Travelling isn’t always a walk in the park, especially if you are completely on your own. It may feel downright daunting to most people to go off on a journey all on their own and it is certainly a lot easier for others to just get up and go. While travelling solo you’ll definitely have good days and some bad days, hell, you may even get sick and be bedridden, but the moment you see that incredible mountain scenery you’ve been pinning on Pinterest for months, walking through that beautiful temple in Bangkok, visiting an art museum in Paris, or tasting that famous Italian gelato that you’ve read about on someone’s blog; only then will it make you realize all of the reasons why solo travel is so worthwhile and educational.
Travelling is the best teacher you could possibly ever have and no book, blog, or YouTube video could ever amount to the real time version of seeing and experiencing destinations yourself. Once you take the leap and book your first solo travel experience, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it sooner. You’ll also be surprised just how much you learn while being abroad on your own.
Read more: The trip that opened my eyes to solo travel
Here are just a few things that travelling solo have taught me so far:
Trust My Instincts
Travelling solo has definitely made me trust my instincts a hell of a lot more and become more alert and aware of my surroundings whether I’m abroad, or not. When you’re out on your own, it’s only you and the path you decide to take. If you sense, or feel that something doesn’t feel right, or a part of a city doesn’t have a great vibe, your natural instincts will kick in and usually (I hope) you make the right decision. I’ve mentioned the term “Traveller’s Gut” before and it’s definitely something that does exist, especially while you’re flying solo. If a situation doesn’t feel right to you, chances are it probably isn’t.
Read more: How to stay safe as a solo traveller
I’m Capable of Taking Care of Myself
While travelling solo, I’ve learned that I am way more capable at taking care of myself that I had previously thought. I have nobody but me, myself and I to rely on to get me out of awkward situations, carry my heavy luggage up flight upon flight of stairs, find alternate means of transportation after the last ferry of the day was cancelled on me, missed flights, trains and had to somehow navigate my way around a strange city with only a crumpled map and zero Wi-Fi. Most people I know would simply have a panic attack and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had an anxious moment, or two while travelling solo. By keeping calm and assessing the situation, I came to realize that nobody was around to help me figure things out and the satisfaction of knowing I could and DID do it all on my own is an unparalleled feeling of accomplishment.
The World Isn’t as Scary as the Media Says
“Breaking News: The Big Bad Guys on that Side of the World are mean and dangerous. Please be extra cautious and very scared!” The media loves a juicy headline, or a scandalous story more than anyone on this damn planet. Coming from someone that has worked in media for the last twelve(ish) years, I can tell you that I’ve seen certain publications, news channels and advertising be geared more towards scaring their audience, than actually educating them. Whether it be education about a certain religion, country’s customs, or politics, nothing gets ratings like a big, bad scary headline. Every time I’ve travelled solo, or mentioned a country that I’d love to go to, I’ve heard the same lines over and over again. “Don’t go out at night!” “That place isn’t safe.” “I’ve heard they don’t treat women well over there.” “Isn’t crime very bad over there? I wouldn’t even think about going there if I were you.” I get it, bad things DO happen, but not as often as the media portrays it to happen. Yes, there ARE bad people out there and yes there ARE places you definitely need to be a bit more cautious of your surroundings and possessions, but honestly…bad things can happen at home too, so you can’t possibly live your life in fear of travelling to other places based on what the media tells you. Go on and live your life!
Read more: 5 Solo Travel Myths That Need To Be Debunked
It’s OK to be Alone
Gone are the days when travelling alone was considered the type of travelling people with no family, or friends do. Solo travel has become much less taboo over the last decade and for good reason. People are realizing that it’s perfectly OK to go out on their own and discover what the world beyond what they know has to offer. Alone time is actually incredibly healthy for your mental well-being, since most of our daily lives consist of constant interaction with people; whether it be at the grocery store, at work, on the subway, or constantly being connected to internet and texting. It’s nice to be able to just disconnect and not have to answer to anyone. Being by myself on most trips has taught me that it’s OK to be alone sometimes and not want to talk to people, or make new friends. Travelling alone doesn’t mean lonely, or anti-social and it’s totally alright to experience things on your own despite what they naysayers have to to say.
Appreciate Others’ Company More
Ok, so this point may sound like it is completely hypocritical of my last point, but hear me out. When you travel alone, even if it is only for a week, you realize how much you actually DO miss the company of your close friends and family, or just someone to chat to. While on the road, as much as I love alone time, it’s really nice to have the waiter or barman take interest in what I’m doing in their country, what I’ve seen so far while travelling and ask me questions about how I am liking it there so far. Locals love to give advice on what to see and do to tourists, at least in all of my experiences they have, so if you are ever feeling slightly lonely during your travels, don’t be afraid to talk to a local, or someone else at the bar. Ask them questions about their country. They may even help you discover a hidden gem, or great restaurant that most tourists don’t even know about.
You Are More In The Moment
You’ll view the world and its people in a whole new way when you’re on your own because you’ll have nobody else to distract you, or influence the way that YOU see and experience your adventures. By travelling solo, I’ve learned to fully immerse myself within a culture and notice the little details and characteristics of a city, town, or village while roaming the streets. If I do have someone travelling with me, I tend to give them more of my attention (I’m not going to ignore them, obviously lol) and not notice the same details I would if I was exploring on my own.
Read more: Why I love solo travel
How to Stick to a Budget
It’s a proven fact that spending your hard earned cashola on things like travel and personal experiences make you much happier than spending it on material things. Over the years, I’ve definitely dedicated more of my dollars on travel experiences than on material items and I don’t regret it one bit. Although I’m spending more on travel, I don’t spend more WHILE travelling. Learning to stick to a strict cash diet is something I love doing while travelling solo. Of course I use my VISA card to book my flights and my hotels, but those items are usually all paid in full BEFORE I head on my trip. By sticking to a cash diet while travelling, I can physically SEE how much money I have on hand, rather than just going swipe, swipe, swipe with a credit card. Remember friends, a credit card should be used as a back up, not to fund your whole trip. The object is to return from vacation NOT sky high is debt. Talk about unnecessary stress once that bill arrives! Ugh! Another way I save money while travelling is to always look for hotels that have a breakfast included option. It’s one less meal you have to worry about paying for and the breakfast buffets at most hotels are more than enough to fill your gut in the morning. I’m a massive fan of Booking.com and always book my hotels through their site. I don’t book the fanciest hotels with all the amenities, but sometimes I get really lucky and find some sweet deals on posh rooms. I said I don’t look for the fancy hotels, but if the deal is there, you better believe I’ll snag it. With all this said, I’m not a scrooge while travelling either. I’m a firm believer of the “Treat Yo’Self” phrase, but in moderation of course. I’ll sometimes use my credit card to treat myself to a couple really nice dinners, or even a few items of clothing if I see something I like because I know that my balance on the card is $0, so why the hell not, right?
Read more: How to travel through Norway on a budget
There are so many more lessons to be learned while travelling. Whether you decide to go on your own, with a loved one, or even with a group, you’re bound to learn something different with each travel experience. What are some of the best things that travel has taught you? Is there a specific experience that you’ve had that sticks in your mind? Let me know in the comments below. xo