Dana is a traveler, cooking enthusiast, animal lover, and coffee extraordinaire focused on living life to the fullest.
Seeing the world can be one of the most fulfilling and intimidating experiences possible. On the one hand, there’s the opportunity to see the world and appreciate other cultures completely different from one’s own. At the same time, however, there’s the possibility of cultural barriers creating a challenge, along with a million other things that could go wrong. In my opinion, everyone should travel without a group or a partner at least once in their life. Whether you call it a rite of passage, a spiritual quest, or something else entirely, to truly see the world and embrace the experiences traveling has to offer, one needs to do so alone.
1. You’ll figure it out.
You will undoubtedly have a misadventure. There simply is not enough planning one can do to stop life from getting in the way. You may get completely lost, lose something, or have an issue with communication. No matter what challenge you face, you’ll find out quickly that when you, alone, confront the matter head-on, your ability to utilize resources and come to a resolution will amaze you. Soon you’ll be capable of anything. It’s not comfortable, but it’s empowering to know that you can tackle the world alone and survive anything.
2. You’ll learn how to laugh at yourself.
One of the biggest flaws humans possess is the inability to just let go and laugh at themselves. We’re too busy caring about making a mistake and embarrassing ourselves. Why take life so seriously when we’re only human, after all? When you jump into a new culture, you’re bound to make a mistake due to cultural differences. Learn from that mistake, then laugh because it actually is funny, despite how embarrassed you may feel in that moment.
3. You’ll meet heaps of new friends.
When you travel solo, the opportunity to meet new people is eminently present because, well, you don’t have anyone else to pal around with. If you’re traveling with others, it’s easy to never meet a single new friend because you’ve already got companions to keep you company, but you would be missing out on the best part of experiencing a new culture: the people. When traveling alone, it’s easy to make new friends with fellow like-minded travelers or local individuals who are just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. Some of your closest life-long friends may be waiting for you on foreign soil! Now it’s just a matter of going out there and meeting them.
4. You’ll find yourself 100% immersed in the experience.
Too many times people who travel in groups or with a partner spend so much time involved in their lives back at home that they miss out on what is actually happening in front of them. People get too involved in chatting over their jobs, their friends, their family, and the emotional attachment to home doesn’t allow them to be thoroughly engaged in the moment. Traveling solo means you live every moment to its fullest because you are immersed completely in that experience. There are no distractions pulling you out of that moment you are living in and you will come to appreciate it more than you thought imaginable.
5. You'll be in control of the adventures.
You could wake up one morning and decide that you don’t like the city you’re visiting or maybe someone suggested you go and check out this amazing place. Maybe you want to climb a mountain, maybe you want to swim the ocean, maybe you want to hop on the next plane and end up on the other side of the world. When you travel alone, that freedom is yours. You’ll find that your best experiences will arise from the unexpected events and the spontaneous moments. When you travel with others, the adventure is half theirs too, so there very well may be things you have to tag along with, potentially some you may not enjoy or appreciate.
6. You'll be responsible for you, and only you.
Say you do travel with others and want to go off and explore on your own. Most of the time nobody is going to stop you, but there are limitations to this. There will be “check-ups” throughout the time you are away. This very well could go the other way around if one of your mates wanted to take off on their own mini adventure. Granted, those who care about you want to know that you are safe, but suddenly you’re trying to have your own adventure and be timekeeper at the same time. When it’s just you, you are responsible for yourself and don’t have to worry about pulling out a phone every hour to assure those with you that you have not run into some catastrophic encounter. You don’t even need to know what time it is if you don’t want to. Of course, when you travel alone, you’ll have to write dear mom and dad an email or a postcard every once in a while, but that’s only fair.
7. You'll appreciate the minimalist approach to travel.
It’s you, alone, with a bag over your shoulder and the world at your feet. In your bag are the few necessary items for survival, nothing more. Anything you’ve forgotten you’ll learn to live without. It is both less weight on your shoulders and less to worry about. Not only is it refreshing, but it’s a surprising lesson in your ability to disassociate with material possessions. When you travel with others, it’s likely that anything you’ve forgotten, someone else will have so you’ll never learn to appreciate what it’s like to just live free from this item. There is also a lot of pressure during the packing process not to forget something (my goodness, how many times I’ve heard that one and how many times I’ve stuffed a suitcase to the brim with items I never even touched). When you try not to forget something, you tend to overpack, bogging the adventure down with having to babysit materialistic items. Initially, it may be uncomfortable to find yourself miles from home with only a handful of things or you may begin to worry that something will happen and you’ll regret not bringing something. The uneasy feeling will fade, you will adjust to the minimalist lifestyle, and you will find that living without all those things opened up for a greater adventure.
8. You’ll pick up on the local language.
Sure, if you travel with a group, you’ll pick up on the language here and there, but when you have companions who speak the same language as you, the need to pick up on the local language is minimal. You will walk away with a sense of accomplishment and a more fulfilling cultural experience when you learn a new language or at least some of a new language, and utilize it because you have overcome a challenge and immersed yourself even deeper into the culture.
9. You’ll own those experiences, uninfluenced by anyone.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with sharing experiences, especially with the people we care about the most, but there is something empowering about owning your own experiences. When you tell the tales of your adventures, they’re your stories and memories and no one else has them but you.
10. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought possible.
So many times it’s too easy to define ourselves based on societal norms, living as though there are expirations on when and how we are supposed to live. The influence of our surroundings makes it easy to get lost in the whirlwind of “what should be” that it becomes easy to lose sight of the most important person: You. When you disrupt the daily routines of life and set off on an adventure alone, you are not only immersed in your experiences, but you are immersed in your you-ness. You’ll learn how to appreciate who you are as an individual and you come to be comfortable being with yourself. It sounds surprising because we live with ourselves all day long, but with nothing but your own thoughts, uninterrupted and uninfluenced, you’ll learn so much more about yourself than imaginable. It will be the greatest gift you can carry with you for the rest of your life.
Amanullah Jatoi from Saudi Arabia on October 31, 2018:
Amnah Tariq on October 28, 2018:
Very interesting article about why one should travel more and alone...
Amanullah Jatoi from Saudi Arabia on October 28, 2018:
Ced Yong from Asia on August 16, 2017:
You said it well. Traveling alone teaches you to laugh at yourself. That gets you over the mistake and you learn to improve. I dare say I became much more systematic and organized after various solo trips in my 20s.
ologsinquito from USA on March 17, 2015:
Very interesting perspectives. I like traveling with a companion though.
Hannah David Cini from Nottingham on March 16, 2015:
This is a lovely article. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to travel alone before I settled down, it was such a liberating experience. I hope that more people dare to do it and bravo for writing an article encouraging it :)
Sandeep Rathore from New Delhi on March 16, 2015:
I will be brief. It has been a good reading experience.