From the moment you decide to travel alone, whether that is for a longer term backpacking trip or a holiday, you are on the road to pushing boundaries and forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. It is not easy to turn your back on everything you know and by nature, we like to follow others.
But not YOU.
If you are reading this, I suspect you are looking for something more from life. And if this will be the first time you are travelling alone, I expect you are feeling pretty nervous about it all. And you are not alone. In fact, having no one to travel with is one of the most frequently cited reasons that stops people from travelling. Fear takes over and people believe that if they set off on their solo adventures alone, they will spend their being homesick, lonely and completely on their own.
Well let me tell you right now - even though you may start your trip / holiday by travelling alone, you DEFINITELY wont finish it that way. FACT.
Not only is solo travelling liberating, empowering and rewarding, but it has a multitude of benefits to your psychological health and happiness. The Go Travel and Talk community is mostly made up of solo travellers doing their thing out in the world, so when it comes to the benefits of travelling and going on holiday alone; we have lived it, breathed it and continue to enjoy it.
So let us help you with your decision to fight through the fear and start your own solo travel journey.
In this post, we will provide you with the 5 ways YOU could directly benefit from travelling alone and how the pros far outweigh the cons. So when your parents or straight laced friends go into panic mode after you explain you are off to explore on your own, you can reassure them that you are;
Investing in your health, happiness and psychological well-being.
The first benefit of going on holiday on your own or travelling alone, is that it pushes you out of your comfort zone - that is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself! The term ‘comfort zone’ implies familiarity, routine, safety and stability. It is a bubble of all things we know and love, decreasing the chance of failure. Your comfort zone is your safety net.
But who wants that?! Not I. And not YOU.
There have been plenty of articles proving that life outside of your comfort zones helps with personal growth. It expands our repertoire of life skills and helps us discover what we are really capable of! With this in mind, imagine yourself on a plane to somewhere you have never been before; you are completely alone and the country you are visiting speaks a different language, you could not get any further from familiarity, routine and stability. In these moments we cannot draw from experience because these situations are completely new to us; instead we must tap into our personal store of knowledge which then expands our repertoire of life skills.
When you travel alone or decide to go on holiday on your own, you are constantly thrown into the unknown. This can be terrifying but it can also be exhilarating and hugely beneficial. For me personally, I now know handy tricks to get cheaper flights, how to get around a bus station speaking Spanish and how to spot the painful signs of altitude sickness. All these things that I learnt on my solo trip to South America have added to my library of life skills and they have enabled me to push myself further. For example, by successfully recognising the signs of altitude sickness, I achieved a personal best of hiking 5100m above sea level in Peru, which was an INCREDIBLE feeling. There are lots of other examples I could give you, but I don't want to bore you and I am sure you get my point;
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by travelling alone can show you what you are really made of and help unleash that superhero within YOU!
In the humdrum of everyday life, climbing world wonders or volcano's, discovering lost cities and ancient ruins, swimming with dolphins or camping on a cliff edge, aren’t things that tend to feature (if they do, good for you!)
But when you travel alone, anything is possible.
When I was travelling alone in Peru, I signed up to do a five day trek up to Machu Picchu, a bucket list goal of mine. Excited for the five days ahead, a friend and I headed out for pizza. My theory was to carb up the night before, but really it was just an excuse to eat a lot of pizza! On a serious budget we headed to a tiny little place down a dark alleyway in Cusco. The pizza felt a little under-cooked but that didn’t stop me…. one hour later I was crippled over with severe stomach cramps and began vomiting. It carried on until 4am when the tour company arrived at my hostel to pick me up for the trek.
In that moment, I had two options.
1. Forget about the trek, lose my money and recover for the next few days.
2. Pull myself together, go, and hope for the best.
I chose option 2. With the help of a new found friend, lots of water and a strong-willed mind, I made it through days 1 and 2 and from then on I actually enjoyed the experience. I learnt so much about myself in that moment and I can proudly say I made it through one of the toughest experiences of my life (also one of the most embarrassing!) Whilst I could not have done it without support, I drew on a strength and determination that I never knew I had and I am sure, if I had got food poisoning at home, I wouldn’t have made it into work the next day.
These sort of experiences and what you gain from them can really benefit you later in life. Knowing that you can make it through situations like that (or a particularly awful volcano climb experience in Colombia), grants you the power to feel anything is possible when we put our minds to it.
You are serving as your own empowerment which is exactly how it should be.
Similarly, when I planned a holiday to Barcelona last year, it was with a friend. Sadly she could not longer make it, so I decided to go on the holiday on my own. Holidaying alone can be a little different than travelling alone, especially if you are not staying in hostels where it is easy to meet people. There will be times when you have to force yourself to go out and find a restaurant and eat by yourself. Which feels a little weird at first. But once you get in to it, it is actually a really beautiful experience. And if you are are open enough, and want company, there are always people around to chat to. In fact it is amazing how many more people chat to you when you are on your own.
You just have to push past the initial fear first and show yourself what you are really made of.
Yes! Travel actually has a positive effect on personality.
Psychological research has proven that extended periods of travel had a substantial effect on personality. Generally speaking, people who travel alone are far more open, more conscientious, more outgoing and more emotionally stable.
When you travel alone or go on holiday alone, you are forced to speak with other people. There is simply no escaping it. From the tours you take part in, to the people you live with in your dormitories. From these experiences, you interact with people you wouldn't normally spend time with and this exposure can be life changing.
I spent 4 days in the Amazon jungle with 10 people I had never met before. We all came from different cultural backgrounds and the age range varied from 18 to 64 (picture above). Yes there were some people I clicked with more than others, but on the whole, it was an incredible experience. We shared our travel and life stories and I learnt so much, from fairy tale love stories, to the customs of Turkey, to hiking in Munich and how Ayahuasca changed one ladies life - which then helped me start my very own journey with the medicine.
