Why You Should Travel Solo
Illustration Credit: Vy Lee
When I tell people that I prefer to travel solo, a lot of them are surprised and curious: Is it weird to eat alone? Do I feel lonely? Am I scared that no one will be able to help me if something happens along the way?
To be honest, my answer to some of these questions is yes, but most of the time, traveling alone is a memorable, nerve-wracking experience that has changed me for the better.
From a very young age, I have been able to travel by myself. Mostly only to another city in my country Vietnam, but sometimes to foreign countries, such as Thailand or Laos. It’s been only a few so far, but I’m already in love with the experience — something the overthinker in me wouldn’t dare to say five years ago. Things have changed a lot since then — I grew from a girl who always needed somebody to help, scared of making her own decision to a girl who resolves all issues herself, even able to help others — all because of traveling alone.
So if you’d like to travel solo, but still have doubts, here are a few reasons why you should do it, at least once.
1. Meet new people
Traveling with your friends or family is really nice — you get breakfast with them, eat lunch and dinner together and you have someone to talk to along the way. Yet, in a way, you limit yourself by surrounding yourself with familiar faces you see all the time.
When traveling solo, you are forced to meet other people and engage in new activities. This might be scary and somewhat uncomfortable at first, but soon you will learn how to reach out to different people and challenge yourself by doing things you wouldn’t have done otherwise. You’ll learn to embrace the challenge and get to know all the unknown places and new faces. You will gradually discover the diversity and culture around you, thus expand your perspective and compassion to others.
Isn’t traveling about finding the familiar in the unfamiliar, after all?
2. Do whatever you want
I have always been an active person and cannot sit still in one place for too long.
When you travel in a group, sometimes you have to follow certain schedules and rules to accommodate everyone. This can mean you have to visit sites you have no interest in, or sometimes cannot go on an adventure because your siblings or other kids in your travel group wouldn’t be able to participate.
But traveling alone will be completely different. You get to choose what you want to do and at the pace you want. Don’t feel like having lunch? Then skip it. Want to stay up until 4 a.m.? Go for it. Fell in love with the city and suddenly want to extend your stay for three more days? Just do it. Nobody will bother you, and you will not bother anyone, either.
3. Empower yourself
It amazes me how much I can do when I’m on my own. When I travel with my friends or family, I often rely on them when problems come up.
However, that’s not the case when you are on your own. You will be pushed to do the hard work which can be lonely and unsettling at first, but believe me — it is such a rewarding and awesome feeling when you find the right way after getting lost or thrive with a short amount of money left. Handling these things on your own can give you a new sense of confidence and faith in your own capabilities that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
For me, such experience not only helped me build confidence for my future trips but also with my life at home.
I think T.S Eliot, one of the greatest poets in the 20th century, puts it really nicely: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
4. Be decisive
Unlike traveling in a group where decision making often bounces off from one to another, traveling solo forces you to design your very own schedule and decide what to do each day.
I often find this extremely exhausting, especially when I have limited time and the number of exploration opportunities are just overwhelming. However, along the way, I learned to think about both sides (pros and cons) and then get the best out of my trip.
During the process, you will learn to let some options go and be confident in your choice, whatever they might lead to. To quote from the film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”: A leap of faith, that’s all it is.
5. Unplug and reflect
To me, the greatest benefit of traveling alone is the ability to truly escape your daily routine. You don’t have to talk to anyone or answer any text messages if you aren’t in the mood. Instead, you can just wander the streets and simply listen to yourself instead of what everybody else gets to say.
It’s also the best time for reflection in this hustle and bustle period of time. Traveling with your friends and family can be noisy sometimes, so there’s not much space for thinking about what you have done or discovered. Sometimes, instead of chasing one site after another, it is better to just stay silent, even if only for a minute.
In a lot of ways, traveling solo has enabled me not only to see life around me but also myself more clearly. You might be afraid of being alone or helpless until you finally realize everything you are actually capable of. You will be surprised by how amazing and full of love people are, and amaze yourself when you’re actually on the way. That’s the most beautiful thing about traveling solo.
So be brave and go for it! I promise you won’t regret it.