Thursday, April 23, 2015

Advantages of Travelling Solo

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

I don't know if I've ever shared this, but the first time I came to America, I went on my own. I met up with a group of people (strangers), but I was on my own for most of it. When I went to London with my Nana, I did all my sightseeing alone. 

It's been awhile since I've travelled on my own, but even if I catch a flight to Orlando to meet my mum, or to DC to meet Alyssa and Tracy, there is something amazing about travelling alone. I don't really have a desire to travel alone anymore, I have KC and I like to share things with him. But I am glad I did it because I feel like it really made me open up and learn more about myself.

Do what you want any old time. I got to choose what I wanted to do and see. I could wander into any shop I chose, enter any museum that looked interesting and walk straight back out when I was over it. I ate when and what I wanted, slept in late or woke up to see the sunrise.

Make new friends. I am pretty shy when I don’t know people. If I know you, you'd probably scoff at me calling myself shy because I’m loud and annoying. But at first, I’m shy. I was even worse before I travelled. I literally would find a corner, cross my arms and perfect my resting bitch face. But travelling alone made me open up. I had to talk to people. When I was on the trip around America, I was in a bus with like 13 strangers. I could find my corner, or I could talk to them. It’s amazing how fast you make friends in that situation, there is no time for slow friendships. You’re in them, fast. It was awesome. I still talk to some of those people. If I had travelled with a friend (like I was supposed to, but she bailed), I would have stuck with her and not made new friends. Sure, you try, but it won’t be the same. 


Imagine if you went to Italy on your own, with a friend who spoke the same language as you, but not Italian. How much Italian do you think you’ll try and speak? Imagine if you went on your own. What a different experience that would be. It feels natural to be outgoing when I travel, which I would have laughed at if you'd told me that beforehand. Even when I first came to Louisville in 2010, I knew only Megan and I met my other (now) best friends for the first time. I was so nervous. Megan ran up to the room to get something right as they arrived, and I wanted to hide behind someone so they didn't see me. But I smiled my biggest smile, waved and rushed towards them like I knew them. Now they love me (okay I love them too). It might not seem like the biggest deal, but it was for me.


Flexibility. When I travelled on my own, I did spend a lot of time with other people, but when I wanted to be alone, no-one noticed or cared. I didn’t have to report to anyone, I just grabbed a book and sat by the pool. I wandered around the campsite while they were all drinking. I went to a movie when they went shopping. I spent money without having to explain my purchases, I did things without having to ask or check with other people. It’s so freeing.

You will learn so much about yourself. Something I realised very early on in my London trip was that I was responsible for my own happiness. I was young, moody and very annoying (or so my Aunty tells me). I realised no-one was going to hold my hand and make me happy. I was on the other side of the world from the douche boyfriend and I realised I didn’t like him so much. The beauty of solo travel is time to be alone, time to reflect and time to test myself. I started to understand myself in ways I didn’t know was possible. When faced with a choice and no-one to make it but yourself and no-one holding you back, you’ll realise ‘hey, I don’t even like museums and I don’t have to go because no-one is making me’. Before London, I convinced myself I loved all museums because everyone else did. Truth is, I like the majority of museums (history! science!) but not all (art. sorry). That is okayI also didn’t know how much I actually enjoy the company of just me. I kinda liked me.

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” – Oscar Wilde

Confidence. My world became bigger when I took the risk of going to London and America on my own. I was scared. It might not seem like a big risk, but for me it was. I felt like I conquered my fears and because of that I felt more confident about any adventure my life had in store.

Eating well. I ate surprisingly healthy on my solo travels because I wasn’t tempted by other people’s choices.

Eating not so well. Ok so sometimes I want to indulge and be a fatty. Other people, especially KC, try and be all logical and stuff. No thank you, give me all the dessert!

Common sense. I thought I had the common sense thing down before my travels, but I did some pretty stupid things. I learned really quickly though, and I feel like I have a good head on my shoulders now. I got in some sticky situations because of my naivety that I luckily got out of, but looking back I could have been in serious trouble. I’m much more aware now when I travel on my own. Don’t do anything stupid, keep an eye on your stuff, and you’ll be good. 


