Travelling alone is not for everyone. But here are five reasons why I think everyone should travel to a foreign destination on their own, at least once in their lives.
1. You will meet more people
When traveling alone, you always meet new people, many more than if you travel together with someone. Traveling together can be a barrier for mixing with the locals. You stick together and are less approachable. If you travel alone, you will be more approachable, for the locals and for other travelers! During my travels alone, I lost count of the times when people have invited me to eat dinner in their homes, and offered me free accommodation, but this has never happened when I traveled in a group. Furthermore, other travellers make contact more easily when you travel alone, asking if you want to join them, so you never have to be totally alone, if you do not want to. You are also more open to take contact with other solo travelers: for example, when you eat alone at a restaurant, and you see another person sitting in the same restaurant eating alone, you are more open to make contact than if you were already sharing you dinner with someone.
2. You can do what you want, when you want...even if it's something new!
When you travel alone, you do not have to worry if your travel partner does not feel like exploring the city, and would rather spend the day on the beach. Traveling solo means you are free to do whatever you want.
It is often the case in my experience, that several people traveling together will have different preferences for activities and destinations, which can be stressful. Your travel partner might want to go shopping while you would like to take trip to a museum. When you travel alone, you are only responsible for your own good times, and no one else’s. You are allowed to be selfish, doing what you would like to do, seeing what you would like to see, without needing to apologize to anyone for it.
Sometimes when you travel with another person and you know their likes and dislikes, you do not think to take a chance on a new experience.
I see this with the groups we received as volunteers in Bolivia: they never wanted to try traditional food. However, the ones who came alone were usually more open (and really, experiencing the food is often the best part of going to a new place).
3. You might just find yourself...
Travelling alone means you will have a lot of time to think about yourself: it is a great opportunity to reflect, unplug and discover what it is that truly makes you happy.
I have made reflections on my travels that have resulted in profound and positive changes in my life, that I would never have made had I stayed at home. I have been able to recognize what really makes me happy.
When was the last time you actually unplugged and took the time to think? Being alone will allow you to reflect on your life, your past, you future, your troubles, and your problems, but most importantly; the solutions.
4. ...And no matter what, you'll definitely find others
As a solo traveller you still need intimacy, support and human affection. As already mentioned, when travelling alone you will meet many new people. You choose the people you like, and you build passionate partnerships with them based on mutual interest. Most of the people I consider my best friends, were those I met during my travels, and I’m still in regular contact with most of them.
I cannot promise that you will find love if you travel alone, but you are more open to the possibility than if you are with a group (unless you travel with the one you love already). Being by yourself makes it easier for people to approach you: whereas when your friends are around you, that person may be reluctant to interrupt.
I found the love of my life when I travelled alone in Bolivia, and I have several other friends that found theirs when they travelled solo.
5. Be empowered by your independence!
Travelling solo, can be scary. You might be thinking, what if I get lost? Bored? Robbed? But remember, anything that is scary is really an opportunity to be empowered. Taking your first solo trip can be scary at first. The thought of being alone in a foreign place can seem overwhelming. But once you do the step, being alone will be the last thing you are worried about. You will come back home feeling proud that you did something that once scared you. And that is one of the most empowering feelings in the world.
This article is as much a motivation for myself as for others. Here is why:
Although I have traveled solo before, lately I realized how dependent I have become on my husband: when we travel together he organizes everything; when I feel lonely or bored, I look to him for fun things to do. After a long talk, we both decided that I should take a trip by myself to Chile, a country he has already visited. We decided that I will start my travels alone, and then we will rather travel together when he is free from work. When you take control and travel alone, you are forced to rely on yourself. If you are lost, you have to ask for the directions. If you are bored, you have to figure out what fun things to do. You have to speak in a language in which you are not fluent. Traveling solo is one of the best ways to build your independence. And that is a wonderful thing.
Hanne Hellvik is from Norway, and has travelled to over 50 countries. With a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Development Management, studying people, communities and their cultures, comes naturally to Hanne. Furthermore, she loves to write about it in her travel blog: Places People Stories, where this article was first published.