It might be scary, but you’re actually not alone: since 2008, solo travelers have increased a whopping 134%. We’re all spending more time on the road, but this phenomenon is more than just a lifestyle shift. There’s something inherently appealing about going it alone: solo travel is one of the most empowering experiences you can have. As Hannah Arendt writes, “you are more master of yourself than at any other time” while alone abroad.
Here are 7 lessons that may stick with you forever after traveling alone. I know they did with me.
1. You can do things on your own
Cristiano Medeiros Dalbem @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Yes, you can! The biggest obstacle is that initial purchase, showing up for the flight and just going. My first time traveling alone was my most formative in this regard: I remember strapping in, sitting back and feeling the intense wave of freedom wash over me. I had done it, I was capable, now it was up to me to make the right decisions.
2. You have something to share
As an American, it’s hard not to feel relatively isolated from the rest of the world. When I first stepped off the plane in Prague in 2008 alone, I couldn’t tell a pierogi from a pilsner. But the more I saw, the more I realized how relatable my own culture was to others. Traveling alone will make people want to talk to you, you’ll seek out new connections and experiences that will enrich your life while shattering stereotypes.
3. You can always reinvent yourself
Thinking outside the box is hard when you’re stuck in a cubicle all day. Let’s face it, Brad the computer technician has to work hard to break out of others’ ideas of him. The moment Brad steps on a plane and leaves behind others preconceptions he’s an art connoisseur, he’s a surfer or a musician. All you have to do is try. And with no one to hold you back, it’s much easier.
4. Life is about experiences
Nhi Dang @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)
And not gadgets or expensive things. Remember the tricycle you had when you were a kid? Probably not. But you will always remember that feeling of staring out over the unknown by yourself. By experiencing new things, you’ll gain a new appreciation for living in the now. You never know if you’ll ever have another chance to dance on rooftops in Berlin or float under starry skies in hot-water springs. Shedding the pressure of others allows you to focus all your energies on immersing yourself in the experience, which amplifies its meaning. These are the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren.
5. In general, people are good
You can’t help it when traveling alone: at one point you’ll have to rely on someone else. This can be terrifying. But the more confident you become in asking for help, the more you’ll realize that people are empathetic creatures. We all share the same fears, hopes, and concerns and when we see them reflected in another, our natural instinct is to help. Don’t believe me? Human brains are hardwired for empathy and friendship. Shared experiences are the quickest way to that friendship.
6. Life is full of setbacks – but that’s okay
You missed your train, the Louvre was closed, or your rental car broke down. What may seem like the end to your dream vacation experience is just a setback. When you are on your own you are forced to keep going. There is no backtracking. That means you will create new opportunities for experiences that you may never have expected. This realization and the following hard-fought victory is even more satisfying in the end.
7. It’s okay to be alone
I’ll admit it, there are always lonely moments when traveling solo. It often hits while on flights or plane rides, where it’s hard to find people to talk to. But these moments of self-introspection are something sorely lacking from your daily routine. Removing yourself from the familiar allows you to see yourself in a new light. And you are much more interesting than you think. So go ahead, spend some time with your ever-present companion.
What have you learned traveling alone? And have you ever had any life-changing experiences? Share and comment if so! And find all kinds of experiences on GetYourGuide for your next journey.
Yodel-ay-he-hoo! The Alps are almost mythical: the ideal mix of rustic rural lifestyle and some of the world’s most stunning scenery. Even though just fourteen percent of the Alps are in Switzerland, 48 of its 82 “four-thousanders” (mountains over 4,000 meters high) are in located in the Alpine country. It’s hiking heaven here. For the most spectacular of views, the Kleine Scheidegg Walk offers the unbeatable views of the “Big Three.”
Overrated? Definitely not. The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and, while technically not the widest or deepest canyon in the world, the Grand Canyon inspires with its breathtaking range of visual spectacle. The best way to see it is plunge into its depth on a hike or ride to the floor and immerse yourself in millions of years of natural history.
Desolate landscapes and welcoming oases of life: caravaning across the Sahara offers the chance to feel like spice traders of old, traversing between oases and civilization. The rocky landscapes are stunning in their simplicity, contrast, and MASSIVE horizons. Stop over in a Bedouin town and travel back in time to a culture that has maintained its traditions over centuries.
4. Flying over Sugarloaf Mountain and the harbor at Rio de Janeiro
Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio
The harbor is another natural wonder of the world: Charles Darwin said it “surpasses in magnificence all that the European has ever beheld in his own country.” It’s the largest natural deep-water bay in the world, made up of 130 islands framed by massive granite monoliths. The truly adventurous can paraglide up in the sky, while the those looking for unbeatable selfies can take the incredible cable car to the top of Sugarloaf mountain.
Or the Aurora Borealis, is one of the most spectacular spectacles in nature. The effect is, literally, out of this world, as you watch the emissions of photos leaving the atmosphere. The best spots are in secluded nature, far outside of Reykjavik. The feeling one receives standing alone under a glowing sky will give even the least sentimental of people goosebumps!
The largest coral reef in the world is also the planet’s largest “living structure.” It’s made up of more than 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of islands. If you go snorkeling or scuba diving here, you’ll immerse yourself in a whirlpool of millions of colorful organisms, living together in perfect harmony.
Traverse the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Incan ruins up in the clouds. One of the most famous hikes in the world, it’s been called a “life-changing” experience by Lonely Planet. The path winds through the Urubamba Valley (also called the Sacred Valley), over impressive mountain slopes and through dense forests. Here you’ll feel like a god standing over the entire world!
Dotted with active volcanoes and strewn with sandy beaches fading into crystal-clear water: Indonesia is a nation comprised of over 18,000 islands. The variety of landscapes is readily apparent here, as well as its rich cultural and religious diversity.
Did you know Indonesia has the second largest tropical forest track in the world? As travellers, we should promote the preservation of biodiversity while celebrating the cultural heritage all countries have to offer. Share if you agree!