As I boarded the plane, I felt a hollowness in the pit on my stomach. "What have I done?" I thought. On an impulse, I booked a solo trip to Paris.
Solo travel isn't as daunting as it sounds. You'll meet new people, push your comfort zone, follow your own rhythm, and discover what you're truly capable of.
Though I had traveled to Europe twice before, I had never gone on my own and never really thought about doing so. But here I was, wedged in my "cattle class" seat on a plane heading to one of the largest cities in Europe.
To be honest, I was terrified.
As the hours progressed into days, I learned how to navigate the city. I got to see places introduced in books or magazines, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
I had to pinch myself to believe it.
I was in Paris. And I did it all by myself. It was overwhelming, exciting, and liberating all at the same time.
By the end of the trip, I was sold. I went from, "Holy @#$%, what have I done?" to "Why haven't I done this sooner?" I gained so much from my first trip, and will never forget the experience.
What Is It About Traveling Solo?
If you ask most people about traveling solo, you'll likely get one of two responses.
The first will be reeling in horror, "Why would you ever want to do that?" The second response will be akin to, "Oh, I could never do that." This is particularly common for women due to additional safety concerns of traveling alone.
Friends get a funny look on their face when they're asked about solo travel - maybe it's nervousness combined with a dash of "hey, do you think I don't have friends or something?"
What if I told you the reasons you should travel solo have powerful benefits? Like when you do something on your own that scares you a little (or even a lot), your sense of freedom, empowerment, and confidence grow exponentially. Also, it's addictive - but in a good way. If you travel solo once, you will want to do it again.
Not sure you believe it?
Smart people didn't think we would ever fly until the Wright brothers took their first successful flight.
Try to stretch your limits a little, even if you start with a day trip in your local region. Give it a chance, and you'll find, like most solo travelers, it's a genuinely life-changing experience.
These are 15 (of the many) benefits of solo travel you're bound to learn once you embrace the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone.
1. Gain a New Point of View
Just because you've always done something a certain way, or that's how everyone you know views it, doesn't mean it's right.
Travel broadens your perspective, and traveling solo helps you be more open to the learning opportunities that cross your path. Being immersed in a new city is very different than reading a blog or even hearing about a friend's journey there.
First-hand experiences provide the opportunity to challenge your own prejudices on different customs and beliefs. And that's a good thing.
If you truly open yourself up to solo travel and embrace new perspectives, it can attract the most meaningful experiences that will last a lifetime.
2. Restore Your Faith in Humanity
Mainstream news often portrays the world as a big, bad place filled with horrible things that happen on a daily basis. It's only when we get away from our day-to-day routines can we see how much good there actually is out there.
Visit a developing country and witness how generous the people are. They may be living below what would be considered the poverty level back home, but these people are rich in the things that matter.
Simple things like asking for directions can restore your faith in human kindness when the person doesn't just provide directions but takes the time to guide you. Or when you're on a crowded subway, and a stranger takes your hand to guide the way. It's intoxicating!
Be sure to pay such kindnesses forward when you see an opportunity and help make the world a better place.
3. Learn New Things by Leaving Your Comfort Zone
There is so much to see and learn outside of our average day-to-day experiences. Traveling, and especially traveling solo, provides a healthy push that can be disorienting at first. Once you gain an equilibrium, you'll learn how to feel safe and relaxed outside your comfort zone.
Embrace the unfamiliar as the beauty to be found there will leave you speechless.
Gaining exposure to other ways of life and different cultures is such a unique and rewarding experience. One you won't get watching a travel show from the safety of your sofa.
4. Earn Valuable Self-Confidence
When you travel solo, there's no choice but to handle the challenges that present themselves on the road, so you learn just how strong you really are. When you know you can manage no matter what may come along, the result is increased confidence and fearlessness.
There's a natural ebb and flow to travel. When you're on your own, you learn to roll with it and just be in the moment. It's impossible to plan for every possible outcome, so learn to trust that you can handle whatever may come, good or bad.
5. Boost Your Problem-Solving Creativity
Traveling doesn't always go smoothly. Busses break down; airlines cancel flights; and you get lost (all the time, in my case!).
Maybe you want to go on a fabulous day trip, but don't have a car and need to figure out how to get there. That's all part of the solo adventure and the story you'll share after the trip. The more problems solved; the more confidence is gained to solve new ones.
See how that works?
Each time a new situation or challenge is overcome, your creativity muscle increases in strength. Those valuable skills and life lessons go home with you, helping long after the trip has ended.
6. Meet New People You Otherwise Wouldn't Have Met
You may be concerned that traveling by yourself will be lonely, and worry about not meeting any people. The opposite is far more likely, regardless of whether you're an extrovert or an introvert.
When we travel with others, we tend to interact within our small group. It's natural. Think about it - who wants to approach strangers deep in conversation? On a solo trip, you'll meet more people than when you travel with others, that's the irony of it.
Sofa dwellers think they'll be overwhelmed by the solitude and loneliness, but they don't understand the opposite is true. Both men and women traveling solo will meet more people by being alone.
Couldn't your life use some more interesting people in it?
7. Celebrate Your Freedom
Traveling alone means doing precisely what you want when you want to do it. There's no need to worry about disappointing anyone or having to negotiate. Instead, follow your own desires and rhythm.
If something catches your interest, veer off the course to see it. Change your plans. Meet new people. Go with the flow.
There are no restrictions (besides following the law, of course), so shrug off those "shoulds" you're used to and find your inner compass. You'll be so much happier for it.
8. Face Your Fears
Are you scared of traveling alone? Great, do it!
It's when we do the things that we fear that we find personal growth. And best of all, no one knows you on the road! So, take the opportunity to test yourself and try different things you ordinarily wouldn't back home.
You might even retail that newfound sense of adventure when you return.
If you don't enjoy your solo trip, simply don't do it again. But it's not only about enjoyment, it's also about those invaluable experiences to lean back on, and having overcome fear and made it through unscathed, and perhaps even better for it.
9. Discover Yourself
The best way to get to know yourself is to be on your own. Going on a solo adventure in a new place, outside your comfort zone, and facing fears is fertile ground for self-discovery and determining what you're capable of.
When you're away from your people and your obligations, and it's only you in the mirror, that's when you see what you are truly made of.
Take the opportunity to try some new things you wouldn't do at home. Explore parts of yourself you may not be so comfortable with. The path of self-discovery during solo travel is empowering. Unleash the amazing you - not the one restricted by the expectations and obligations of others, and even yourself.
Unveil the real you. The world is waiting for you to make an introduction.
10. Learn Valuable New Skills
Making decisions and navigating the world is all on you when you travel alone. There's no one to rely on when it comes to navigating the subway system or finding the way to a museum you want to visit. You learn how much you can do and what you're truly capable of. This includes being ok with solitude, managing loneliness, and even boredom.
You gain valuable skills by traveling on your own. Patience, resilience, and managing your fear are what you find within yourself. All the while, adapting your perspective as you learn.
11. Dive Deep into Your Destination
When you travel with others, your focus is on the mutual experience. When you're alone, not having a familiar presence pushes you to interact more directly with what's around you. The added focus on your surroundings makes for a truly immersive experience and amazingly-vivid memories.
12. Meet More Locals
As mentioned above, more people will reach out to you when you travel solo, and you'll be more open to talking with people you don't know. This goes for both other travelers and locals.
There's no better way to get to know the area you're visiting than to meet its locals, and that's much easier to do when traveling alone. That's not to say you won't meet other people when you travel with someone else, but your interactions won't be on the same level.
It's great to get to experience a place through the eyes of a local. When you get to know them and learn how much you have in common, you'll discover you're not so alone after all.
13. Have an Incredible Story to Tell
When you travel solo, you're the one writing the story. You decide where to go, what to do, and even how to view things that happen along the way. Take control of your solo adventure, and with it, gain control of your story.
Experiences are worth more than "stuff", and the stories that intertwine places, events and people, are invaluable. That tart hand-made by a local chef who enjoyed a glass of wine at your table; the small paper flower a little girl handed you on a lovely walk through her city; or even the scar on the back of your calf from losing your balance and burning it on the moped (whoops!).
These are the things that have the most meaning and the stories you'll remember years after the adventure is over.
14. Delve into the Art of Self-Care
A solo adventure is one of the best ways to practice self-care. When you travel with others, you have to accommodate their wants and needs. But when you travel alone, it's all about you.
Nap whenever you need to and choose the activities that make your heart sing. If you don't want to go to the top tourist attraction in a city, then don't. If the city is overwhelming you, take a day trip to the countryside to commune with nature.
Re-tune by opening up that channel to listen to your inner voice so you can take better care of yourself.
15. Change Your Life Forever
Leave your everyday life behind, including any stress and expectations of other people. There's no boss with a deadline, no nagging mom, no needy children. As you take the opportunity to delve into your surroundings and meet new people, take some time to nurture yourself and reconnect with you.
Let that be part of your trip that returns home with you. You can never unlearn all that you discover about yourself and about the world on your first solo trip.
Solo travel sparks something inside of you when you let it. You'll find a newfound perspective of the world that's intoxicating. And, it's not just the world around you that seems different, but it's inside you as well.
Think of what you could accomplish when you have no limits imposed by others or yourself. Traveling solo teaches you just how amazing and powerful you are. Take the chance.
You'll thank yourself for such a powerful gift.