7 Reasons Why Everyone Should Travel Solo At Least Once

Remembering back to my first solo traveling experience—unexpectedly extending a weeklong trip to Costa Rica by one additional week after my travel companions headed back to the U.S.—traveling solo is admittedly something that takes a little courage and the right attitude.  However, that one short week in Costa Rica was enough to instill within me the confidence to embark upon a 14-month, life-altering backpack excursion throughout South America.  And I went alone.

Certainly, the idea of traveling to a far off land across seas and over mountains where there’s a good chance you won’t understand the language and away from everything familiar to you can be nerve wracking, especially if it’s your first time.  But just as with anything else in life you have set out to do for the first time, you will get through this and be a stronger person because of it.  Even after the week I spent traveling around Costa Rica solo, that first week in South America—the trip I set off on less than a year after—still made me feel slightly displaced.  During that initial week, I felt so uncomfortable  that I even considered changing my itinerary and heading back home several months early.  However, by the time the second week rolled around, that feeling of displacement began to dissipate and I started to feel a lot more at ease with the idea of traveling on my own.

It’s completely natural to feel a little uneasy and out of place at the beginning of any new venture.  But the good news is you will overcome it.  So embrace the opportunities that present themselves, soak in the moments that stand before you, and you may be surprised as what traveling alone can teach you about the world and about yourself.

You are more resourceful than you thought

Some people may be discouraged to travel alone because of a long list of things they are worried they won’t be able to figure out once they find themselves alone in a foreign country.  Perhaps they’re worried about how they’re going to find their way around a new city  or how they’re going to wash their clothes, or find a decent place to eat, or avoid getting scammed.  The secret to finding the answers and squelching all of your worries with anything in life that you choose to do is this:  don’t worry about the details; they’ll work themselves out once you figure out where it is you are headed.

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And you may be surprised by how willing strangers are to help you, even if you can’t speak the local language. You might be embarrassed as you struggle your way through unfamiliar words, but eventually you learn to shake off the shyness to get what you need.

If there is one thing I have learned thus far is that sometimes life has an uncanny way of helping you out with the details of any positive venture you embark upon that will enrich your life as well as the lives of those around you.  Besides, perhaps the simple act of doing your laundry or finding a decent place to eat can become an adventure in and of itself.

>> Check out some of the pros and cons of solo travel

You can make your own important decisions

You may not realize just how many of the decisions you make in life are one form of compromise or another.  We compromise on our career choices,  on how we spend our time, and on who we spend our time with. In each and every aspect of our daily lives we are forced to make compromises, whether we realize it or not.

A few years back I realized that most of the choices I had made up until that point in my life had been some form of compromise between the things I really wanted and the things I was supposed to do.  That’s when I took a step back and assessed what it was that I really wanted out of life, and seeing more of the world became a top priority for me.  With no one else willing to take a year off to travel abroad, I finally mustered up the courage to venture off on my own, and it became one of the best decisions I had ever made.

I took a step back and assessed what it was that I really wanted out of life, and seeing more of the world became a top priority for me.

One of the greatest aspects of traveling alone, I discovered, is that you are not obligated to compromise on any of the things you really want to do during your trip with a travel companion.  It’s your life, your trip.  You alone dictate what you want to get out of your adventure.  Interested in art and culture?  Find a list of all the best museums.  Want to party until dawn and sleep in late?  Do it.  Traveling solo teaches us that life doesn’t have to be a compromise, and that we are all instilled with the freedom and flexibility to choose how we experience life.

You might actually enjoy doing typically social things alone

I would hate for anyone to pass up the experience of traveling solo just because they feel a little uncomfortable doing certain everyday things alone.  I know some people may be averse to going out to eat or catching a new film in the theater solo, but in reality it is a lot less awkward than you may believe.  And as with anything else in life, it just takes practice.

As with anything else in life, it just takes practice.

In preparation for my big trip, I began dining out in restaurants by myself instead of ordering takeout.  I viewed it as practice to help build up my confidence for when I would be traveling, and eventually that progressed into going to the movies alone.  What I learned was that my fears of dining out and going to the movies alone were much worse than actually sitting in a restaurant or darkened movie theater and watching a movie.  No one is judging you or wondering why you are alone. All that self-consciousness comes only from you. As you may have experienced in other things you’ve tried for the first time, the first time is always the most difficult.  After that, it only gets easier.

>> Read about some awkward solo travel situations, and how to handle them

But you are never really alone

Though navigating a new city, taking an overnight bus, shopping at the local market, and eating out alone all get easier the more you do them, if on any given day you don’t want to be alone, you don’t need to be.You’re never really alone so long as there’s someone there with whom you can strike up a conversation with, and you may be surprised by how easy it can be to communicate even if you don’t know the local language. A few basic phrases like “my name is” and “I am from” can go a long way.

