I never set out to go travelling alone. I spent the first two years of my travels in Australia with someone else by my side. But when that relationship ended, and I found myself single in a completely new city (hi, Auckland!), I knew I could either admit defeat and go home to England or carry on and make the best of it.
I chose the latter.
Sure, it was hard at first, and finding my independence and confidence again took time. But now I’m kind of glad it happened, because solo travel has improved my life is more ways than I could even have imagined.
1. It Makes You More Independent
I’ll never forget a press trip I went on once, where I was one of only two people who were used to travelling on their own. We were making our way back to the airport as a group (which involved multiple trams and a bus) when one of our group exclaimed, with surprise, that I knew my way back.
How did I know my way back even though this was my first time in this new city?
I was concentrating when we arrived.
I’d made a mental note of the tram stops on the way into the city and where we’d have to transfer to get the bus. I hadn’t just followed the group and relied on others to get me from A to B.
I can’t do that as a solo traveller.
It’s just one way that solo travels makes your more independent. There is no-one else to read the map, order the unfamiliar items off the menu, or resolve anything that goes wrong on your travels. There’s just you. And this independence? It carries on working once you’re back home, too.
2. You Find Out Who You Really Are
It can be uncomfortable being alone for long periods of time. You’re forced to almost confront your thoughts head on. And that can be hard, because those thoughts often reveal who we really are and what we actually want.
Relaxing with a glass of wine next to the river Druro while you watch a stunning sunset is all well and good until, because you’re so alone in your thoughts, your brain chooses this exact time to remind you of your faults and insecurities.
The positive takeaway from this? You’ll get to know yourself better than ever. And once we know ourselves better, it’s easier to make those big, scary life decisions.
3. You Get Better At Meeting New People
There’s a certain safety net to travelling with friends or a partner. I know, I travelled with my now-ex-boyfriend around Australia for two years. You’ve already got someone to chat to so you tend to make less effort with strangers and, at the same time, you’re less approachable than someone travelling on their own.
I’ll be honest: I don’t tend to make a new bunch of friends every time I travel. I don’t stay in hostels and a weekend city break doesn’t really lend itself well to forging new friendships, but I’ve definitely gotten better at talking to people since I decided to travel the world alone. A smile can go an awful long way, especially when you’re trying to bridge the gap between two different languages or cultures.
4. It Bursts Your Bubble
OK, time for some real talk: pre-2010, the year I moved to Australia and subsequently fell in love with travelling, I was…not the person I am now. I was 25 years old and judgemental as hell. I had all these opinions, despite having so little life experience.
Maybe I just grew out of being a terrible person. Or, maybe my travels had something to do with it. I met people from different backgrounds and it opened my eyes to a whole other world I’d been sheltered from. My empathy for other people grew, I became more open to new experiences, and less judgemental of people and things I knew nothing about.
And you bring this home with you too. You look at others differently. I needed to get out of my bubble and experience other things.
5. You Never Have To Compromise
One of the main advantages of solo travel is that you can spend your days doing exactly as you please. Well, within reason. Maybe you want to skip the tourist attractions for a day of reading on the beach, or get up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise. Maybe you made some new friends in the bar last night and want to party ’till the early hours. You don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission or negotiate with your friends on what to see and when. Just go and do it.
6. You Can Travel When You Want
OK, so annual leave might restrict when you can travel somewhat. Or, if you’re self-employed (like me), you’ll need to work around client projects. But, as a solo traveller, you’ll never have to wait for someone else to get their annual leave approved by their manager before you can book that flight, or work around someone else’s plans. Which means…
7. You Can Save Money On Travel
See a great deal on a flight for a weekend when you’ve got nothing planned? You can book it! Found a great deal on a hotel you’ve been dying to stay at? GO FIND YOUR DEBIT CARD NOW. With no-one else to ask, you’re free to do as you please, which means you can make decisions on a whim AND save money in the process. Feels good, right?
8. It Gives Your Confidence A Boost
Forging your own path and getting out of your comfort zone can do wonders for your self-confidence. There’s something really empowering about landing in an unfamiliar country alone, finding your hotel on your own, and doing your best with the local language. Every time I land somewhere new I feel a little bit of pride bubbling inside me, because a few years ago I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I was scared. I’d been with the same person for six years, and the idea of going it alone was terrifying.
I got over it, though; the relationship and my fear of solo travel.
9. You Get More Comfortable With Being Alone
I live alone, I work from home, I’m single, and I mostly travel solo, so you could say that I’m pretty used to be alone. This doesn’t mean I’m sad and lonely, though. I’m just comfortable with figuring things out by myself, eating in restaurants alone, and exploring new cities with just my camera for company.
Being alone for long periods of time is just part and parcel of solo travel. Getting comfortable with being alone comes with many rewards, though. Once you get home, doing things alone doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And you come to value the time you spend with yourself.
10. You’ll Have More Unique Experiences
When you’re travelling alone people are much more open with you. Often this can lead to some genuinely unique experiences that you’ll treasure for years to come.
I’ll never forget walking through the streets of Porto after dinner one night and seeing two local women dressed in long skirts dancing in the street, their hair held back with patterned headscarves. A man was playing a guitar on the corner and they held out their hands, gesturing for me to join them. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but, as I danced in the street while the sun set over Porto, I didn’t need to.
In Singapore airport, after not being allowed back on the plane to London, I was sat in the doctor’s waiting room, tears in my eyes, worried that I wouldn’t get home from Australia to the UK for a funeral, when the man waiting opposite me said that if I couldn’t afford to pay for the medication up front he was happy to cover it for me.
I hold these small acts of kindness close to my heart, and I’m pretty sure neither would have happened if I’d had someone else by my side.
How do you think solo travel can improve your life?