What does solo travel teach you?


The article can be credited to Annie Christmas

Traveling alone will change you. We are a social species, and walking away from everyone you know, however temporarily, is possibly the greatest existential challenge you can set yourself. You will grow, experiencing every interaction with the world around you first hand, stripped of artifice.

Your motives for traveling alone may be quite pragmatic at first, as mine were, but once you have tried it, you will want to do it again and again! Traveling alone in a foreign country is to view what it means to be human, as if for the first time. You will experience everything more intensely. The world will approach you curiously and, hopefully, with kindness, far more so than if you travel with a partner, which tends to create a capsule against outside interference.

Solo travel teaches you so many things, including:

1. Solo travel teaches you courage


“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” – John Mayer

Setting off alone can be terrifying, exhilarating, and deeply liberating. But solitude is beneficial. Lean into it. Your senses are heightened on solo trips: the intense, sweet scents of forests and jungles, the sound of the cicadas, the shock of a cold mountain stream, the waterfall pounding on your head, standing alone under the night sky filled with stars, a hot stone from the fire hugged for warmth. Being alone in the vastness of nature can be a wonderful experience. Watch out, you may get hooked.

Without the buffer of a traveling companion, you will get a great deal of satisfaction from handling things alone – even and especially when that involves enlisting the help of strangers.

2. Solo travel improves your ability to plan ahead


This is a skill you will definitely develop on your solo trips. When your day’s logistics and wellbeing are entirely down to you, forward planning plays an essential role. Again, this will happen of its own free will. Once you have flexed your planning muscles enough times, you will soon reap the benefits of setting objectives and planning ahead, getting more out of your trip. Otherwise, you might end up not eating or sleeping, for example.

3. Solo travel teaches you determination


Solo travel teaches you that if a problem arises, you do not give up until it has been solved. Because you have no choice. And because finding a solution forms part of the journey, to be savored and enjoyed for its own sake. This experience will stay with you, and you will learn to approach life’s challenges more calmly and playfully, without putting things off.

4. Solo travel expands your mind


If it’s true that travel broadens the mind, solo travel blows it wide open. Immersing yourself in new cultures gives you cognitive flexibility. You begin to understand a different perspective on the world and can solve problems more creatively. It also teaches you: Studies in the field of Self-Determination Theory show that people who deliberately and purposefully spend time alone experience greater happiness, more life satisfaction, manage stress better, and have lower rates of depression.

5. Solo travel increases your self-awareness


When you’re alone, you don’t have to put on any pretenses for anyone. On the other hand, maybe you’ll see yourself in a new light and would even like to make some changes? In a place where nobody knows you, it’s much easier to try on different hats, so to speak.

You will also effortlessly find yourself doing exactly what you want to do without really thinking about it, whether that involves embracing new experiences or avoiding them. You may surprise yourself.

6. Solo travel promotes creativity


When you are alone with your thoughts, your brain has a chance to wander, which boosts creativity. I like to write a few words about my newly created memories, attach a photo and send them to friends and family as actual physical postcards, via the MyPostcard app. Solo travel also provides a great opportunity to learn a foreign language. You may even find yourself repeating snatches of phrases you have heard until they lodge in your mind forever. You will certainly put any words you have picked up to good use and find yourself communicating however you can, no need to be self-conscious.

7. Solo travel encourages you to meet new people


Of course, it doesn’t have to be about being alone all the time. In the evenings, you may want company after the day’s events. With so many apps available, the world is your oyster.

For example, you don’t have to dine alone. You could join a local supper club, or use the Eatwith app, which allows you to book dinner with a group of people at someone's home. Or you could even try recreating local cuisine yourself by booking an Airbnb experience. 

Solo travel is a great way to learn empathy, as when you are alone, there is no “us versus them,” and you are more open to see people as they really are.

8. Solo travel helps you stay connected


When you travel alone, you are more likely to try something new and can respond to invitations more spontaneously. Cycling down a gorge in the Pyrenees one time, a Land Rover full of friendly Galician sports teachers drew up alongside me. After politely admiring my speed, they asked if I wanted to come whitewater rafting with them. Absolutely! It hadn’t even occurred to me before. They lent me some plastic shoes to protect my feet when we shot the rapids without the dinghy afterwards. Nearly drowned. One of the best days of my life.

People respond to solo travelers, they admire their pluck and are intrigued.

Ironically, you learn the most about connectedness when you are alone. Moving into and out of connection with people means you can consciously experience what it is, how much it means to you, how happy it makes you feel, and how (simply) you can obtain it.

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So, plunge right in, start planning that solo trip today, or enjoy the best of both worlds on an Indico Travels tour. Solo travelers aged 30-45 can connect with others to take small group tours to countries worldwide here:

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