If you stay in hostels, you’ll never be at a loss for travel companions. More likely than not, there will be at least a few other solo travelers staying in the same place, and chance are they’re looking for a travel buddy too.

Strangers may eventually become lifelong friends

I could almost guarantee you that lonely is one word that most experienced solo travelers would never use to describe any of their solo adventures.  So if the thought of being lonely is one of the things holding you back from embarking upon your own solo adventure, worry not.  Even though the idea of traveling alone may inspire thoughts of being by yourself in a foreign land with no one else to talk to, believe me when I tell you that you aren’t the first person who has thought to travel to wherever it is you are headed, nor will you be the last.  And you most certainly will not be there alone.

I could almost guarantee you that lonely is one word that most experienced solo travelers would never use to describe any of their solo adventures.

You will make so many new connections with travelers of all kinds, from all regions of the globe who have similarly been waiting to take a trip very much like the one that lays before you.  By the end of my trip to South America I had befriended so many people from so many different countries that I needed to plan another trip just so I could visit them.

>> Find out how to make friends even if you don’t stay in a hostel

Solo travel allows you to embrace spontaneity

Jumping

Whether you consider yourself spontaneous or not, spontaneity is a quality solo travel brings out of you.  When I left for South America, I had brought with me a rough itinerary of how I intended to spend my first month.  However, once I arrived in Buenos Aires I was soon informed that the bus routes didn’t line up with the itinerary I had put together two months prior, and I had to completely change my travel plans.  Some of the best memories I have from that trip were the unexpected adventures and misadventures that I couldn’t have planned out, even if I wanted to.  Embrace the spontaneous person who is hidden deep within your core, and trust that sometimes, spontaneity allows for things to come along into our lives that are beyond anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.  So don’t stress out, go with the flow, and enjoy the unexpected adventures that unravel before you.

Solo travel can help you be the most independent and confident version of yourself

After you have successfully made it back from your first solo adventure—or maybe even while you’re still on that epic trip you had planned for yourself—you will have begun to understand just how limiting traveling with other people could be.  We enclose ourselves within so many invisible boundaries that we truly limit ourselves from exploring the numerous unknown adventures that await us each and every day.

Often times, we can be so set in our ways that we forget just how many possibilities life holds in store for us.

Often times, we can be so set in our ways that we forget just how many possibilities life holds in store for us.  There is so much power in saying yes to whatever opportunities you find knocking at your door that you really never know just where life may take you.  Solo travel allows you to explore not only those possibilities, but the possibilities within yourself. Solo travel helps you to be more independent, confident, self-assured, and outgoing. And without familiar friends and family to form a buffer between you and the unknown, you learn more about  the outside world and your place in it.

>> Hear the benefits from other travelers who have gone alone

It took me nearly ten years to find the courage to embark upon that trip to South America alone because I was too worried about how I would survive traveling solo, and now I wouldn’t dream of traveling any other way.

Read more about solo travel:

Manifesto - replace broad expectations with nuanced realities

Photos by Astrid Westvang, knowsphotos, orangejon, jordanfischer, To Uncertainty and Beyond, Abulic Monkey, Warzau Wynn

