In these last few months, while living in Europe, I have managed to do quite a bit of solo traveling. Looking back at these experiences, I have realized the impact and growth that traveling on my own, has added to my life. Many people are anxious to travel by themselves or don't believe that they will find it enjoyable, but I want to encourage you to give solo traveling a shot, even if it means just exploring nearby town by yourself. Here are some of the skills that you can develop as a solo traveler, which can help you to grow into a more rounded person.
1. Asking for help
Having the courage to talk to someone you don't know can be terrifying. From childhood, we are taught not talk to strangers, but as we grow up, we can really benefit by reaching out to the people that we would consider to be strangers. Despite all of the technology that we are equipped with today, as a solo traveler, you will most likely be faced with a situation that your technology can't help you to solve. Be it getting lost, needing information, seeking advice or trying to figure out how something works, talking to someone you don't know is almost guaranteed to happen. These interactions can not only help you in the moment, but make you more comfortable and willing to interact with other strangers, when you arrive home again.
2. Decision Making
When you are traveling alone, you are truly by yourself. Every single decision that you make, every thing that you decide to do (how you spend your time, what route you take, where you will go, what you will eat etc.) is a direct result of the decisions that YOU make. As someone who struggles making decisions on a day to day basis, solo travelling has been a great help for me, as it forces me to choose, and to choose most often more quickly. This has helped me to learn as well, not to sweat the small choices . (So what if the bagel shop down the road may have been a bit better than that one, I'm currently eating? The important thing is that I've made a choice, I have food and haven't wasted time humming and hawing over what I am going to eat.)
Even if you aren't a huge planner, before you leave for a trip, some things will need to be planned ahead of time, especially if you are going alone. If you forget to prepare something important in advance, there will be no one there to bail you out. Remembering this encourages you to take the chance to plan ahead, even for little things such as bringing money, choosing where to go and where to stay. Planning ahead is an excellent discipline to have in so many different areas of life, and solo traveling is a great opportunity to practice this important discipline.
4. Making New Friends
If you've ever traveled solo, I can almost guarantee that you've already discovered how easy it is to meet and connect with other solo travelers. Solo traveling is great, because it can make you so much more open to meeting other people while you are out and about. Most of the time, solo travelers connect very easily with others traveling alone, as they already have something in common. People often say that as an adult, making friends can be extremely difficult. I agree with this statement, but I certainly feel that those who have practiced making friends as a solo traveler, are more likely able to translate this skill to the real world, when they return home.
5. Being Independent
Everyone's personality is a little bit different. Some people tend to rely on others quite a bit, while others rarely do. Either way, no matter the personality type a person has, traveling alone increases independence. The ability to make choices, do tasks alone and to think for oneself, is an important skill to have. Solo traveling is a great way to hone this skill and to be comfortable enough with it to use it back home, in the real world.
6. New Experiences
Coordinating time with other people to travel together can be extremely difficult. The ability to book time off together, as well as for everyone to have the finances, is often rare. When you refuse to restrict yourself to only taking trips with other people, it allows you to travel more often and at your own leisure. This can open you up to being able to see more places and to experience more things than you would have been able to otherwise.
7. More Observant
I have discovered first hand, that when I'm traveling alone, I tend to pay more attention to my surroundings, giving me a much better idea of where I am. When I travel with others, I often allow them to keep track of where we are, but traveling alone forces me to pay better attention to what is going on around me and where I am in the city, while helping me absorb the location itself, in a different kind of way. This automatic instinct can help to keep you safe, by making you aware of the surroundings and atmosphere around you, as well as to help to remember your way and keep you from getting lost.
8. Life Experience
Doing more things and going to more new places in life can help you to become a more rounded person, as it can give you a better glimpse of the world around you. Having the ability to travel more often can provide you with excellent life experience, memories and skills to pull from, which you can use in similar circumstances, later on in life.
9. A Boost of Confidence
There is something very unique about traveling alone. Being able look back and say, "I did it," after your first trip away, is huge. After completing your first journey, it certainly gets easier. Solo traveling certainly makes you more confident in your own skills and abilities, as you navigate the world, without someone by your side. It shows you how capable you really are and allows you to take this confidence back home with you and translate it into your everyday life.
A big solo travel experience isn't for everyone, but I would certainly encourage almost everyone to give it a shot, even on just a small scale. On a day when everyone but you has plans, go to another town and profit some time there. Give yourself a chance to hone in on these great skills. Who knows, this just might be what you need to encourage yourself to try out your own large scale, solo expedition.
I'd love to hear from you below. Have you done solo traveling before? If so, what is the biggest thing you've learned from that experience? If not, what is holding you back from giving it a shot?