“When you’re traveling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” — Shauna Niequist
In September of 2016, I moved to Paris, a city in which I had never been to before, alone. Speaking not one word of french (hello, goodbye and thank you being the exceptions), without true understanding of the culture or lifestyle and knowing only one friend, who was also moving to work as an au pair, and the family I would work for, who had hired me through an interview via Skype.
Such an experience, that when told to others, comes with questions and awe of how I could make such a move by myself. In truth, I never worried too much about this detail, of moving and traveling to a foreign country alone. Conversely, I embraced the idea of solitude and singularity. As much as I enjoy traveling with someone else, traveling by yourself is in itself a worthwhile journey. Let’s talk why your next trip should be one with yourself:
You Can Do What You Want, When You Want
When on a trip with other people, there will always have to be compromise. The hard truth of vacationing with family or friends is that not everyone will want to or agree to do, eat, see or experience the same thing. In order to keep the group’s spirits high and not spoil the entirety of your holiday, sacrifices will be made for the greater good — a dilemma that does not exist with solo travel.
When traveling alone, you make the rules. You determine the schedule; when you wake up, where you want to eat and how you choose to spend your day — you needs and wants are the only ones that matter. For me, being able to choose how I spend time in a city is ideal. I tend to be an early riser and jump at the first chance to walk around with my camera in hand. Rarely, do I want to have a period of rest or want to turn in early to my room — for me a vacation is about doing as much as I can with my given time. So, if you’re an explorer or relaxer — taking a trip by yourself allows you to dictate your day, without having to answer to or please the other people of your group.
Solo Traveling Forces You to Interact with Locals
In most situations, solo travelers don’t take trips because they want to be alone, but rather because they can be alone. In fact, situations may vary as to why one would choose to go on a such a trip. Whether it is because they couldn’t find someone to accompany them (mostly due to reasons pertaining to finances or pressing responsibilities), they are going to a place for work purposes or because they truly have a desire to be somewhere and embrace the experience despite having a companion — traveling on your own doesn’t always result in solitary confinement. In fact, traveling alone allows you the most opportune chances to meet and interact with the locals in ways you may not experience when traveling with someone else.
For me, meeting locals is a great way to have a true feel for the culture and lifestyle. Having traveled across Europe for a year, I met people from all walks of life with varying stories and experiences to share. When I think back to the times I have spent in different places, the people I meet seem to leave the truest imprint. Whether I befriend locals or other travelers like myself, connections and lasting memories are made. If you’re traveling alone, don’t be scared of consulting other people for local tips, directions or introducing yourself in a social situation, at the beach, a restaurant or bar. You’ll be surprised by the eagerness and kindness of strangers when you’re willing to open up and engage. And if you’re lucky, these people you meet along the way will become some truly great travel companions.
You Have to be Financially Independent
When traveling with friends, splitting the bill is the norm. You share accommodation, the price of meals and methods of transportation, which in result decreases the financial burden and makes a trip more manageable. Now, I’m not saying that solo traveling has to be expensive, in fact whether you travel with others or alone, you can make traveling affordable to you. Rather, I am saying that when you split the cost of a trip you are in essence financially dependent on the other person to hold up their end of the payment.
When taking a trip by yourself, you are forced to pay in full for everything you want to do, thus taking on the role of financial independence. If the thought of footing the entire bill scares you, I would encourage you to take a trip alone. Funding your entire trip makes you responsible and teaches you the value of saving and allocating spending. Whenever I want to take a trip, I research the most cost effective way for me to arrive to my destination, where I can stay that will allow a balance of a decent price with a memorable experience and estimate the amount I will spend on food, excursions and social activities. This forces me to realize the importance of having a budget, finding out ways to save up for my trips and spending my money on only the things that will make your trip worthwhile.
You Learn How to Enjoy Being By Yourself
If there is one thing I do believe, it is that there is an art to being alone. You’ve probably heard people talk about how you have to love yourself before you can love someone else or how it is important to be happy with who you are because you’re the one you are spending your life with — all advice that is essential to remember. Yet, even though we know we should work towards being content with just ourselves, it is very common for the concept of being alone to be translated to loneliness.
Alone and lonely are two very different concepts. Being alone does not mean you are lonely or missing the company of other people, but rather is the act of you doing something in a singular fashion. Too often I hear the idea of being alone associated with negative feedback: I could never eat alone, go to the movies alone, shop alone or travel alone. The horror! But, why do we view acting alone as negative? Is it pride, self-esteem or the perception of others that makes us believe that being alone is looked down upon?
If there is one thing we must learn it is to enjoy being by yourself. More times than none, you will be alone. You will live alone, go to work alone, grocery shop alone and engage in various tasks daily by yourself. Instead of being scared of such a concept, embrace it. Enjoy the moments of selfishness and choose yourself over anyone else. Plan the trip you’ve been dreaming of, book the ticket and bask in the beauty of solo traveling — just you and a great adventure.
What are your thoughts on traveling alone? Have you had an experience that you’d like to share? Leave me some stories in the comments below!