My friend Samantha has spent the last few months gallivanting around North America on a solo and soul-searching adventure. I have been watching via Facebook with awe - and more than a little envy - as she has embarked on this incredible adventure and have asked her to share some more about her independent travel experience.
To me, ‘travelling’ is something entirely different to taking a holiday, where you might just fly to a destination and chill out on a beach for a week.
No, it’s something quite different, particularly if you’re going at it alone. Travelling solo has taught me some incredibly valuable skills, not to mention it’s opened my mind and inspired me in a way I’m not sure anything else could.
Here’s a snapshot of why you might want to wing your way around the world alone.
1. You can do whatever the heck you like, no qualms
When you’re travelling with somebody else, you have to compromise often, factoring in everybody’s wants and needs. That’s a valuable lesson in itself. But there’s also a beautiful freedom in not having to worry about companions while you’re on the road.
Want to spend a day at a country music museum? *cough* You can! How about a lazy day reading at a café because you’re just exhausted and couldn’t possibly fathom visiting another museum? Done.
When travelling solo, you can do what you like. Including hitting up the best country music museum - no shame!
If you have a particular interest that none of your friends/loved ones share, travelling alone is perfect because you don’t have to feel like you’re a burden dragging them along with you. Likewise, you don’t have to spend time doing things you’re not interested in. Yay!
2. It’s a crash course in survival - and the buck stops with you
Inevitably at some point in your travels, mishaps will ensue. Maybe you get lost, have something stolen or mess up a reservation. When you’re by yourself, you have to find a way to fix or make the best of the situation. Sure, you can ask for help from those around you and maybe even call home for advice, but in the end, only you can decide what to do and how to move forward.
In 2011, I happened to be in Cairo at the very moment the Egyptian Revolution erupted. Okay, so I wasn’t actually *alone* then - I was actually with one girl friend - but we were both only 19 or so and we had to make some tough decisions about how to proceed with violence escalating around us. Internet and phone access was unreliable and we were really thrown into a baptism of fire when it came to phoning embassies, airlines, hotels and travel agents trying to make our way out of there. It’s an extreme example that you hopefully never have to deal with, but it just goes to show the scope of the challenges and decisions you sometimes have to make while travelling. These are amplified when you are by yourself.
Troubles in Cairo, 2011
More commonly, you’ll be dealing with making transport and accommodation bookings, budgeting and choosing destinations. When you’re doing this on your lonesome, you’ll be surprised at how canny you become. From seeking out the best deals to sticking up for yourself when someone tries to swindle you, it’s certainly a lesson in character development.
3. You learn SO much about yourself
What have I discovered about myself on my latest trip around North America? I’m actually not a big fan of most cities, and way prefer spending time in nature. I love hiking. I NEED WiFi (Okay, I can live without it…sometimes…).
Travelling by myself has also helped me develop more clarity about what’s important to me and the kind of things I want to do with my life. Sometimes, you just need to get away from the rat race to see clearly. I worked an office grind that almost burned me to the ground. Leaving it behind and seeing the world with all its diverse ways of living reminded me there’s more at our fingertips than just the traditional model of work and life we’re often pressured to buy into.
In summary, travelling solo gives you the time and means to see things in an alternative light, and understand more about what you want from your existence. It’s given me the confidence to truly go after my dreams when I get home and to try and make difference. So many clichés, but they exist for a reason!
I discovered I love spending time in nature. Yosemite National Park.
4. It increases your empathy and understanding
Not only do you learn a lot about yourself, you discover so much about other people.
Hitting the road alone, you end up mingling with the locals and seeing different ways of life much more. There’s nothing like it for challenging your assumptions, beliefs and perceptions.
You can also be confronted by some upsetting realities. In North America, for instance, the poverty (alongside displays of ostentatious wealth) and drug use has been sad to see. However, it’s given me a deeper understanding of this country’s struggles, and makes me want to ensure that somehow, part of my life is dedicated to helping others.
Big Sur Coast, California
5. You develop your confidence and face your fears
I really don’t like asking for help, but sometimes, when you’re struggling in a foreign destination, you just have to reach out. So I’m becoming more confident doing it. When you’re sharing a dorm with 5 strangers, your social skills improve. You might even make friends for life. Would you have done the same if you already had all your buds with ya?
When you have to solve any issues that arise alone, you learn to trust your instincts and have confidence in your own nous. You learn you can handle a LOT more than you ever thought you could. You can adapt. You can survive. You are Rambo. Basically, travel helps you develop into that badass chica you always knew you were inside. You got this.
Solo travel makes you realise you can handle a lot more than you thought. You can survive. You are Rambo.
6. The little things become big, amazing things
Whether it’s a bus driver letting you on for free, a comfortable bed to sleep in or a good cup of coffee, suddenly things you might have taken for granted before become incredible sources of joy and hope.
If you’re stuck in a rut or down on life, travelling can really help you reconnect with simple pleasures, and that is awesome. Watch that sunset, hear those birds tweetin’ and treasure a night’s sleep in a dorm without a snorer.
There are plenty more reasons why travelling solo is an absolutely amazing idea - but hopefully you’ve already stopped reading and are already booking plane tickets to your dream destination ;-) If you’re a woman travelling alone, don’t forget to check out my blog on staying safe!
Fly free, my pretties, and go hard! You can do it.