everyday life. Not only are you likely very busy, but there’s also a stigma against spending quality time with yourself. The truth is, solitude is healthy and necessary. It can increase empathy, creativity, and productivity, as well as offer the opportunity to think deeply and introspectively. Most of all, it allows you to reboot and unwind. When traveling solo, you’ll have your fair share of alone time. The more time you spend with yourself, the better you’ll get at it; you’ll reach for your phone less, look around more, and end up feeling more comfortable with yourself.
You’ll learn about yourself:
A solo journey into the unknown will undoubtedly reveal a lot about yourself. Uninfluenced by others, you’ll become more aware of your preferences, your habits, and your biases. You’ll learn about your limitations, and you’ll push past them. You’ll have the space to explore important questions, and the freedom to experiment with their answers. The more time you spend away from the people and places that expect you to be a certain way, the more you’ll discover who you really are.
How Should you travel solo?
Before you embark on this potentially life-changing journey, you should make sure you’re well prepared. Here’s a list of tips and tricks to make your solo trip go as smoothly as possible.
Keep copies of your important documents:
Losing your passport or visa in a foreign country is a nightmare. Make copies or take pictures of all your relevant documents to make your life easier if things go awry.
Beware of pickpockets
The first way to defend against pickpockets is to know their habits and tricks. They tend to congregate near tourist attractions and crowded public transportation, often working in groups to distract you with clever rouses. You can do a few things to protect yourself, like keeping your wallet in your front pocket, refraining from carrying valuables, or even wearing a money belt. Read more about specific strategies and tips here.
Keep an extra credit card/cash in a safe:
If your wallet gets stolen, you need to make sure you have another way to get around. Keeping an extra credit card or cash in your hotel safe will ensure that you always have a plan B.
Make sure friends or family know your location:
Check in periodically with family or friends and tell them where you’re going. It’s even a good idea to share your location with them, just in case.
Say yes a lot, but also know how to say no:
Traveling solo is all about new experiences, so say yes to them! On the other hand, you also have to trust your gut. If you feel funny about a situation, don’t be afraid to say no, and say it firmly.
Download books and movies before you go:
Having a stash of movies or tv shows or books is always a good thing. It’s okay to stay in and watch a movie some nights, so you should make sure you have good stuff (and in your own language, preferably) queued up.
Be open and try something new:
Try something you wouldn’t try otherwise. This is your time to experiment with no one watching. If you put yourself out there with an open heart, you never know what gems you’ll discover.
Choose your accommodation wisely:
If you’re looking to be more social, hostels or guesthouses with common rooms can be great for meeting people. You can meet fellow travelers, exchange stories, and make friends. You may find people who are heading your same direction, or choose to tag along with a new traveling buddy. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to stay in more traditional lodging if you want more space and comfort. Using a combination of hostels and traditional hotels can make for a well-balanced solo trip.
Don’t get too drunk:
When traveling alone, you always have to keep your wits about you. If you’re a lone tourist who’s blackout drunk, you’re an easy target for a host of bad things. You should be fine as long as you’re responsible and know your limits.
Talk to people:
Don’t be afraid to initiate conversation. As a solo tourist, you’re approachable and locals will likely want to talk to you. Pretty much everyone loves talking about themselves or boasting about their hometown, so you can use that to your advantage. Who knows? You might even meet a lifelong friend, a crazy connection, or the love of your life.
Use a trip planning service:
A trip planning service like Jubel can be a great resource to help personalize your trip based on what's right for you and what you're looking for, as well as your comfort levels and budget. Jubel can make insightful suggestions, and give you peace of mind — all while retaining the flexibility of a solo trip. In addition to saving time and stress, you’ll feel more confident about your decisions knowing you’ve ran them by an expert. If you’re looking for something more social, consider group travel. Group travel will provide a more structured experience and give you the chance to meet a lot of new people.
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