Solo travel rocks for so many reasons; you can take advantage of sweet deals when your friends can’t score time off (like off-season specials and secret plane fares) and do exactly what you want, when you want. What’s more, adventuring alone can help you break free from your comfort zone and learn a ton about yourself in the process. Not sure exactly what to expect as you head out alone for the first time? A handful of seasoned travelers shared the most important lessons they’ve learned while wandering on their own — all things they tell us they wouldn’t have figured out otherwise.
1. How to Pack Light: Traveling without bae or your besties means there’s no one around to help you load, unload, or carry multiple bags through the airport, the train station, or to the fifth floor of your walk-up Airbnb. Traveling alone is a surefire way to master the art of taking just what you need.
2. What Your True Colors Are: There are lots ways to reveal your strongest and weakest inner qualities, but traveling alone (especially to a far-flung place) has a way of making them super obvious. “You’ll experience so many things that you spent months — even years — dreaming about, along with some difficult things that will shape the way you travel, and who you are as a person,” Lola Mendez from the blog Miss Filatelista explains. “Through the experiences, you learn who you are. You learn what you can handle, how far is too far, how much is too much. Your true colors start to show in moments of pure bliss, but also in utter confusion.” What a way to get to know yourself.
3. How to Survive Alone in an Unfamiliar Environment: Traveler Chantae Reden tells us that solo travel forces you to figure out how to survive in a different setting on your own. “At home, we’re surrounded by what’s familiar,” she reminds us. “We know our neighborhoods, restaurants, language, and culture. When we travel with a friend, we always have someone nearby in tough situations.” Traveling solo, on the other hand, forces you to navigate new settings totally on your own. “You will learn how to navigate, negotiate, communicate, and cope with feelings of self-doubt and loneliness. And once you return home from your solo trip, you’ll never be the same — you’ll always know how to get dropped in a new spot and thrive.”
4. How to Protect Yourself Anywhere: Different places might call for different forms of protection, but you need to know how to take care of yourself wherever you go. Travel writer and mom Kirsten Maxwell tells us that safety tops her list of lessons she’s learned from adventuring solo. “Traveling with a group of people often provides a sense of security. Walking the streets of an unfamiliar city feels exciting, staying at a new hotel is luxurious, eating at a restaurant can be a wonderful experience. However, when traveling solo, those things all get turned upside down.” She says she’s developed a system for the times she travels alone. “I make sure to call home or tell the front desk where I’m headed. At the hotel, I’m aware of people who get on the elevator with me and always lock the door to my room. Eating at a new restaurant is great, but if it’s in a foreign country, I’m careful about what’s being served, especially when it comes to cocktails.”
5. To Get Over Your Fear of Looking Foolish: Being afraid of looking like a fool is a pretty big deal for tons of travelers, but Cher Hale from The Iceberg Project says taking a trip alone actually is the best way to get over it. “In 2016, I decided to move to Rome for three months for a blend of slow, solo travel and language learning. Even though I had been studying Italian for four years, I was nervous about using the language to run errands and make friends. I constantly lacked confidence in my Italian ability and worried that I sounded stupid, silly, or childish. But being alone in a foreign city for an extended period of time taught me how to get over my fear of looking stupid while speaking Italian,” she shares. “When I stopped letting my fear hold me back from starting conversations, I learned the names of baristas, fruit market owners, and butchers. I had people to say ‘hi’ to while walking down the street. I explored the city with more ease and self-assurance. This was something that I could only have done on my own.”
6. To Challenge Your Assumptions: You might think you know what a certain place or culture is like, but you can’t say for sure until you’ve had a real-life experience. Travel blogger Jessica Yurasek says that the thing that sticks out most in her mind from solo travel is the constant reminder that humans are kind. “When I travel alone, I see that people are inherently good,” she affirms. “This is an especially important lesson in times like these, when the news and political climate is ripe with stories of hatred and fear mongering. We never hear the stories of generosity, kindness, and trust in the news, so we fall into our little bubbles thinking that the big, wide world is scary and dangerous. This is simply untrue,” she promises.
7. Whether You Actually *Like* Traveling Alone: It might seem obvious, but how can you know if you really love traveling alone until you’ve done it? If you’re afraid to set out for something totally new, try visiting a new town and booking a cool boutique hotel for some quiet R&R, or even taking a day trip to a destination where you can treat yourself to checking a few things off of your bucket list. So empowering!
Have you taken a solo trip? Tell us the most important lesson you learned on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Feature photo via Getty)