That never happened. I don’t really want to share any examples here (but the above photo is from one of those times), but I am glad there are things that happened during those trips that no-one in my current life knows because they weren’t there. Ergo, it didn’t happen.

It’s an awesome sense of accomplishment. I walked over 500 steps to get to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was beautiful. I stood up the top, taking photos and it hit me. I was in London. I was in London. Dream come true. I was on my own, and I was just fine. I was quite a dependent person so to realise this and feel that sense of accomplishment that hey, I could do anything (hey, that’s how I felt) was amazing. The feeling of figuring stuff out on your own in a totally foreign country – it’s indescribable. Whenever it happens, the feeling that comes with it is so completely incredible you might get a bit cocky and think there is nothing you can’t do.
  
No risk of going with a bad companion. I'm sure we've all been there. Halfway through a holiday or weekend and we want to wring the other person's neck. How many times have you had to compromise on something you want to do to avoid splitting up or a fight? How many times have you said ‘I’ll sit this outing out because I don’t feel well’ just to get a moment’s peace away from those people?

“It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion.”

Of course, there are plenty of disadvantages of travelling alone as well. You might think it’s not for you because you’re not outgoing and don’t want to make new friends. Believe me, if I can make new friends in a group of 13 people I have nothing in common with, or strangers in London I ended up spending the whole day with – so can you. If you don’t want to that’s fine, but why don’t you want to?

Start small. Go on a road trip an hour away. Wander around a close but not far away city. Go to the movies on your own. Go to a concert or a festival alone. Volunteer at a race on your own. Do things on your own. Don’t be afraid.

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.” - Robert Tew

I haven't done a lot of it, I certainly haven't backpacked around Europe on my own for a year, nor is it likely that I ever do that. But little travels? I can do that, and have. Whether it's a road trip to visit family, or a new place on your own, a short getaway just for yourself or an international trip - it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you haven't travelled solo, I highly recommend it.

Have you ever travelled somewhere alone?

45 comments:

  1. I've never actually traveled alone! I've been on business trips alone which were only a day or two but never an actual trip planned out by me, on my own. Sounds like I'm kinda missing out!!

    <3, Pamela
    Sequins & Sea Breezes

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  2. I love travelling along for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. Not being tempted by every dessert is a good one. I am totally shy around new people but really outgoing when I know people but travelling along does force you to ask people things and breaks you out of your shell a bit. So true!

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  3. The point about talking to people - spot on! For a while I was attending Meetup group events, and I brought Ryan to a couple of them. When I brought him, I didn't actually socialize with anyone, but when I went by myself, I chatted with all kinds of people. So now I don't bother unless I go alone, because the whole point is to meet new people, not hang out with the ones I already know.

    You are so brave! I don't know if I've ever gone on a trip alone - I've been in the airport alone and I kind of liked that. I have done a few things just for the sake of being comfortable being by myself (in public - I love being by myself at home!). Like last year I went to an art museum (the kind you don't like, ha!) solo and wandered around. It wasn't so bad, but I definitely get more out of an experience if I can share my perceptions of it with other people and hear what they think.

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  4. i've traveled in huge groups, small, pairs, and alone. and there is definitely something totraveling alone. i once flew to meet a guy off the internet alone. it turned out fine but i cannot believe i did that! and i didn't have a cell phone. what was I thinking??

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  5. I would like to do more travelling alone. I fly alone all the time between MN & TX, and drive alone in between the 2 of them as well, but would like to do more exploring that I currently have.

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  6. yes i have! i've flown to meet someone a few days later and got to spend some time on my own. i've travelled for work on my own and toured the city as well. it was scary but fun at the same time.

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  7. I think you are so right that you learn so much about yourself - when I studied abroad even though I went with one friend and made new ones - during the weeks they didn't want to sight see I'd do it alone and it was amazing and an experience that I will have with me forever!! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

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  8. I need to do more travelling on my own. My husband used to do it all the time for work, and I have to admit it made me a little jealous. It looks like you had an amazing time on all of your adventures!

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  9. I have never really traveled on my own. I would imagine that you would get to do things on your own time, which would be lovely. You you would certainly learn a lot about yourself and gain confidence. I think I wouldn't mind traveling on my own if I had more confidence of how to get around an airport. That whole flying thing is scary as shit for me, I have only done it twice. So brave of you for traveling to other countries by yourself!!!

