Travelling alone can be transformational and should not be feared. To persuade you, here are five benefits of solo travel.
Allow me to share a recent, but not uncommon, experience. I was waiting to embark on a one-week cruise around Norway and got chatting to the lady next to me in the queue. The conversation went something like this:
“Are you travelling alone?” she asked.
“Yes I am,” I replied.
There was a moment’s pause as she looked at me with a mixture of pity and horror, mouth agape. “Oh. You’re so brave!” she exclaimed.
What I wanted to say was that I was about to take a leisurely cruise from southern England. It was not as if I was about to go hitch-hiking across Afghanistan or shopping in Primark at 4 pm on a Saturday. But not wanting to offend her I replied meekly, “Not really.”
Here’s the thing. Solo travel, and especially female solo travel, is perceived as a risky business. Hence, if you travel alone, many people are prepared to pin a bravery reward on your lapel. This is rubbish. I am not saying that travel does not involve risk, and this should always be mitigated, regardless of your gender. But equally, fear and others’ reactions to solo travel, should not hold you back from going it alone.
To try to persuade you to take the plunge, here are five benefits of solo travel.
1. You will meet great new people
It’s fair to say that whilst travelling with other people is fun, there is less incentive to reach out to other people, be it fellow travellers or locals. You are in a cosy friendship bubble, your human contact box well and truly ticked. However, when you are travelling alone you are pretty much forced to talk to other people, otherwise you will feel very lonely.
Don’t get me wrong; I am very comfortable in my own company but even I would not be able to travel for more than a few days without striking up conversations with others. Some of my most enduring, close relationships have been formed with those I have met whilst travelling alone.
And I would add that it is far preferable to travel alone, than with someone who turns out to be a nightmare away from the shores of your home country. I’m sure that most of us have stories to tell of the travelling companion from hell.
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
– William Butler Yeats
2. You will have freedom
Freedom when travelling can assume many forms. You can direct and choose your itinerary, going when and where you want. You can be spontaneous, changing plans at the drop of a hat, sometimes as a result of fellow travellers giving you the inside scoop on an amazing waterfall they visited or the fantastic meal they had the previous evening.
And it’s hard to beat being able to decide what to do on the day. Relax by a pool and go on a hike; the choice is yours alone. You have no-one to disappoint but yourself.
“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”
3. You will feel empowered
Solo travel is an instant self-esteem booster. Nothing boosts your confidence like navigating unfamiliar cultures in unfamiliar territories. This sense of achievement can be a transformative process, not only at the time but spilling over into other areas of your life on your return home.
“The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment.”
– Martha Beck
4. You will step outside your comfort zone
How many of you have gone to see a movie or play alone? Or eaten solo at a restaurant? Let’s face it …. many women don’t even go to the toilet alone.
Although travelling with family, friends and loved ones can be fantastic, going it alone will give you more opportunity for growth. Stepping away from the familiar, can force you to do things you might never have contemplated before. As daunting as it may seem, how do you know that you won’t create great travel memories by jetting off somewhere by yourself?
“Comfort zones are where dreams go to die.”
5. You can embrace the power of anonymity
When travelling alone, you can be whoever you want. You are in an unfamiliar place where no-one knows who you are and there are no expectations to meet. Be true to yourself.
To the people you encounter, you are simply just another traveller in that particular country. No-one knows your past, the job you do, or your past triumphs or failures. With this anonymity comes equality and freedom.
“Life is short, and there’s something to be said for being true to yourself.”
I will leave you with one final thought. The benefits of solo travel are not just confined to when you are travelling. Instead, they endure long after you have returned home and can be transformational. Go on. Take the plunge. What do you have to lose?