From travelling alone and unforgettable experiences like this, I am now more open to others and I feel much more confident when I am thrown into new situations.
Another benefit of travelling alone and moving in circles outside of your comfort zone, is that it actually helps you cope with change.
For anyone, change can be daunting, whether we are aware of it or not. We are habitual creatures, so adapting doesn’t always come easy. But by practicing situations that aren’t the ‘norm’ it can help us to adapt when curve balls are thrown our way, which is an invaluable life skill to have.
I am not saying you need to travel alone or go on holiday alone in order to deal with change, but it is a huge benefit. Change transforms you. It is overwhelming and terrifying, but if you have the tools to deal with it and experience to draw on, the transition will be much smoother and less stressful. When you travel alone, change occurs all the time. Hostels get booked up last minute, buses decide to run on different schedules, your food options seem alien, your new found friends move on and cars drive on a different side of the road, but you adapt out of necessity.
When you have been through this, transitions later in your life are much easier to cope with.
Travelling alone can be life changing.
For me personally, I now see the world a different way. I can see past my immediate bubble and appreciate just how lucky we are with the opportunities we have.
From my volunteering experiences and from exploring different countries, I now understand the value of money, of food on the table and the roof over my head. I can talk and interact with people from all walks of life, even if I don’t connect with them on a deeper level or understand their viewpoint.
I complain less and appreciate more.
Yes the London tube is hot and sweaty, but did I tell you about the time when I was in Ecuador that I met a man in his 60's carrying a huge pumpkin on his back and scaling a mountain for three hours just to get home from a day in the fields? He did that every day, twice a day. I have learned about the Amazons Ecosystem, the Incan history of Peru, the devastation of the Vietnam war, who the Mayans were, where the Tatra mountains are and witnessed many a natural phenomenon in Bolivia; I have met people from all over the world and been exposed to their traditions and culture ~ more than I ever learnt in my history or geography lessons at school.
Not only does travelling alone push you out of your comfort zone and add to your library of life skills, it gives you the time and space to face the things we have been running away from, the big questions we push to the back of our mind.
In a world where there are not enough hours in the day, our self love and self care come last. When you are on the road, they come first. You have time to listen to your mind and your body and ask yourself questions that you have been avoiding, with this alone,
Travelling alone can be life changing.
When I travelled alone for the first time, I sat on the plane and thought, 'What the f**k am I doing, this is madness'. I remember it like it was yesterday (instead of 6 years ago). I was on a 18 hour flight to Thailand to start my 6 month South East Asia adventure.
I was a wreck. I had done my research but my brain went into overdrive, questions whizzing around me head, like:
'How am I going to get from the airport in Bangkok to my hostel?'
'What if I don't meet anyone?'
'I don't speak the language, how am I going to survive'
'Travelling on your own is not safe, Cj what the hell are you doing'
But you know what happened? I got off the flight, went through the arrivals lounge, got into an overpriced taxi (you learn with experience to haggle and maybe pre-book!), arrived at my hostel and waited inline to check in. Within 3 minutes of walking through the door, this beautiful Canadian came bounding over to me. Once I had dropped off my bags, we went out for Pad Thai. We chatted, we drank ALOT of wine and we spent the next three days together before she had to leave.
And then do you know what happened? I met a group of 6 solo travellers randomly over the next few days and we all came together and travelled as a group for 8 weeks.
And then after that I travelled with two guys for the remainder of my trip....
Travelling on your own opens you up to endless possibilities and new found friends. You will ALWAYS meet people when you are travelling or holidaying on your own.
I have had the most beautiful experiences by travelling on my own and I still reap the benefits of travelling alone to this day. I have been invited in for dinner by a taxi driver in Colombia where I met his entire family and we chatted through broken Spanish, I have eaten tapas with a Spanish guitar player in Barcelona, I have stayed with locals in Romania and Albania, I have camped out under the stars in someones back garden in Ecuador and I have had an impromptu Spanish lesson with a Colombian on a 12 hour bus journey.
It is truly incredible how travelling on your own puts you in the right place, at the right time to meet the right people.
By nature, we are social creatures. We seek advice from others and rely on each other for emotional support. We build strong networks and communities, we draw our sense of self from those who we surround ourselves with and as such, it can be really hard to leave that behind.
But with that distance comes a fresh perspective of who you are and what you are capable of.
When you decide to travel alone or go on holiday alone, you are the one who is in control. From ensuring you have everything you need including insurance, passport, documentation, visas etc, to planning your itinerary, to handling yourself in a foreign place. You don't have anyone to share that responsibility with, you are in complete control.
You will likely make mistakes. You will likely get lonely. And you will definitely get sick at one point and crave the comfort of your own home and your parents love. But all of this is part of your solo travel journey and learning to stand on your own two feet which will only serve you later in life.
Whilst it may sound cliche, travelling to 'find yourself' is a fair observation. With no one to rely on and no one familiar around, you will discover parts of you that may have been hidden before in the bounds of your comfort zone - like your inner strength and inner determination to climb that god damn mountain, or your capability to find alternative routes when your original plan falls through, or how positive you can remain in the face of adversity.
Travelling alone or going on holiday on your own, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. And as this post has shown, the benefits of travelling alone as endless.
But I understand how scary it can be, especially if you are travelling alone for the first time. Just remember this:
The thought of travelling alone is alot scarier than actually travelling alone.
So all you have to do is overcome that initial fear of getting on that flight, and the rest will unfold in front of you exactly as it is meant to.
If you have any questions, worries or concerns, feel free to get in touch with us, either through our Contact page or on our social media channels - I hang out a fair bit on Instagram, so you can definitely catch me on there.
Now... GO BOOK THAT SOLO TRIP!