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  10. I used to always fly to and from college for breaks alone, so not a whole trip, but for the plane rides I was solo, and I totally agree that you learn so much about yourself and feel more confident!

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  11. I'm not much of a traveler but I could see myself doing it alone...
    The Hubs is a major STRESS BALL when traveling - he tends to make it miserable - maybe why I'm not a good traveler. haha

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  12. I absolutely love traveling alone. I don't do it much anymore, but I still do road trips to my aunt's on my own and fly to girls' weekends on my own. I like to be at my own pace!

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  13. I have never traveled alone. I don't know if I will get the opportunity to either. I feel like any chance to go anywhere I would want to share with Billy or Taylor.

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  14. I have traveled several places by myself and I really enjoy it. Like you said you get to do your own thing, eat what you want, and you really just don't have to answer to anyone else. It's really very relaxing!

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  15. Oh my gosh. I love that you've traveled alone. I never really got the chance to travel alone. I did go to New Mexico on an internship for 6 weeks, technically by myself, but I knew others who were there.
    These are all really great realizations about traveling alone.

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  16. Your sense of adventure is amazing to me! I'm so glad you have all these great memories to look back on and remember your travels. I've only ever done the transportation part alone, not the destination ;)

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  17. YES YES YES to ALL OF THIS. My recent trip to Prague was a solo trip! The first time I traveled alone, I was a tad intimidated, but it made me pull even courage from within...I had so much fun making new friends and incredible, hilarious stories because of it. I recommend traveling solo to everyone now :)

    P.S. we are badass.

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  18. I love this post and how honest you are about yourself in it, and I love hearing about all those good things that happened to you while traveling alone! I am really almost 100% on taking my PNW trip solo, and I can't wait. I already have plenty of time alone, because I need it and I love it, but I want to take the trip *I* want to take, and I'm not risking a bad or negative travel buddy. This post just makes me look forward to this trip so much more!

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  19. This is a great post! When I travel with my husband on his work trips, he's busy all day working and so I'm just off exploring on my own and it can be just as fun! Love all of the traveling that you have done!

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  20. Seriously, I've done so much flying by myself that now it annoys me when I fly with others. Even though it's almost always my husband or my sister (my two favorite people on the planet), I still want to be like "Can't you go over there and just talk to me when we get to wherever we're going?" :)

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  21. I hate travelling by myself! I love experiencing things with others instead of by myself. ;-) I did go to Ethiopia by myself but I lived with an Ethiopian family when I got there and did all my travelling with their daughter.

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  22. I have never travelled alone. I travel a lot, but never ever by myself. It's definitely something I want to do one day though. Thanks for the tips!

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  23. girl, you came to the US solo - you so brave!

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  24. This is awesome! I have yet to do a solo trip, I never had the courage when I was younger but the older I get the more intrigued I am by it. Basically your awesome!

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  25. Yesssss, I love traveling alone! I never went overseas alone (unless you call moving to Manila and knowing only Amir), but I definitely don't mind domestic travel. My old job had me traveling alone often and, although, it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone at times, I do think it made me into a more well rounded person!

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  26. I've traveled alone but only to meet up with someone at my destination. I've never done a trip completely alone.

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  27. Ive never traveled alone before! Flying kind of gives me anxiety (all the checking in and security part and getting on the right plane) not the flying part haha! So I think I might be terrified to travel alone, unless someone walks me up to the plane and then someone is there to pick me up on the other end... yes I am a child

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

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  28. i love this!! and youre right there are so many great things to learn about yourself when you travel alone. after college i moved to charleston by myself. i found a roommate online (my parents thought i was crazy) and i moved there without a job. i only stayed for a few months before i moved back to chicago (couldnt find a decent job) but the experience was amazing and i learned so much about myself and became really independent. AND after moving to chicago and living there for a few years, i got to move back to charleston with my husband last summer... so it all works out in the end ha! i also studied in paris for a month during college with a group of other students from another university so i didnt know anyone. that was also a really wonderful experience and my roommate became one of my best friends and we're still really close. xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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  29. I never fully traveled solo, but when I was living in Paris, I ventured away from my study group friends and went to the Louvre by myself for the whole day. Had dinner (with wine!) solo at the base of the Eiffel Tower. To this day, it was my favorite memory of my time in Paris and I wish I'd have done more solo things.