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Leave a Comment

  • Tony Chan said at 2013-08-20T05:43:37+0000: Wonderful article and 100% true! I've been to 24 countries across 5 continents, all solo. I couldn't ask to travel any other way! Seeing each new day with no plans and no expectations, being able to change myself at will and try a new personality, the sense of childlike wonderment and the vast amounts of freedom spur me to explore the world on my own! Being scared of something new is natural. The world is a lot safer then what the media shows you. You'll be awkward at first when you stubble through your new country or city. Self confidence and self esteem will chase away doubt and fear. If you've never done solo travel, do it!
  • Julie Van Wagner said at 2013-08-20T16:09:37+0000: It has been my observation that when people travel together (couples, buddies, groups) they tend to talk only among their group, isolating themselves from locals and fellow travelers. As a solo traveler, it rarely takes more than 20mins for someone to talk to me in a pub or restaurant or a hostel, and those conversations often end up taking/pointing me in directions I could never have experienced otherwise.There is great freedom in doing what you want, when you want, or even IF you want. It does, however, make it difficult to return to "real life" afterwards, where those rules don't really apply. But I wouldn't trade solo travel for the world.
  • Crystal Pay said at 2013-09-09T17:08:17+0000: Yay proud of myself for having done this over the last holidays. So true that you will turn out more independent and confident than before :').
  • Katie Jones said at 2013-08-19T22:24:04+0000: loved this article, I have now lived in 6 countries for work all solo stand alone roles and in most countries I couldn't speak the language, I have also extensively travelled solo and love it, locals interact with you more if you are solo I think and I have had so many amazing experiences, just plan well and listen to your gut instinct, it will never steer you wrong :0).
  • Chua Yi Er Evonne said at 2013-09-10T08:35:21+0000: You are so brave and I look forward to the day that I can travel solo too!
  • Mirna Brekalo said at 2013-09-30T23:10:08+0000: great article, wonderful description
  • Li Min Khoo said at 2013-09-16T05:28:10+0000: I have done dining and watching movies alone so perhaps it's time to take the next step?
  • Aly Bongo said at 2013-09-03T13:02:28+0000: I always travel solo, I've done Europe, Fiji, and Asia all by myself and always came home safe, and with about 10,000 new friends <3.
  • This American Girl said at 2013-08-19T19:22:05+0000: "Solo travel allows you to explore not only those possibilities, but the possibilities within yourself." Such words of wisdom. The more we travel the more we expand our consciousness to realize that everything is possible if we allow it to be. I love solo travel! :)
  • Jeannine Henderson said at 2013-09-06T19:13:08+0000: Just do it.
  • Megan Youngmee said at 2013-08-22T16:24:37+0000: As a solo traveler: I definitely learned these and a few other unexpected tip: http://goo.gl/gY8Kri.
  • Null & Full said at 2013-08-20T08:57:11+0000: This is great! I agree with most of what you have written. I also have some memorable experiences from solo travels and I am pretty sure everyone should try it at least once.
  • Jenni Taylor said at 2013-07-24T22:09:10+0000: I met heaps of people travelling solo :)
  • Leanne Hart said at 2012-11-10T10:06:04+0000: Great article thanks - about to embark on my first long solo trip and it's always good to get some positive reinforcement.
  • Trisha Brinkley said at 2012-10-11T01:29:50+0000: What a great article! I agree with every point you made and have been discovering these for myself whilst travelling solo in Australia and Asia. http://www.trishbrinkley.co.uk/latest-stories/
  • William K. Sheehy said at 2012-01-18T19:23:30+0000: I've been traveling alone now for about 9 years and so far have lived in Ecuador, Peru, Brasil, Argentina, Turkey and now Portugal, in Lisbon, where I have lived since July 2012. Up to now, my longest visits have been my 3-year stay in Brasil, and more recently my 5 year life in Turkey. Everything in the article rings true---being a stranger in a strange land is sometimes awkward, sometimes very lonely, but better than living a life of compromise permanently attached to a house or city. I know where I will be this month, but do not know if I will still be in Lisbon 6 months from now. Much freedom, lots of anxiety, but I have no regrets about how I have lived my life the last 9 years.
  • Dackpa T. Khargur said at 2012-07-24T03:20:54+0000: Interesting......
  • Eldon Ebel said at 2012-04-27T23:07:11+0000: it is great to be alone I always connect with people with good positive energy hooked up with one for a few short trips going back to being free it is great to share r sometimes however free is for me fun in the sun everyday.
  • Aileen Yayin Torcuator said at 2012-02-01T09:50:47+0000: Totally agree, life is one big compromise. Some people will never understand how empowering it is to travel solo.
  • Mandy Moore said at 2011-09-16T16:16:22+0000: I learned to think more independently. It wasn't until I lived abroad that I realized just how censored and skewed the information distributed by the media in the US is. It was an eye opener and really changed the way I make choices and gather information.
  • Rob Marchand said at 2012-02-01T09:10:31+0000: Actually the thought of traveling WITH someone is what freaks me out lol. When you travel alone you have all this intoxicating freedom and you get into all sorts of misadventures and sidetracks because you miss your train or meet someone new or get lost or whatever. I look back at my experiences in Europe and China and can't imagine them being improved with a travel companion. I have no idea how I'll cope when I'm inevitably traveling with a significant other :(
  • Mayah Mayaten said at 2011-09-29T08:12:01+0000: Agree to all she said, and traveling alone is the best choice I've ever made in my travels. It is where you find your strength and test your personal power. It's a great feeling to venture into the unknown and come out triumphant and so enriched in inner and outer self experience. After all, wherever you are, you cannot depend on anybody else to make you happy or to make life/travel more fun for you. Learn to have fun alone, and you'll have even more fun when you are with other people.
  • Yvonne Booth said at 2011-09-16T16:55:51+0000: I just finished a solo trip through Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Washinton and Oregon, mainly to see the national parks. Everything said above is so true. I found people really curious and surprised that I was doing it alone and I'm sure alot of the people that did talk to me wouldn't have been so friendly and chatty if I wasn't alone. Time to plan the next solo trip! :)
  • Hannah Juliette Thompson said at 2011-10-18T10:50:33+0000: This article sounds freakishly like what I'm doing. Starting in Costa Rica then going around the rest of South America solo. I'm so so nervous but I'm sure the experiences will be well worth it and truely eye opening. BRING IT ON!
  • Sheryll Ico said at 2011-10-18T17:25:35+0000: you are never really alone...:)