I have been asked so many times “why do you travel alone?” Well, simple, I love traveling alone. Don’t get me wrong, I do love traveling with friends too but for some reason I prefer going solo. I consider traveling solo a good learning experience and an introspective journey. There are no competing desires that have to be taken into account in order to have a “good” traveling experience. The freedom is great and the “one-on-one” time with yourself is priceless.
I’m sure you must have questioned yourself “Will I learn something by traveling the world by myself?” The answer is: Definitely. Traveling teaches you so many things –not only in a cultural way but also in a personal level– that will eventually have an effect in your life. Traveling is a two way learning process. You absorb, you experience, you react, and you share. But, when traveling by yourself, this process intensifies. Why? Because you learn more about yourself than you ever imagined.
We normally don’t have time for ourselves and we get lost performing our daily routine – work, study, commute, errands, etc. We tend to ignore those little details of ourselves that really defines us. So, When can we have time for ourselves? Well… Traveling is a good option. Even more if you travel solo –the perfect time for deep introspection. Traveling alone can give us some of the answers we’ve been seeking and help us discover the meaning of all our un-clarified thoughts. Look at it this way: That is your time to be YOU –It’s your world, your time, your adventure.
Going out on the road forces us to examine all aspects of ourselves, be it the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Life on the road can give us so many challenges that test our innate patterns and reactions, our emotions, our likes and dislikes, and what not. Technically, you find yourself in solitude.
These are 10 things I consider you learn about yourself when traveling solo.
- A better measure of your patience – Traveling, either by yourself or with friends gives you a better measure of your patience. You learn to have patience with the things that are out of your control (like delays, weather, etc) and you learn not to waste your patience with the things that don’t deserve it (like certain attitudes, intolerance, etc).
- Prioritize what really matters – I’ve come to learn that we worry about so many things that don’t really matter and that really have no effect in our lives. When traveling solo, things tend to matter when they have a direct effect on you and when you can have a certain control over it. Before, I used to worry about many things with no reason. Now I’ve come to think that “If it doesn’t matter, I don’t care.”
- How to be confident – Your confidence will grow as you see how things that depend on you become accomplished. It’s extremely satisfying to see all that you have accomplished so far – be it traveling to “X” amount of countries, or doing a hiked cross-country, or surfing at the best beaches in the world –whatever turns you on. This confidence in turn teaches you how to present yourself and how to interact with others –even if you’re shy, like me. Confidence has helped me make friends on the road, many of whom are still good friends of mine.
- Have a different view at your material possessions – There is no better way to dematerialize your life than going backpacking. You learn how to live without so many things you once though were impossible to live without. Backpacking “forces” you to go with the least possible (unless you enjoy a constant back pain), especially when you travel solo, since YOU carry everything you NEED, instead of WANT.
- Greater tolerance on things being different – Traveling exposes you to different cultures and mentalities. When traveling alone, you get an even greater exposure since you don’t enclose your social self with your group of friends. You get to talk more freely with locals, have deeper conversations, and even appreciate better many different perspectives. To experiment a different culture openly is to understand it and tolerate it, even if you don’t agree with its beliefs.
- Speak out your likes and dislikes – Traveling alone gives us the capacity to develop our “real” likes and dislikes without much influence or peer pressure from society. It’s just you, and you as yourself…
- Having a greater independence – Traveling alone comes with greater responsibility. Everything depends on you. But at the same time, your independence gives you greater flexibility. Want to go to a specific museum? By all mean, GO! Want to stay sleeping? Do it too. You are the master of your time, and you do with it whatever you want. You don’t require anything other than yourself for your own happiness.
- Being more responsible – This one comes parallel with independence. I think first of all, when you decide to travel by yourself, you already know you can responsible enough to take care of yourself. You take your life in your own hands and you mold it as you desire.
- A better grasp of future dreams – Now what you dream of or what you desire for yourself is not encased in the norms of a conventional daily life. You are more open minded, more willing to take risks, and more seduced by the adventure of exploring the unknown.
- Love and Compassion – This could be one of the most important things you get to learn about yourself when traveling solo. You travel for yourself, to re-discover yourself, to experiment with your life, to explore what’s in you. Whether conscious or not, traveling alone serves as a catalyst for the love for oneself –thanks to the constant ease of introspection. And like they say, if you learn to love yourself, you’ll learn to love and have compassion for your neighbors, fellow friends, and even everyday strangers.
There are many more ways traveling solo can have an impact on you. But, just because you traveled solo doesn’t mean you will “transform” yourself into a whole new person. Some do, but most don’t. It all depends on how open and receptive you are while traveling and how you decide to interact with your changing environment. Change doesn’t come instantly, it is slow and progressive. It’s a long “marinating” process that takes time to develop its true “flavors”. Lets say that traveling “plants the seed”. At first you wont notice anything different, but eventually you will start seeing things in a different way, will desire things in ways you didn’t expect, will change certain priorities, and without knowing, you are a different person. That change is a whole process, a personal learning process – a journey.
As for me, after traveling to so many different places, I have noticed some changes in the way I am and the way I interact with people, but I know there are many other changes still to come.