I first started solo traveling when I started consulting with Accenture. I absolutely loved traveling since I’d studied abroad in Spain and France, and being a traveling consultant allowed me to take more trips and save money for my solo trips. One week, while I was staffed in St. Louis, I had the option to head back to San Francisco where my roommates were throwing a house party with a few friends.
OR, I could take a spontaneous solo trip, by myself, without anyone I knew, with no idea what I would do, or where I would even be staying that night.
I chose the latter and ended up in Mexico City that same night.
Since that fortuitous day just 2 years ago, I’ve traveled solo to 5 different continents, 7 different countries, and over 20 cities across the globe. I’ve met people from all over the world, from different walks of life, and have learned a lot about different cultures, people, and languages. Solo travel is more than an adventure, it’s an opportunity to grow personally and apply these learnings to all areas of your day to day life.
Here are the 9 Lessons Learned From Solo Travel:
1. Solo travel teaches you to be brave
When I studied abroad for the first time in Madrid, it was the first time I had ventured to a new country on my own, with no one I knew, and needed to speak a language I wasn’t really familiar with. The first week I was in Madrid I had contemplated booking a flight back home and giving up. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. In the end, I decided to stay in Spain for more than 3 months, and I owe all of my adventures since to that one fortunate decision to stay.
2. It teaches you how to handle uncertainty
Things will always go wrong. Flights, Trains, Buses will be delayed, you’ll lose your tickets, have your things stolen, end up in the wrong part of town, and much more. It’s part of the experience, and each unfortunate event teaches you how to deal with that uncertainty in the future. You accept the situation, look for solutions, and overcome the challenge. Imagine the benefits this could have in your day to day life.
3. It allows you to reflect and become more self aware
Solo traveling allowed me to finally take a deep breath and reflect on my passions, desires, and interests. Traveling with friends and family is fun, but you usually end up more stressed and exhausted than before your vacation. Emotions that you’ve been suppressing for the longest time will surface, and its in this moment that you gain the most clarity about yourself. Dig deep, reflect on those emotions, and you’ll finally have a chance to breathe.
4. Solo travel allows you to be you
When you travel alone, no one knows who are you. They don’t know what your occupation is, they don’t know who your friends are, they don’t make assumptions about your personality, they don’t know about that one embarrassing moment you had on your last trip.
They don’t know who you are, …… and that’s liberating!
It allows you to start from scratch, and be authentic. Everyone is equal, and you have the freedom to be yourself without judgement.
5. It makes you question what’s really important in your life
When was the last time you really asked yourself what’s the most important to you? Before my solo trip to Bangkok, I had a clear vision for where I wanted to be in my career next year, and the next five years. After coming back from the trip, it allowed me to reflect on what I prioritize in life. Is my career really more important than my health, than my relationships?
Traveling solo teaches you that money and status aren’t worth their weight in gold. Love, connection, and gratitude take over. Traveling makes you redefine what success means to you.
6. It teaches you the value of having connections
Traveling solo also makes you realize the real value of connection. You can build a connection with a complete stranger much easier than the hundreds of people you may have met back home. It feels more authentic, more natural. As Sapiens, we have the natural urge for community and connection. To be wanted, to be loved. Solo travel will allow you to experience uncurated connections once again!
7. It shows you different ways to communicate with people around you
During my solo trip to cancun, I immediately connected with a Brazilian, Spaniard, and a German. They all knew limited english, and I new broken spanish, yet I was still able to build a strong connection with each and every one of them.
How did I accomplish this?
I made a connection, was present, and was truly interested in their backgrounds, their interests, their cultures, and themselves. These qualities are the foundation for strong communication skills that will benefit you in every aspect of your life. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier.
8. It teaches you to be present, in the moment
When I was Thailand, I visited a small village in northern Thailand called Pai. I had just left my last job, in an entirely new country, surrounded by people I didn’t know, trying to speak a language I didn’t understand. I had packed a single bag and booked my flight just 3 days prior.
I had no return date, I had zero expectations from the trip, and I had no plan for the following day. I wasn’t thinking about applying to new jobs, I wasn’t thinking about the hundred emails I would have to answer, I wasn’t thinking about my next social media post. It was in that moment I realized the importance of being present. Nothing else matters. Think back to the relationships you’ve lost or jobs you’ve left. How present were you?
9. Solo travel makes you comfortable with the uncomfortable
Each trip I’ve taken started with immense anxiety. My study abroad in Madrid and Toulouse, booking an impulse trip to Mexico City, and ending up halfway across the globe in South East Asia all made me extremely uncomfortable. I’m in a new environment, and our desire for connection stops us from taking those risks. But it’s exactly those risks that add to your experience bank, and leave lasting memories.
Traveling solo allows you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, making you more confident in your career, in your relationships, and in life! I hope these lessons learned from solo travel will help you plan your next solo travel adventure!
What have your experiences been traveling solo? Any lessons I’ve missed? Shoot me a message in the comments below: