Ah, the solo traveler – fearless, wise and free. She is someone who breaks society’s rules to fulfill her own zest for adventure. For some, there is nothing more liberating than the idea of venturing out to explore the unknown alone. For others, there is nothing more terrifying.
When I lived in Madrid for one incredible year, I challenged myself to travel solo at least once. So, one weekend I set off for the city of Porto in Lisbon. While I quickly learned that solo travel was not my personal favorite, I also learned a bit about why that may be.
Do you think you were made for solo travel? You might have been, if:
1. You prefer to make all the rules.
Traveling solo offers a unique level of choice in that the only person you have to factor into decisions is you! You can eat and sleep when and where you choose. You can visit the attractions that most appeal to you and decide for yourself how long to stay at each place. You have ample time to cater completely to yourself. Of course, it also means you will be doing all of these things alone and, depending on how you look at it, that’s either incredibly boring or a dream come true. If you’re often frustrated by balancing what you want out of a trip with what someone else wants, you may want to consider a solo trip.
2. You crave discomfort and the growth it brings.
Touring alone, eating alone, navigating a new city alone and taking selfie after selfie alone are all highly uncomfortable experiences. We derive a lot of comfort and confidence from the presence of our friends and family. This is especially true in uncomfortable situations. Yet, there is a certain level of growth that comes from flexing the uncomfortable muscle of independence. You learn to rely on yourself and get a chance to see what you are made of. When things go south, what does it take to boost your spirits and are you capable of providing that for yourself? If you live for the challenge of real-time personal growth, then you may have much to gain from solo travel.
3. Your favorite time is “Me Time.”
Sure, we all like our space from time to time. Sometimes, nothing sounds better than shutting out the rest of the world for a few hours after the constant rush of balancing work, family, friends, health and more. Beyond that, maybe you find yourself constantly reveling in your own headspace – listening to and observing your own thoughts, taking stock of your own reactions and wonderment, and connecting everything you see or hear with what it awakens within you. Solo travel is a great opportunity for reflection and self-observation. It allows you to focus completely on getting in touch with your own thoughts and feelings rather than those of your would-be travel partners.
If you live for the challenge of real-time personal growth, then you may have much to gain from solo travel.
4. You want to expand your circle.
Conversely, when you travel alone you open yourself up to meeting new people. You may make friends at a hostel you’re staying in, swap travel tales with strangers while waiting in line or join members of a tour group you’re in for a drink. When you’re traveling with friends, it’s very easy to stay wrapped up in your own group. When you travel alone, you’re much more likely to branch out and approach (or be approached) by fellow travelers. This can lead to new perspectives, new opportunities and even new friends.
5. You’d rather go alone than not go at all.
Imagine that you are raring to quench your wanderlust and unable to find someone to join you. Maybe you can’t make the timing work or your finances are in different situations. What would you do? If your priority when traveling is spending quality time with friends and family, you would likely hold off on any travel plans. This is an understandable decision, but one that can seriously hold you back from travel. If your priority is to see as much of the world as you can with or without anyone else, you may want to go ahead and book that trip, solo.
In the end, the only way to really know if solo travel is for you is to give it a chance.
What about you – have you ever traveled solo or do you plan to? Were you made for solo travel or would you rather have someone along for the ride?
Image via Jillian Guyette