10 Things You Learn About Yourself When Traveling Solo

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.

Traveling Solo in Prague

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 YOUIt’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.
  • At the Jewish Museum in BerlinHow 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…
  • Backpacking in Costa RicaHaving 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 means, 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.

Traveling Solo at Krakow

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.

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Comments

  1. says

    Terrific article, Norbert! These are all great aspects of traveling alone, and reason enough to do so, I think. I absolutely agree that solo travel is a tremendous growth experience. It winnows life down to the essentials, what’s really important (to YOU). So many people constantly surround themselves with others to the point where they don’t even know what they think or believe about anything, without it being filtered through the opinions of others.

  2. says

    Thank you so much, Gray! You’re right on those points. Every now and then it’s good to have some time of our own to really see and understand what makes us “US”. I usually find that time when traveling solo. That’s why I love it so much. I think it lets you have a better perspective on things and you react more consciously to your surroundings, no peer pressures, no second guessing others’ opinions.

  3. says

    Great post. Im traveling solo for a year and its really pushed my boundaries for the better. When theres no one there who knows you to define you, who are you? I find out a little bit more about myself every day.

  4. says

    Thanks Ayngelina! Exactly, you don’t get defined by others. You get defined by your own daily personal experiences. I’m glad traveling solo is working for you too! :D

    • raczyk says

      That’s fantastic. Much like this ted talk about home:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m6dV7Xo3Vc&hd=1

      We are not defined where we come from, but where we are and where we are going. Been on a week long solo trip thus far. I wonder if that is long enough, how long do you recommend solo traveling to “marinate” long enough for the true “flavors” to come out? I.e. talking about change, and learning about yourself. I know it is a never ending process and perhaps there is no ideal, but what is your experience?

      • says

        How long do I recommend solo traveling? Well, it really varies with each person. Some people can take it for a week, other for years. It all comes to how you travel, how sociable you are, and how you spend you time when you’re on your own. For sure you’ll have many experience that will make you see life in a different way, but how soon or late will they come… that’s all up to you.

        For me, they haven’t come in a single “aha!” moment. They’ve all been coming in small bits that in the end will make the whole experience puzzle, which still to this day is unfinished.

  5. says

    Just found this post, great points Norbert. I like your style. What do you think about reversing, falling back into old patterns of comfort after a long break in travel?

    Back in the US, I still tend to revert back to the person I was before traveling. Of course, there’s plenty I have learned, but I seem to like the person I was while on the road.

    I’m just post-grad, and (kind of expected) I seem to be falling back into old habits and not challenging myself. I understand that I just have to get up and move!

    • says

      Thanks Wailana!
      I think it’s very very easy to fall back into old patterns and habits. I do it too. It’s just part of our nature and we should not expect to suddenly change the way we are because we “experienced the road”. But, I believe that trip after trip you will see certain things in your persona that will slowly be modified, hopefully for the better.
      I too “like better” the person I am on the road. I’m not sure if it’s because of the more outgoing character I seem to have or the fact that I feel challenged doing new things, but definitely that’s my “better me”.
      Now that I think about it, I will have to start challenging myself more even when I’m not traveling

    • says

      So true, we tend to be more outspoken and more social when we travel solo, since we feel the need to make the effort in order to not spend every single moment of our trip by ourselves.

  6. says

    I have always wanted to see the world and I am thinking about traveling alone, but I have qualms. You see I don’t want my mom to worry and plus I am shy…so I don’t have many friends. The ones I do have…say they don’t have the money. I have always wanted to see different places and go off the resort…do you think its safe? Plus I am a woman, do you think that could put me a danger…make me an easy target?? Or…do you think because of this I should get a group of friend together to travel?

    • says

      Hi A. –
      First it is great that you have the inspiration to go out and travel the world. Like you, I’m kind of shy and many of my friends don’t have the money either to go traveling. I truly believe that if you want to do something, you don’t let anything stand in your way that will prevent you to accomplish it. Hence, some of the reasons why I travel solo. Many people say that traveling as a solo female is a bit dangerous. I don’t necessarily believe that. Of course, some safety common sense has to be put in practice, but it’s just as fun and safe as if you were a solo male traveler. Going out of the resorts will not put you in danger or any sort, in fact, I believe it’s good to do so because you experience more of the country in its true form, not the “bubble” resorts create to keep guests in.

      In my opinion, if you want to travel, don’t be afraid to travel solo. I know of many solo female travelers and they are ALL having the time of their life! Go forward and travel the world!! :)

  7. says

    Hi Norbert, What a great in depth post you have written, It is certainly character building traveling as you have, when you have to rely solely on yourself, and nobody else.

    • says

      Thanks Travelyn! I agree, traveling solo help you build a lot of character and I believe it makes you more savvy with the world. Glad to have you around!

  8. Jackson says

    I totally agree when I travel solo I tend to talk to a lot more people than I would do with a larger group, great stuff :D

      • Raczyk says

        During my 1 week solo travel, I also enjoyed the exploration and adventure. Being back home I question myself what changed, it’s only the surrounding that changed, I’m still the same person which was exploring on my vacation. Any idea how to adopt this mentality back home. I.e. explore more, take more risks, etc. it just seems strange that our surroundings would have so much influenence over us? Seemed more fun to be on vacation, but vacation is not permenant, would like more of that feeling when home. :)

        • says

          When back home, I think the most important thing is to not just fall back on the same ideals you had before. Try to apply those things you learned about/changed into you life post-solo travel. Do keep exploring around home, get out of your comfort zone, and try to look at your surrounding with fresh eyes to try to understand them better or in a different way.

  9. sandra says

    Hello Norbert,

    Thanks for sharing this rich experiences, and yes I agree with what you said and mainly about the answers you get for your questions when you travel… that’s why im planning to travel more often now and sure im planning to travel solo for at least one time in my life.. good luck!

    • says

      Hi Sandra! Sorry for the late reply, but I’m happy that you have the goal of trailing solo at least once in your life. I think you should do it, not just for the sake of ticking the “solo travel checkbox”, but to take some time for yourself in a foreign place. This could be a very eye opening experience for you and amazing things could happen. Good luck to you too! ;)

  10. says

    A beautiful article. Travelling alone to find or discover yourself is not a cliche. it is a means, and different people will get different results.
    There is truth to everything you say. That’s why I love travel.

    • says

      Thanks, Zaid! Yes, traveling to discover yourself is not a cliche… it’s actually a way to grow as a person while discovering the world too.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Now this solo business doesn’t mean not travelling with anyone else. I’m keen to share parts of the route. I actually want to take this opportunity to meet up with as many people as I can to make new friends and share my adventures. But it will undoubtedly include some alone time for me to think about life and understand myself in a deep, psychedelic way. I hope to come out of it learning even a few of the things that Norbert talks about in 10 Things You Learn About Yourself When Traveling Solo. [...]

  2. […] I admit that for me it’s easier to make friends when I’m traveling solo than when I’m traveling with close friends.  When traveling in a group of friends it’s easy to ignore other travelers because you are focused on spending time with your friends.  In many cases, groups tend to portray a sense of exclusivity, keeping other travelers from interacting with you.  But when traveling solo, you normally express a certain openness that tends to charm people, making it easier to establish a conversation, a travel partner, a friendship.  I wrote about this briefly as being one of the things you learn about yourself when traveling solo. […]

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