A few years ago, I was terrified of traveling alone.
My reasons varied from safety to a need for companionship. I believe the reason that held me back the most was thinking that I didn’t have the strength required as a female to actually do it.
It was exactly this time last year in India that I first experienced and fell in love with solo travel. I’m currently in India again and can’t stress enough the benefits I am experiencing from traveling alone.
When we think about it, the thought of traveling alone can seem terrifying. We are terrified of our own company. We fear getting bored, getting lost or having nothing to do when abroad. Also, we may doubt our own capabilities (like I used to) as traveling alone requires responsibility combined with mental and physical strength. However, traveling with a companion simply reduces our fear of boredom and increases our sense of safety. Things are always easier and safer when there are two involved.
It took me three solo trips to realize that “easier” and “safer” are only states of mind. From where I stand, becoming a solo traveler is the best present I have given myself. Here are six reasons why:
1. We figure things out by ourselves.
Traveling alone is like having a gardener plants seeds in your garden whether you approve or not.
When we have company with us, we are inclined to become dependent and a little less responsible. Unconsciously, we assume that if we don’t figure something out, the person traveling with us will. When we travel alone, we realize that we must figure things out by ourselves because there’s no one else out there we can depend on .
I became much more responsible during and after my travels, and even when I have someone around, I consider myself alone and try to solve whatever ordeal I am facing. Being by myself allowed me to listen to my own intuition and differentiate between what’s safe and what isn’t, what’s good and what’s bad for me.
2. We realize we are stronger than we think.
I never knew what physical capabilities I had before traveling alone. I never realized the strength and tolerance I had before being by myself in a foreign country.
From walking with a heavy backpack to being assertive when needed, solo travel revealed the hidden attributes that I was blessed with, but oblivious to.
We always feel a sense of security and dependence when we remain in our own countries. However, when we are abroad, alone, we are left with no other choice than to be our own superheroes.
3. We learn more about ourselves.
Forget self-help books, if you want to learn more about who you truly are, book a ticket to anywhere, alone. I thought I knew a lot about myself before traveling alone, but I was wrong.
What I knew about myself was conditioned by society, culture and my surroundings. This wasn’t all of who I am. I only learned who I was when I moved far away from any opinions and beliefs I had about myself, and from the people who I thought knew me.
When we are far from what and who we know, the top layer of our personality gets peeled off and the real one comes to the surface. When alone, we have the time and freedom to explore what we like and dislike, what we truly think.
4. We find freedom.
Traveling alone gives us the freedom to use our time as we please and choose the experiences we’d like to have. We are more flexible with our day than we would normally be if we were with someone else. I wake up and sleep whenever I want to without being restrained by someone else’s time. I can move more freely and have my space whenever I need it.
Moreover, when we’re alone long enough, we stop feeling lonely. I’ve been alone in India for 40 days and, believe it or not, I haven’t felt lonely or bored. I’ve had many interactions with new friends. And I’m more eager to approach strangers when I’m alone, as my focus isn’t redirected to the certain group of friends I’m traveling with.
5. We become more assertive.
Solo traveling enables us to shift from a shy person to an assertive one. When we have travel buddies with us, we are prone to give them the lead if we feel too weak or uncomfortable to handle a particular situation. However, when we travel alone, we are obligated to take the lead in all kinds of different situations.
I must admit that my personality has shifted 180 degrees since I started traveling solo. It taught me how to approach strangers, how to meet new people and how to stand up for myself when needed.
6. We have time to reflect.
Traveling solo means having more space, which in return means having more time to reflect upon what we are going through. All travel can teach us something, but sadly, we’re often too busy to absorb every trip we take.
When I travel alone, I can reflect on my experiences on the spot. Before I head to sleep, I think deeply about my day and what I learned from it.
Traveling with others isn’t wrong or bad; I do it every year for short trips with family and close friends. In fact, some people might extract more lessons from having company with them. Nonetheless, I highly recommend setting off for a solo journey at least one time. Once we take the first step, we will find that it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.
As far as I’m concerned, traveling solo has benefited me more than anything I’ve ever done in my life.
Never fail to remember that fear is only an illusion. Every day as we wake up, we must choose not to be scared. Choose to do something we’ve never done before.
Choose to travel solo, at least once.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron