Solo travel intimidates many people because they worry about appearing lonely to others or having no company. However, traveling on your own is a rewarding experience that offers a wealth of opportunities to discover unknown truths about yourself and the world. Learn about the many ways the traveling solo can enrich your life. (Estimated reading time: 7 minutes)
“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.”— John Mayer
Traveling is, without a doubt, one of the best forms of education.
Breaking away from your daily routine to venture out into the world to meet new people, see new sights, and try out foods and activities, free from the labels that are placed upon us, is genuine food for the soul.
Whether you vacation to stimulate your mind or to just unplug and relax, each and every journey that you embark on will change you. Whether you realize it or not, your perspective will shift and you’ll see yourself and the world around you in a new light.
I’ve been fortunate to have been on numerous travel escapades, many of them on my own. In fact, I just returned from a six-month sabbatical, so the after-effects of my journey still linger as I write this. I’ve blogged a lot about the benefits of traveling and cultural immersion, but after returning, I feel compelled to dive deeper into the benefits of solo travel specifically.
I realize that most people dread the idea of traveling on their own. It seems like the only travelers who have a valid excuse for going solo are business travelers, while those who indulge in it for leisure are seen as being loners, or misfits. These labels are intimidating and can understandably put anyone off the idea of going it alone.
Yet, what I have found from my experiences of traveling solo is that most of these concerns are fabrications of our fears. The reality is that when you’re alone, it’s hard to avoid facing your demons.
Once you resolve any lingering issues, it will be easier to appreciate your own company and spend time on your own. You’ll also have the perfect opportunity to become more self-aware and attune to your inner world.
This became apparent to me after my recent visit to the Omega institute in Rhinebeck, New York, a global center for spiritual learning and personal development. Throughout my stay, I felt like I was submerged inside a mystical cocoon. The campus is a sacred haven, peppered with idyllic spots for introspection, such as ponds, trails, libraries and meditation halls.
On my first day there, I woke up unusually early due to the jet lag I was still recovering from. As I walked out of my cabin on a cold, frosty morning, I was instantly struck by the quietness and tranquility of my surroundings. I made my way to the dining hall for breakfast. Along the way, I noticed a group of people practicing tai chi in the gardens, a few others walking the trails, and a couple sitting on a bench, staring out into space, lost in thought.
I continued to move until I stumbled on a sign that said ‘Sanctuary’, which pointed towards a little, craggy hill. My curiosity drove me to take a detour to check this place out. I climbed a few steep steps until I reached an archway that led to curving stone walls and ever-changing cairns, which finally led to a magnificent stone structure of the Sanctuary, the spiritual heart of Omega.
Inside the hall was a cluster of individuals, steeped in tranquil meditation. Outside, there were two women, looking out at the scenery thoughtfully, and scribbling their reflections in their journals. Being in this high vibe space soothed my soul. I was grateful for those precious moments of solitude, where I had the privilege to be still and witness the sacred.
Yet a part of m wondered whether there was something odd or even anti-social about loving one’s own company. Does this yearning for quality me-time make me and the people I saw at Omega socially-awkward pariahs? I turned to the works of philosophers and thinkers for answers.
I was delighted to discover a plethora of luminaries who shared the same need for solitude. In fact, they were vigilant about making time to retreat from a prosaic existence to be immersed in their inner world. Oscar Wilde once said, “I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche was a devout advocate of the role of solitude in human lives for creative and developmental purposes. According to him, a detached perspective is essential when it comes to protecting ourselves from superficial ideologies and social dogma.
He believed that spending time alone guarded our creativity and prevented our ideas from being diminished by the judgements of those around us. “Choose the solitude,” Nietzche said, “the free, playful, light solitude, that gives you, too, the right to remain good in some sense.”
We are surrounded by people all the time. We socialize with them, work with them, and share our homes with them. Having the time and space to withdraw from the crowds to listen to our inner voice is a luxury.
That’s why anyone who’s ever traveled on their own (myself included) will tell you that they wouldn’t want to have it any other way. It actually can be quite addictive once you overcome your initial hesitation!
Solo travels offer opportunities to broaden your repertoire of life skills and understand yourself better. Here are five important skills that I’ve learned from my solo sojourns:
1. Adaptability and self-reliance: Once you step out of your home turf, you’ll inevitably encounter unfamiliar situations and foreign environments. No matter how much advance preparation you’ve done, there’ll be unforeseen happenings due to various reasons (weather patterns, cultural practices, etc.), which will require you to improvise and think on your feet. You’ll be challenged to adapt your normal way of being and go with the flow. In this way, traveling to other countries will teach you how to rely on yourself, trust your heart, and your problem-solving skills.
2. Social and conversation skills: When you’re out and about, on your own, you’re more inclined to strike up a conversation with people along the way. You’ll be able engage with locals on a level that wouldn’t be possible if you were traveling with other people. I have met friendly people everywhere on the planet who would be glad to engage in a conversation with you and even help out during your times of need. I’ve had total strangers go completely out of their way to assist me without expecting anything in return.
My encounters with people from various cultures and backgrounds has taught me the subtle art of finding commonalities with people and conversing about those common interests. As a solo traveler, you’ll always return home with boatload of new friends.
3. Observation skills: People-watching becomes a default pastime when you travel solo. You aren’t distracted by conversations with travel companions so you have the rare opportunity to notice details and idiosyncrasies that you would normally miss if you were in someone else’s company. The clothing, gestures, mannerisms and conversations around you become much more vivid, and you could even entertain yourself with a running inner commentary as you watch others. Your observations could also provide a reason to elicit a conversation with others.
4. Self-reflection: Solitude offers a direct pathway to connect with your inner world. Traveling to a new environment takes you away from the worries and demands of your life, making it even easier to delve in deep reflection. During those unplugged moments, you can engage in introspective assessments of your life back home and your future direction. Being immersed in a far away destination could instigate personal breakthroughs about life’s bigger questions such as your life purpose and where you see yourself in the grand scheme of things. I suggest keeping a small notebook to jot down your thoughts over the course of your travels.
5. Self-knowledge: When you travel to a new place, you get to leave behind the labels, titles and identity that you take on back home. No one knows you in your destination so you have the chance to experiment and break away from the personal and professional mold that you’re normally accustomed to. As you do this, you’ll most likely uncover new aspects of yourself, and your preferences and quirks.
During your solo travels, you get to date yourself, define your qualities and tastes, and own them with a sense of pride and confidence. Knowing who you are at your core will give you a newfound confidence and clarity about your values and what you want from your life.
Life is, ultimately, a journey of growth, and we should strive to create as many opportunities for learning as possible. I believe that solo travel is self-discovery on steroids, and therefore, the perfect portal for our evolution.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Have you ever taken any trips on your own? If you have, what was your experience like?
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