I’m an avid traveller who loves every chance to escape the daily grind and go out and explore the globe. Travelling can teach a person so much about themselves and life. Travelling with friends and partners is generally the norm, it teaches you skills like cooperation, sharing and above all patience. Oh and most importantly, you also have a blast with your pals.
But this piece isn’t about that! It’s about travelling alone and putting yourself out of your comfort zone. By this I don’t mean in a country fraught with danger, I mean getting to know yourself and developing as a person.
I’ve travelled alone a few times now and I can honestly say it’s a great experience. Contrary to what you may think, there are many benefits your get from the experience of travelling by yourself:
- You get to know yourself better. Placing yourself in an entirely different city thousands of miles away from home can be confronting. You are entirely by yourself and you need to utilise all the life skills you have learnt to date -because you’ll learn so much more, such as street smarts, social skills, independence and thinking on your feet.
- Do whatever you want at your own pace. There’s no plan to stick to – unless it’s your own, which basically is go at your pace. You can go and see things that interest you without having to have a discussion and vote about it, and you can go at whatever time you like and stay as long as you prefer. When I was in New York I fell in love with Central Park, so after checking things off my ‘to do list’ I went back and spent a few hours wondering around without any time constraints or having to rush back because I had to be somewhere else.
- You learn to make friends. We get comfortable when we travel with friends and we don’t usually look outside the group for a conversation. Travelling on your own is different though. You have to talk to people and have conversations or you’ll not talk to anyone (and that’s boring). You make plenty of friends with other travellers especially via experiences such as group tours, but what’s most amazing are the conversations with people that you may never see or hear from again. When I was in Vienna I was by myself, apart from the one day I spent with my father’s family. I was sitting in a Viennese café eating my Vanilla Slice and sipping on my coffee when a lady and her son sat next to me and started chatting to me. It literally all started with a simple question “how’s the Vanilla Slice?” From there we swapped stories. And whilst I’ll never bump into them again it was a great experience to hear how other people lived, what they did and their travel experiences.
- Cultural awareness and appreciation. Different countries different cultures and different rules. You’re not going to be or act the same if you’re in Greece to how you are in Dubai. The greatest part of travelling alone or otherwise is getting to learn more about the culture and customs of that country and respecting them while you’re doing it. When you’re travelling solo there’s more chance that you will mingle with the locals, get to know about life in that country and hear their stories.
- You get comfortable with yourself. Yep, we may not want to admit it but how many of us are actually comfortable sitting in at home or in a restaurant by ourselves? – My guess not many. Well, let me tell you, travelling alone really does force you to get acquainted with yourself. You have time to think and analyse what you like about yourself, what you don’t like about yourself and the improvements you want to make in your life. It allows you to breath! You learn to become at ease with yourself and relax in your own space.
- Self-preservation. We live in a dangerous world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful world! So when it comes to self-preservation, I’m not talking about getting lost in a jungle and emerging weeks later alive and intact because of some Bear Grylls tactics you did to survive. I’m talking about awareness of your surroundings and your safety. Travelling through Europe especially through countries that have had terrorist attacks such as Belgium and France teaches you how to look out for yourself, be aware of your surroundings whilst enjoying yourself at the same time.
These are just some of the things I’ve personally learnt on my solo travels. Yours will perhaps have similarities but will also undoubtedly differ because no life experience can be the same. However, if there is one piece of advice I would give to anyone, it’s travel on your own at least once in your life – even if it’s to another state for a few days. You’ll be amazed at the amount of growing up and self-reliance that you’ll teach yourself