The paradox of traveling alone is that it teaches you to appreciate both yourself and others more.
While the sights you see will be amazing, the real reward is when you realize you made it there all by yourself.
Without a doubt, I would not be the person that I am today if I never traveled alone. I truly believe it is one of the most unique and special experiences that a person can have in their lifetime.
1. Traveling Alone is A Transformative Process
When you travel alone, you have to handle every aspect of your trip by yourself.
Transportation, where you’re staying, schedule, sightseeing, meals, getting lost, fending off scammers, and everything in between. It’s all on you. Not to mention you’ll be sweating and exhausted from carrying your bags.
When you need help, you have to rely on strangers who may or may not speak your language. You have to figure out how to communicate using just your body and all sorts of creative expressions (it’s a lot of fun, trust me).
But the funny thing is, these moments will become your most memorable ones because they will challenge you to grow in a way that you didn’t think you were capable of. And when you look back, you’ll smile to yourself and think, “Wow, I did all of that by myself. What else can I do?”
2. It Changes the Way You View Humanity
It sounds a bit dramatic but it does. At some point in your travels, you’re going to encounter strangers who will go out of their way to help you. Strangers who have no reason to help you except to help you.
When I was in Peru, I almost missed my bus to Machu Picchu. I was sick and didn’t hear my alarm AT ALL. I woke up an hour late and the bus that was supposed to pick me up already left.
Miraculously, a woman showed up from the tour agency, woke me up, and shoved me in a cab. She even paid the driver and somehow caught me up with the bus that I was supposed to be on. I couldn’t find this woman anywhere afterward and I never got to say thank you. She was my real-life fairy godmother.
If this doesn’t change the way you view people, I don’t know what will.
3. It Broadens Your Definition of ‘Friendship’
Something about traveling alone will throw all your inhibitions about talking to strangers out the window. You will make friends over drinks, you will make friends while sitting around, and you will make friends simply because they were assigned to the bed next to you.
Some of these friends will leave in the middle of the night without saying goodbye, some of them will become your Facebook friends whom you say hello to once in awhile, and some of them will become your lifelong friends.
No matter what though, you’ll realize friendship doesn’t care about borders, culture, or time. Everywhere in the world, people are looking to connect. Where you’re from and how you look simply makes the friendship more interesting.
Plus, how awesome is it that in a world of 6.7 billion people, these were the people that happened to be in the same place that you were at the same time??
4. You Learn to Make Decisions Like A Boss
Is it this way or that way? Is this a good price or not? Should I have taken that train instead of this one? At some point, you stop caring because you realize you can’t control everything in life.
You’ll learn which decisions are worth stressing over and which ones aren’t. People will tell you where to stay, where to eat, where to go but by the end, you’ll be so sick of hearing recommendations that you’ll just want to wake up, flip a coin, and go.
You’ll realize the beauty of traveling alone is that you can do whatever you want and NOT do whatever you don’t want.
You’ll learn to live in the moment.
5. You See Yourself From A Different Perspective
In your travels, you will meet people who treat you differently because of the way you look, speak, and dress.
When I was in Vietnam, I remember asking a hat peddler how much the hats were and she asked me, “Are you Vietnamese?” I responded, “If I am, would it be cheaper? When I was in Kenya, children would come up to me and randomly touch my hair. When I was in Peru, a waiter kept asking me if I’d be interested in meeting his friend because he was looking for a Chinese girlfriend.
Do all of these things bother me? Yes, a little but I would also be lying if I said I didn’t benefit from them. Being a small woman, strangers also often offer me help and start conversations with me.
The reality of traveling alone is, the way you look will always have a huge impact on your experience and people notice it more because you are alone. This will make you question who you are and how the world perceives you.
But most important of all is that you’ll realize not everyone in the world has seen someone like you and being able to ask these questions and travel alone at all is a privilege that most will not get to experience.