Sunday, July 6, 2014

5 Reasons Everyone Should Travel Solo

My solo trip to the U.A.E.
A short time ago, I spoke to a friend who, for unforeseen circumstances, had found herself alone in Australia. I was thrilled to hear this, but for someone who has never braved a new place on her own, it was incredibly scary.  Travel, as with anything new in life, has fear attached. Some of that fear is real like personal safety and some of it is imagined.

During this static-filled conversation she asked me a really interesting question: People speak so highly of traveling alone, and they make it look so easy. How do you get over the fear?

Meditating with some llamas at Machu Picchu
The truth is, it is incredibly daunting to be in a place where you know no one and very little about where you are. When you are traveling with someone else, there is always another person to motivate you to keep going because let's face it, travel can be exhausting. There is also strength in numbers.

When I first decided to travel alone I didn't think about it. I just did it, and I think that was the best thing I could have done for myself. My need to experience something new and different from my current situation was an override to any fear that would have kept me from getting on the plane. Not everyone just jumps without looking though.  My conversation got me to thinking about why I am such a proponent of traveling alone and why I think everyone should do it at least once.

After a long hike in Tanzania
1. Strength- Once you realize that you can navigate a foreign country, you can really do anything. You learn things about yourself that you would never know about. You learn how much you can handle, and you find out that it is quite a lot. Problems from home are put into perspective too.

2. Independence- Traveling solo allows you to be completely free: mind, body, spirit. No one is telling you where to go, what to do, what to eat. The place is yours to explore and enjoy.

3. Everything is on your own time. If you want to spend 2 hours sitting in front of the Sydney Opera House, no one is pressing you to move on. If you want to spend your entire afternoon sitting in a travel agency learning about Istanbul and drinking coffee, that's fine too. Solo travel allows you to linger in places where your soul is satisfied and move on from all the others.

Enjoying a brew with new friends in Turkey

4. Connections- You may think that if you are alone you will be lonely. That can't be further from the truth. I find that when I am alone I am more apt to start a conversation with a random person or talk to other travelers. Lone travelers tend to be more approachable as well. Some of my best travel memories are with strangers who I will never see again and friendships that were forged on some of my longer trips.

Learning about agriculture in Honduras

5. Looking inward allows you to appreciate your surroundings. You notice details, and you will be able to listen to the sounds and observe the sites around you without having to carry on a conversation with someone. Because of this you are able to learn more about your new environment and culture.

Even now when I travel with others I always find time to get away and explore things on my own, have a drink alone or take some time to write even if I have to get up before the roosters. To me, these are some of the best moments. There is no secret to how to do it. You just get out there and do it. Join a day tour, ask someone a question, and just be in the moment. The thrill of being completely reliant on yourself will help propel you along.

"If we would only see that all limitations are self-imposed and chosen out of fear, we would leap at once." ~Adyashanti