    All of these are spot on! Doing and eating exactly what you want. Spending as much time in an exhibit as you want, and bailing on the ones you don't find interesting. Yes yes yes.

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  30. I went to Germany and South Africa alone! Granted, I met up with family in Africa the latter half of my trip, but it was so fun and rewarding! Love this :)

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  31. Next time you're in Orlando visiting your mum definitely let me know, I'd love to meet for drinks! I've flown alone several times, and am hoping to go to DC in a few months and I'd be touring the city on my own while my husband is in all day conferences. That'll be my first time playing tourist on my own in a big city.

    Happy Friday <3

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  32. I love travelling alone for the same reasons, but definitely because it makes me come out of my shell. As a shy person travelling alone is such a good experience

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  33. YES! I absolutely recommend traveling alone at least once. I actually consider it one of the best things I've ever done and I cherish that experience so much. I was 18 when I moved to England all by myself and over the next year I was able to do a lot of solo travel. I was quite shy when I went and I came back so confident. I learned that I could depend on myself and that I didn't need anyone. It was a huge sense of accomplishment and definitely changed me for the better.

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  34. Being comfortable with yourself and being able to just be......isn't that such a wonderful thing and really comes with growing up! I love when I just get time to myself and if I could do it in a beautiful location sign me up!

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  35. Eek I don't think I could leave the country/go on a vacation alone; not right now anyways. Just flying alone and meeting someone at point b is definitely a great step in that direction (and thankfully I made it one piece when I've done it in the past hah). Cheers to adventures :)

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  36. I've never traveled alone but I think I would enjoy it. Sometimes, I like to have lunch by myself or spend an evening alone just to have some me time. Add traveling into me time? Sounds like the perfect combination!

    That being said, I wouldn't want to go anywhere real big without Cory. He traveled to Africa without me on his first trip and he often says that he wishes it was something we could experience together for the first time.

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  37. I used to travel alone and volunteer during high school. Costa Rica was the wildest! I haven't done it in a while and I would love to have a solo vacation but now I'm so much more scared about it! Idk why.

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  38. This is such a weird thing for me because on the one hand I hate being alone, but at the same time I do enjoy being on my own when traveling because it's nice to do whatever you want without having to worry about another person, as selfish as that sounds. If I'm somewhere that's a walking city (nyc, chicago, dc) I'm comfortable getting around on my own-- if it's somewhere that requires driving or public transportation that makes me nervous. You have had so many amazing adventures-- I love what you said about spending time on your own and reflecting & learning a lot about yourself.

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  39. I have never gone to travel solo but I went to meet some friends snowboarding and couldn't find my friends. It ended up being a solo trip and I met so many cool people and had a great time. I have a couple trips I want to do and maybe I will just go it alone!

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  40. I'm a huge chicken and have never traveled anywhere by myself. I mean around my own town obviously but never anywhere major. You're my hero :)

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  41. I am impressed at how much solo traveling you have done! I haven't really done any except work trips, which aren't really the same thing as what you've done. And am I the only one nosy who wants to know WHAT was going on in the pic that didn't happen??

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  42. I agree with all of these. I mean I rarely travel alone (I just feel restless and awkward - like going to cinema alone or eating in a public place alone) but when I do these are the benefits. I remember in college I had to travel alone A LOT!!!

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  43. I think if pre-travel Kristen and Gianni ever wound up at the same party, they'd preside over their separate corners of the room, drinks in hand, staring at each other awkwardly, haha. You're so right -- traveling on your own for sure opens you up. Before you even realize what's happening, you're talking and laughing and having an amazing time with total strangers! It's a good experience to have :)

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  44. I've traveled by myself a bit and I love it. Once I even went to Vegas by myself for a work conference. It was a blast! I stayed an extra day and just laid out at the pool and drank solo all day. So fun meeting people!

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  45. We should never be afraid of anything and I simply love traveling and roaming around with my friends. This gave me a new perspective and gave me opportunities to create my own fun and get out in the world and try new things on my own terms as well.

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