10 Advantages of Traveling Solo
During my travels, I am most often asked "Are you traveling alone?" A vast majority of the time, I am. Traveling solo can be a wonderful and life-changing experience. In fact, of all of the places I have been to, I can only think of about 3 times when I have traveled with either someone else or with a group (England in 2002, Rome in 2008, and Iceland in 2016) otherwise, I typically travel alone.
When it comes to traveling solo, a lot of people seem to be a bit anxious about it. After all, it is never comfortable being in a place that has a completely different culture from what a person is used to. I don't blame anyone for feeling that way. In fact, I felt the same way when I first planned and traveled to Southeast Asia completely on my own in 2011. I was quite nervous, but since that time, I've gotten to really enjoy traveling solo since it provides numerous advantages.
1) No Compromise Is Needed
Many people enjoy travel and exploring a new place, but if you travel with someone else, it is entirely possible that you might need to compromise on a place to visit. This can sometimes be a little messy and lead to arguments. For example, if you want to travel to Central Asia and see the "stans," but your significant other wants to visit Paris, there will need to be a discussion, and you'll have to figure out a solution that is suitable to both parties. However, if you travel solo, you can head to Central Asia without any issue since the one that made that decision is you.
2) Travel at Your Own Pace
Everyone travels at their own pace. Some people prefer to take things slow while others like to always be out and about. I tend to fit into the latter category. When I travel, I would much rather be out and about and seeing as much as possible than going at a slower pace. This can cause some problems if one partner likes to take things slow while the other partner is more active. If traveling solo, you can go at whatever pace you want without bothering anyone or needing to slow down or speed up the pace of your travels in order to accommodate your travel companion.
3) Learn to Navigate
This was initially one of my biggest fears when I started to travel. I tend to be directionally-challenged when it comes to exploring a new place, and it is super easy for me to get lost. Whenever the opportunity to travel came up, I was constantly worried that I would not be able to find anything, nor would I be able to get around. This was a particular hurdle for me that I had to get over. However, when I began traveling more frequently, I found that the only things I needed to be successful was a tourist map, an ability to remember landmarks, and an ability to read street signs. If you travel solo, and you have a fear of being unable to navigate a city or town, don't worry, you will learn how to read a map pretty quickly, and you'll find that it is not as difficult or scary as it sometimes seems. Most likely, you'll surprise yourself at how easily you'll be able to navigate around a city, town, or entire country. That skill will certainly translate and be applicable to all kinds of other places you might visit in your life.
4) Meet Interesting People
One of my favorite parts of traveling solo is getting the opportunity to meet interesting people from all walks of life and from all over the world. When I was in Mexico, I met a couple around my age from Los Angeles who were able to telecommute. They were planning on getting married in the Yucatan Peninsula and then stay in Mexico for six months since they could do their jobs remotely. I also remember meeting a Moroccan diplomat who could speak five different languages while sitting next to her on a flight en route to Belgium from Turkey. For me, the most interesting meeting was when I met the president of a Taiwanese university and and another faculty member. We had all been delayed on our flight, and we struck up a conversation. The conversation went so well that I had the opportunity to work for them if I wanted to. These types of meetings can not only lead to making new friends but also possible professional contacts as it did with me in meeting the university president. You never know who might be able to help you in the future. These types of things might not always be possible if you travel with someone else.
6) Build Confidence
Traveling solo is a great way to build your self-confidence. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing you were able to do something successfully that you might have previously had doubts about. In my personal case, there is always a little bit of anxiety every time I land in a new country since that sense of unfamiliarity never completely fades. However, by the time I depart, I leave with a renewed and increased sense of self-confidence in my abilities since I was able to successfully navigate the country by myself. Each time this happens, my confidence increases, and I always feel ready to visit a new country. Nowadays, whenever I plan a new trip, I always know that I will be able to be successful no matter what because I know I was successful in the past.
5) Look Within Yourself
A little solitude every now and then is good for everyone since it helps reconnect with ourselves and be free of distractions. When you travel solo somewhere, it gives you a chance to do some self-reflection during those quiet moments. If you're on your own, you might have a lot of time to yourself, so you can use that time to think of your life, the direction it is taking, and it can help you think of maybe the next step in life. There have been many times in the past when after all the excitement of the day has slowed down, I am able to go to a quiet place, take in the scenery, and just think about my life and how fortunate I am to have the life I have.
7) You Look Out for Yourself
If you travel solo, you need to look out for yourself. No one else is going to have your back. You are truly responsible for you. That means you have to be more discerning and aware of your surroundings and walk a more careful line than maybe people who are traveling as a couple or in a group. While this might be seen as a negative, it is actually a positive because it helps build up your ability to discern any possible ulterior motives that someone might have. It also helps develop an ability to sense when something is not quite right. In addition, it helps a person develop a healthy sense of skepticism. While most people in the world are friendly and want to help, I have learned that the adage "the wider the smile, the sharper the knife" to be unfortunately true sometimes. Therefore, it is necessary to always watch out.
8) Splurge or Be Cheap
When you travel solo, you are the sole decision maker on how much money to spend. If you want to splurge and stay at a luxury hotel or nice resort, you can do it without any guilt and you do not have to consult someone else. If you want to do things on the cheap and stay in not-so-nice accommodations to save some money, you can, and you do not need have a discussion on what someone else wants or needs. The decision on how much money you want to spend is entirely up to you.
9) Less Stress
I cannot speak for everyone, but I find that if you travel with others, there is the chance of having more stress since you have to worry about what that person thinks and wants to do. You don't have the thoughts of "Does XXX like this?", "Is XXX enjoying himself/herself?" This can cause undue stress and can maybe even result in miscommunication that can inadvertently create an awkward and uncomfortable situation. However, when you travel solo, the only one you have to worry about is yourself and whether you're enjoying yourself or not.
10) Develop Language Skills
The last advantage of traveling solo is it gives you a chance to improve your language skills. Now, I will admit that it is helpful to travel with someone who speaks the language since they can help you avoid getting ripped off or communicating, especially if you have relatively poor language skills. However, if you don't mind making mistakes and getting some real-world life experience, traveling alone can force you to use a foreign language. There have been times when I have had to use German, French, and Spanish since the people I was speaking to did not speak English, and the only way I could have gotten the information I needed was by using the foreign language. Plus, if you use a foreign language, it is entirely possible to make a new friend in the process.
Of course, while traveling solo does have its advantages, there are just as many advantages to traveling with someone else. Please stay tuned for 10 Advantages of Traveling with a Partner.