The Benefits of Solo Travel

It’s been just over two months since I quit my job, left my home, and started traveling by myself. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but all-in-all I’m convinced that the benefits are so great, I think everyone should take some time to travel solo.

I know that’s kind of a grand statement, so let me explain myself a bit.

Everyone should travel alone

Four reasons why

It increases self confidence

This is one of the biggest benefits to traveling alone. In the past two months I’ve moved to five different places. I’ve visited dozens of towns and cities with no clue where I was going. I’ve met and been forced to get to know dozens of new people.

Almost everything I’ve done in the last two months has been uncomfortable. I’m not a big fan of getting lost in cities, or moving constantly, or meeting new people. And yet somehow it’s all worked out pretty well, and I’m still moving forward. I’ve learned that I’m a lot more capable than I thought I was. Traveling alone is a great way to push those limits and find out just how resourceful you can be.

You have to take care of your stuff

Americans are notoriously bad at taking care of our stuff. We’re called consumers for a reason: our very culture is designed to make us discontent with the stuff we have. We’re supposed to believe that a new computer, or a faster car, or a new hair product will make us happy and healthy.

A lot of people do believe it, in fact. They continually chase the next thing. (it looks exhausting)

You can’t do that if you’re traveling by yourself. Everything has a purpose, and if you obey our consumerism culture then you’ll soon need a trailer just to lug all your stuff around. (not a good idea)

Teaches you to enjoy less

Have you ever noticed that a toddler with too many toys is rarely happy with any of them? They spend too much time trying to decided which toy to play with, they never actually start playing.

Yeah, well: we were all toddlers once. And I don’t think we really grow out of this one.

I’ve found that the less I have, the more I do. And I’ll take action over stuff, any day of the week.

Patience

This sounds funny to say, but moving every two weeks actually requires a lot of patience. It isn’t a hectic scuffle from place to place, it’s a lot of late nights figuring out details, and then waaaiting for people to reply to your emails.

Meeting new people constantly requires a lot of patience too. I don’t necessarily enjoy the company of everyone I meet, but when you’re spending time with them you still have to dig in and try to understand them. This requires (and teaches) a lot of patience.

The downsides to solo travel

There are a number of bad things about solo travel as well. I think that the good makes up for it, but you can decide for yourself.

Loneliness can be pretty fierce

The same thing that brings confidence also brings loneliness: you don’t have anyone to depend on except yourself. Yes, you can work out a problem on your own when one comes up, but until you’ve worked it out you’ll wish to see a friendly face.

Humans have always been very dependent on each other, and if you travel alone you will see why. Things are exponentially easier to handle when you have someone else to help.

Meeting new people is hard

...this may or may not be a struggle for you. For me, it definitely is.

I’m a better listener than I am a talker. I know that small talk has an important place in society, but I still hate it. I’m much more comfortable around friends and family, where I can be frank.

You don’t get to those frank conversations until you’ve broken through the crust of small talk though, which is always a challenge for me. I’m learning though, which is good.

Incredibly hard to find free wifi sometimes

Okay, Public Service Announcement here: don’t come to New Mexico if you need free wifi. Unless you’re in Albequerque or Santa Fe, you won’t find any.

People are very stingy with their internet, apparently. Moving on.

You might end up sleeping on floors and couches

Travel usually isn’t glamorous, at least if you’re trying to watch your wallet. I’ve slept on plenty of floors and couches in the last two months. And honestly it really isn’t that bad... I have a sleeping bag and a pillow, and that’s pretty much all I need.

I’ve actually slept way more while traveling than I did while working as a programmer. I even had a bed then! Go figure.


So there’s the dark side of solo travel. Most of those bad things aren’t really bad things though.

I haven’t had anything stolen from me, I haven’t been kicked out of anywhere, I haven’t had to deal with nasty people. And the nice thing about traveling light is that it’s super easy and quick to just move on to the next place. You’re never “locked in”, as long as you plan well.

blog comments powered by Disqus