For most people, traveling as part of a group is the norm. Whether it’s vacationing with your partner, your family, or a friend, the goal is often to spend time with those you already know and explore a new place together. You have at least one familiar element no matter how far off-the-beaten-path you go. Tackling a new destination on your own removes a level of comfort away from home. Travelers going solo don’t have that built-in security blanket—but that shouldn’t stop you from going it alone on the road. A trip by yourself has its own set of rewards.
While the decision to do anything on your own can be intimidating, it’s the things that challenge us the most that end up leaving a lasting impression. As Freya Stark writes, “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.” Traveling alone changes you, and the rewards are worth overcoming any hesitation you may have. Still not convinced? Here are seven reasons why flying solo on your next adventure can lead to a life-changing experience. You won’t be disappointed.
1. You Get Comfortable Being Alone
Having the apartment to yourself for a week is fun, but the thought of dining alone, sightseeing alone, sitting in a hotel room alone—these are all things that many people find to be uncomfortable. Yes, traveling by yourself forces you to do these things. But before long, you may find that you actually enjoy them. Listening to your own inner monologue without having to worry about the schedules or preferences of travel companions allows you to get in touch with what makes you happy as a traveler and as a person.
2. You Meet New People
Traveling solo doesn’t mean spending all of your time alone. You can seek out areas where other solo travelers congregate. Joining a group travel excursion, boutique tour, or guide service for a day or two is a great way to learn the lay of the land and meet others exploring the area for the first time. If you find that it isn’t what you hoped for, move on to another option. That’s one of the big benefits of traveling by yourself—you get to make all those decisions.
What are your hobbies and interests? Sign up for morning yoga or take a cooking class. Find a local running club and go for a jog with them. See what events are at the local museums. If you’re traveling abroad, research the hang-outs for other expats. They will help you find the hidden gems that are unknown to most tourists.
3. You Learn How to Travel Minimally
Once you’ve had to carry your own bags onto trains, buses, and through crowded streets, you realize that less is indeed more. You begin to notice that you don’t wear half of what you pack, and you can survive with two pairs of shoes and one pair of pants. Once you learn that lesson, you can travel lighter and get around easier. You won’t spend as much time packing and unpacking and more time exploring the region. Pick out travel clothes that are comfortable and flexible, meaning that you can wear them for just about anything you do on the trip. See travel men’s and women’s styles for ideas on clothes to best suit up for your next trip.
4. You Get a Bigger Picture of the World
We all live in our own little bubbles. We may read about other people and places, but visiting new destinations really does provide a greater understanding of the larger world. When you’re traveling in a group, it’s harder to leave the bubble. By yourself, you can explore more. Find out how the locals live, where they eat, and what they think. What issues do they struggle with? You may even want to volunteer to do something productive on your trip, like helping with a charity organization. But even if your perfect vacation is lounging by the pool, just traveling to a new destination on your own enables you to get a better sense of our interconnected world.
5. You Learn to Adapt
Beyond learning how to be alone, solo travel pushes you to develop new skills because you’ll need to adapt to a new destination. Before a trip, challenge yourself to learn a few sentences in the native language (the app DuoLingo can be a big help). It doesn’t take much to break down language barriers and engender goodwill. Locals appreciate the genuine interest in connecting with them and the desire to learn about their country.
6. You Learn to Go with the Flow
The truth is, no matter how much you plan, not all journeys go the way you had hoped. Of course, you want to be prepared and researching a solo trip is essential. But leaving room for flexibility is just as important. Things will go wrong. Some plans will change. But that’s part of the journey. You begin to learn that things do, in the end, work out, even if it wasn’t the way you intended. You learn to be flexible, and you learn to let things go.
7. You Can Experience Things You Would Otherwise Miss
Travel can be time-consuming and expensive. Bringing along your spouse or family sometimes isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your travel dreams. Maybe you want to see your favorite performer in a Broadway show? Or bike a legendary route of the Tour de France? Sometimes a trip just isn’t feasible if you wait for all the stars to align correctly. Traveling solo lets you just go for it. You’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime trip. Don’t let the fear of traveling by yourself stop you.
Written by Meagan Drillinger for RootsRated Media in partnership with Royal Robbins.
Featured image provided by #GoEverywhere Explorer, @roundtripgypsy in Petra, Jordan.