Last year, I embarked on my first true solo travel adventure. I went to London, Portugal, and Greece. In years past, I globetrotted with a tour company twice through Europe, cruised the Caribbean, and ventured into Puerto Rico and Mexico with a friend. So was this really such a good idea to go gallivanting off to Europe alone? Or was I better off not to travel solo?
To travel solo or not to travel solo
Hands down, a resounding yes! I frequently hear many concerns and reservations about journeying by yourself, but I find the rewards are worth the risk, and dreams can overshadow fears. So why go without a buddy?
Trekking unaccompanied automatically shapes and molds you into a more dynamic, self-assured, bold woman. That is if you remain open to it. I’ve been blundering through mazes of train systems, navigating convoluted maps and avoiding danger. But then you victoriously reach your destination. At some point an “I can do this” mentality emerges on a new level as a result of conquering fear and breaking out of your comfort zone. Not to travel solo becomes less alluring.
Whether butchering local lingo or riding a tram in the wrong direction, you will make mistakes. Persevere, learn, and begin relying more confidently on your gut instincts. Solo travel forces you to trust yourself. Navigating a foreign country by relying on your own ability to problem solve enhances a sense of independence. You will start to believe in yourself. A sturdier sense of identity as a capable, strong woman in charge of making her own dreams happen will emerge.
2. Time to Think
When not on the road, our normal schedules fill with work obligations, family engagements, commitments to our activities and hobbies. Life is…full.
On my recent solo venture, I had unusual amounts of time, space, and silence on my hands. I could simply hear myself think. Examine my own thoughts. Allow my imagination to roam rather than succumbing to constant stimulation. As a result, I unexpectedly experienced revelations and epiphanies over predicaments I’d fretted about incessantly back home.
Just like a fog lifting, you find clarity, solutions to problems, and new idea. All as a result of utilizing quiet time to think.
3. Time Alone
My mentors used to say, “If you can’t enjoy your own company, how will you enjoy the presence of your future spouse?” Years ago, I used to frequently feel lonely. So I learned how to take myself on “dates” rather than waiting for company. When traveling, if I want to wander through a market and sip espresso, I do. If I want to see a museum, I go. And if I want to take pictures of pigeons on historic fountains, I take photos of pigeons on historic fountains. That’s better than feeling disappointed when no one else joins.
You begin to revel in precious solo time. People watching, journaling, observing sunlight streaming through tree leaves. You feel more content and at ease with yourself. A more peaceful, unshakeable sense of happiness grows from within rather than from external sources.
4. Finding Yourself
I discovered much about myself while traveling solo. The discoveries ranged from clarity for my future to personal preferences, tendencies, likes and dislikes. But my recent venture in Greece really shaped a whole new identity.
I saw a calmer, happier, kinder version of myself. At home, I typically saw a stressed out, edgy version influenced by harried schedules, unnecessary perfectionism, and over-committing to multiple activities. After Greece, I revamped my life. I shifted my routine, priorities, obligations, and extracurricular pursuits. I created a new way of life with time for my true passions, surrounded by those who truly matter, as well as significantly less mental and physical clutter. It helped me to find myself.
Embarking on solo expeditions comes with its own annoying nuances such as being hopelessly lost in Paris. Sometimes you are quizzically deciphering a sign in Portuguese, or phone batteries die at inopportune times with no backup plan. Consider the value of freedom. Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?
You pick which country. And you pick which activities, museums, restaurants. You choose to spontaneously stop at boutiques or go dancing all night with acquaintances from the hostel. Then you own the freedom to explore, discover, wander, create new friendships. You design your adventure, independent of anyone else’s needs or expectations. How important is this independence to you?
Now, a footnote on your safety! Its a priority! Do your research, check your country’s government websites for the latest information on foreign destinations, be aware when taking public transport, and avoid risky situations. Stay alert, focused, attentive to your surroundings, and trust your instincts. Then, have an adventure! Book a tour and rub elbows with fellow adventurers. Go on a cruise. Stay in a (safe!) hostel. Go on that road trip. Personally, my solo trip was a magnificent experience, and well worth breaking through fear to reap the rewards.
Hannah resides in Colorado, always busying herself outdoors with hiking, water sports, as well as pursuing the visual and performing arts, including salsa dancing. When not venturing around the world or writing about life, Hannah works as an administrative professional in healthcare.
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