Travelling alone can be a daunting prospect but there are so many benefits from planning a solo trip. Whether it be a day trip away (a good way to take that first step), a city break, a two week holiday, working/studying abroad, or even a 6 month trip around the world, they can all offer you something unique and a way to explore your interests and individuality.
Everyone has their own definition of solo travel, with some people believing that solo travel is only when you go to a location alone, with nothing organised, except accommodation and maybe a day tour. I don’t think that’s true, as there are many ways to partake in solo travel. I think just going to a destination knowing nobody, even if your travel is planned, is solo travel. Or even when you arrive in a destination knowing people, but having to be separated spending one day or a few days alone can also count too.My first insight into solo travel was actually at 12/13 years old, when I went on a French exchange with my school, and although we all went together, we were all separated every night and for almost an entire weekend to spend time alone with our French families. It was slightly terrifying at the start being with a family that didn’t speak my language, and being apart from my friends and family for the first time, but I think that trip probably gave me the knowledge that I could do it; I could travel alone. While I don’t recommend taking a completely solo trip at a young age, I do think once you’re old enough to appreciate it, it can be a really beneficial experience.
I’ve always been an independent person, and I’ve taken many a day trip alone, week long courses and a few days to recharge, but my main solo trip was to Peru. This was partly inspired by my mum, who the year before had taken 2 months to travel around Africa. So, when no-one else fancied a trip to South America, I thought ‘if she can do it, so can I’, and I booked my trip.It was so worth taking that step and going, no matter how nervous I may have felt when it actually came to the day. I loved every second of it and I gained so much more than I ever thought I would.
Solo travel is becoming more and more popular, but what are the benefits? What makes people keep doing it?
Meeting new people
This is absolutely true regardless of whether you travel with others or alone, but you are much more likely to make new friends if you don’t have others with you in the first place. On longer travels it becomes an essential part of the trip, as spending a week or longer with no one to talk to seems to be a daunting prospect. You build bonds and form relationships much more quickly than you might back home, as you are all sharing the same experiences and, depending on the situation, spending a lot of hours in each others company. Plus, it’s likely you’ll find yourself making friends with people from a number of different countries and cultures, and this can really open your eyes to new things and ways of thinking.
Gaining your independence
Travelling alone means you have total control over what you do and when you do it. You are free to make all the decisions and you don’t need to rely on or worry about anyone else. However, this independence does mean that you have to look after your own arrangements, i.e. budgeting your money, getting to your meeting points or appointments on time and remembering your own passport! If you are a young traveller straight out of school, then this kind of trip really makes you grow up quickly. Not having your parents around to rely on makes you realise how many responsibilities you actually have! So, along with the fun side of independence, like being able to eat ice cream for breakfast, solo travel teaches you how to look after your own affairs, which is obviously invaluable as you get older.
Building your confidence
Having to be in charge of your trips and travel plans will automatically make you more confident in yourself, but also having to meet and talk to new people will also really boost your social confidence. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and your own country can show you what you are capable of achieving. Maybe you thought you would never be able to travel to a country that didn’t speak English, share a bathroom with 10 other people, or make friends with a complete stranger from another continent; but maybe you can. Once you’ve done one thing you were scared of or weren’t confident about, then anything is possible.
Exploring Your Interests
As I said before, solo travel makes you the boss, as you are in complete control of your plans. If you want to spend your entire day on a beach, you can. If you want to visit every museum in London, you can. If you want to try every cupcake store in New York, you absolutely can. Your time is yours to do with as you please and no one can tell you otherwise. It is the most liberating feeling. Obviously tours have slightly more structure, but they can be a great way to explore the things you are most interested in and as tour guides are almost always locals, they can advise you on other great places to visit based around your passions.
Clearing your head & relaxing
Solo travel is an amazing way to chill out and recharge your batteries. Take yourself on a spa weekend, lie on a beach in Bali, spend a weekend in a new city, or head to the mountains and immerse yourself in nature somewhere; whatever helps you relax. If you feel like you need to remove yourself from anything that might bring you stress, such as your city, work, or people around you, travelling alone can be the perfect answer. It allows you to think clearly (without other people’s input or interruption), form ideas, or perhaps just relieve yourself of any responsibilities you may have and focus completely on yourself. Sometimes ‘you time’ is exactly what you need.
Following on from the last section about spending time on ‘you’, travel can also help you to find yourself. This probably sounds really clichéd, but travelling away from everything you know can really help you to figure out who you are as a person and what you actually want out of life. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, have just been through a break up, or honestly don’t know what to do with your life after studying, then travel can really help to inspire those changes. They help you to see the world from a different perspective, and perhaps meeting new people will give you opportunities or experiences you had never thought of before. Even if you choose to take a break in your own country, having that time alone to gather your thoughts in a new environment is a great way of gaining a fresh perspective.
So, if there’s somewhere you really want to go, an experience you really want to have, or if you just need some time away, book that trip. You won’t regret it!