From the moment you decide to solo travel, 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 want something more. So let me help you with your decision to do something INCREDIBLE and WILD and LIFE CHANGING. In this post, I will provide you with the 5 ways YOU could benefit from solo travel. So when your parents or straight laced friends go into panic mode, you can reassure them that you are INVESTING in your health, happiness and psychological wellbeing.
Solo travel pushes you out of your comfort zone and that is GOOD! 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 solo, 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 solo 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 solo travel, anything is possible.
When I was 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 pig headed determination 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, and that is an INCREDIBLE FEELING.
You are serving as your own empowerment which is exactly how it should be.
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, solo travellers are more open, more conscientious, more outgoing and more emotionally stable.
When you travel solo 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 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 one girls life.
From unforgettable experiences like this, I am now more open to others and I feel much more confident when I am thrown into new situations.
Solo travel and moving in circles outside of your comfort zone 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 in the bank!
I am not saying you need to solo travel 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 solo, change occurs all the time. Hostels get booked 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.
I have saved the best until last - travelling solo 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 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 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, TRAVEL CAN BE LIFE CHANGING.