Going Solo

I promised myself a couple of years ago that when I had the funds, any ounce of desire (which is always), and available time off from work, I’d get out of town. For some, it feels as if everything must align perfectly in order to make travel happen; that stress weighs heavy when trying to simply book the flight. Most commonly, planning a trip involves other peopledifferent schedules, destinations of interest, and travel stylesand all of these must coordinate in order to get that beautiful “flight reservation confirmed” email in your inbox. 

I’ve learned something quickly: no matter who you surround yourself with, who is just as interested in travel as you are, or who has traveled with you in the past, the reasons not to go will almost always outweigh the reasons to go…if you let them. Getting a group of people together for dinner one night or meeting a friend for coffee is hard enough to coordinatetry planning a week-long trip with someone(s)! No one’s outlook on travel or “travel style” is identical. With that, and generally speaking, priorities vary greatly and frequently change. Money or lack thereof will always be a factor. Dreams change. PTO time is conflicting. 

All of these are valid concerns that can easily overrule and cancel plans completely.

Traveling with people is wonderful. (But, it can also be catastrophic. I swear you don’t know someone until you travel with them, but that’s a topic for a different time!) I traveled for two months to two different continents with three of my best friends. I went to five cities in Northeast Italy with my mom. I took my mom, dad (who had never been out of the U.S. prior), and sister around Botswana when they visited when I was living there. I’ve traveled domestically and internationally with a significant other. These trips have truly been irreplaceable. But, I’ll emphasize, these trips actually happened. Behind these trips are hundreds of other ideas or tentative plans that didn’t work out. Some of them didn’t come to fruition for a specific reasonwrong time, wrong placebut many didn’t happen because when others opted out, so did I. I was just too scared to go alone, or I didn’t see it as a viable option.

It is alwaysand I mean alwaysan option. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s viable. I, nine times out of ten, believe it to be.

Solo travel can be super intimidating. It requires more research, more precautions, and more preparedness. Solo travel isn’t typically the cheapest route to take either. Some things will inevitably change throughout the booking process and your time in a place to ensure that you’re safe. There are times when traveling solo is not easy. It can sometimes be downright uncomfortable, like when your cab driver doesn’t speak any English and you don’t speak any Spanish, and you’re sweating in the back seat trying to pull up Google Translate to show maps of your hostel as the meter is running and you have no idea if he knows where you’re going (and in these situations, you just have to laugh). 

But solo travel is also incredibly rewarding. It offers a huge opportunity for personal growth and a heightened sense of independence. You learn a lot about yourself (like how to laugh at yourself, for one), and you learn to not sweat the small stuff. You’re more open to opportunities with new people and experiences. You’re able to take a step back and take in every inch of your experiences without someone else forming your opinions around a place, a meal, or the ambience. 

It has quickly become my favorite way to travel. If you need some convincing, here’s a list of my reasons why you should go alone:

 

You’re on your own schedule, and by that, I mean that you’re not on one. Feeling jet lagged? Sleep in. That train gets delayed? Take the next one.

I think solo travel has this way of delaying or lengthening time; nothing is pressing or needs to be scheduled down to the hour. Being on your own allows for bumps in the road or steering off the road completely. It gives you a new definition of “go with the flow.”

 

You can still do all of the things you want to do. You just have to do them differently.

One common misperception of solo travel is that if you’re going alone, you have to limit what you do because it could be unsafe. There are strict “no-nos” when traveling solo (like binge drinking until you’re incoherent or walking the streets alone at night), but you can still go on that hike, go to that restaurant, tour the city by foot, and see that beautiful *whatever* an hour or two outside of town. This is where the additional research comes in. Through Airbnb Experiences, Free City Walking Tours, Viator, or the front desk at your hostel/hotel, you can book things with other people. Sometimes it’s with one other person and sometimes it’s more, but safety won’t be an issue. And you’ll likely meet people you’ll want to do other things with. 

 

You’re more approachable and open to meeting new people.

Okay, this may seem like solo-traveler-gets-preyed-on-for-being-alone, but hear me out. When you’re traveling with one or more people, it’s likely you’ll stick to the person/people you know. You’ll eat meals together, go to sites together, and not leave each other’s sides. Some of us are better at interacting with others while traveling with a group, but when you’re traveling solo, you don’t have a choice. You either talk to other people or you talk to yourself (haha!). You’re less closed off to those minimal, everyday interactions. You’ll likely be more engaged, in general, with people around you. (Or, if you’re traveling solo to NOT interact with others, that’s your call…you can do that too. In that case, avoid eye contact, always bring a book/phone to look busy, and only answer with one or two words.) I’ve rarely felt truly alone when traveling solo unless I wanted to be. 

 

You gain confidence and independence. 

I’m sure you’ve had those moments where you accomplish something and you feel so jazzed and have thought, “I can do anything!” (with the clapping emojis in between). To me, that’s during and after every solo trip. No, you don’t have to be the most badass, fearless human to be a solo traveler, but I guarantee that after you do it, you’ll feel like you are. 

 

You’ll realize how “normal” solo travel really is. 

THERE ARE SOLO TRAVELERS EVERYWHERE. They’re traveling for MONTHS or YEARS alone. You realize you’re not the first or last person to do it. Actually, doing it normalizes how many people are out there doing it alone. 

 

You realize you’re more resourceful than you think. (And, when all else fails, make sure your phone is charged and working. Always.)

Again, you’re calling the shots. You’re fully in charge and in control. Sometimes you won’t make the best decisions, but at the end of the day you will have learned from it. You’re so capable of solving problems on your own. Not sure what train to get on? Take a deep breath and look at it again. Or ask someone. I promise, you’ll figure it out. 

 

Your faith in humanity will be rejuvenated. 

This is my hippy-dippy reason, but the universe has your back. People will help you out. People will surprise you. People will be there for you when you need/want them.

Connect with Kirstin on Instagram @kirstinbenish or grab her guides here.

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