A trend that’s been making its way around the interweb is all about traveling, specifically why you should travel solo. If you’ve never traveled solo, let me tell you now that those articles speak all kinds of truth, the number one truth being: YOU SHOULD DO IT, IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
I’m here to add to those plethora of articles online talking about why traveling solo should make it to your life bucketlist. This list will be entirely subjective, based on my 18 day Eurotrip throughout Germany as a Big Blog Exchange 2013 winner, plus side trips to cities Paris and Amsterdam after that.
I know, the prospect of traveling all on your own in a foreign country six thousand miles from home is daunting. Before I left, I planned my itinerary, booked my train tickets and tours, and made sure I familiarized myself with the day-to-day activities and timetables I had to follow. It didn’t really scare me, until my mom’s German husband gave me the safety talk and the do’s and don’t’s around Europe, saying something like, “Germany is generally a very safe place but you still need to stay guarded and watch out for the other crazy people.” For example, he told me to stay away from train stations when the sun is down, I guess because like everywhere else, the crime rate goes up at night (I’m assuming, dont take my word for it).
And so off I went to Europe, and for 18 days my experience as a solo traveler is something I will cherish my entire life. I will forever be grateful to Hosteling International for the wonderful opportunity they presented me. So, without further ado…
10 Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo
You have total freedom
The number one reason I loved to travel solo was because I had total control of everything. I knew which places I wanted to go to, see, eat and do. If I’m set to visit the
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam but woke up too late the next morning, it’s not going to be such a big deal. I can still plan whatever else I want to do that day. This freedom is perfect for someone like me because I’m extremely fickle. My itinerary will forever be flexible, and no one will get annoyed at me for it.
You’ll meet new people.
I’m an introvert. I can be alone for a week at a time, only having human interaction for about 6 hours total in those 7 days… With at least 3 hours being interactions through the internet. I’m not even joking.That being said, I’m still a social being, so talking to and even meeting strangers around Europe was quite nice. One morning, I set off to go visit Dachau Concentration Camp, as I was getting a little lost in the subway, there were three American girls who looked lost too. One of them recognized me from the hostel we were staying at and introduced herself, and invited me to join them since they were headed to Dachau KZ as well. I enjoyed my trip to Dachau twice more than I would’ve enjoyed it if I had gone all by myself.
In Amsterdam, I decided to pop into a thrift store to check out some clothes I might be able to get for cheap. That’s where I randomly met Anita, who turned out to be a blog reader of mine! Definitely one of the coolest experiences :)
You’ll challenge yourself.
To learn a bit of the local language, try delicacies and other food that might be weird or gross to you, cross as much things off your bucketlist, budget your money, be organized for your trip, waking up extra early so you don’t waste half the day… Basically do things that you aren’t used to doing, you’ll challenge yourself to do them.
You’ll get lost, and that’s okay.
I’m terrible at reading maps. I survived well on my own using Google Maps but that’s totally cheating. You won’t always have internet everywhere you go, so if you’re a terrible navigator like me, you’ll most likely get lost. But that’s okay. On my trip, I got lost a few times and ended up in streets and neighborhoods I didn’t originally have on my itinerary. In Berlin, I ended up in a closed street that was gearing up for a Pride Parade/Party that afternoon, LGBT locals were setting up banners and rainbow flags, while beer companies set up shop to serve the party goers. It was festive and I saw another side of Germany that if the Nazi party had been successful in their goals, these people wouldn’t even be here now. The whole atmosphere felt liberating, and I so badly wanted to stay and party with them!
You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone
I generally am not the type to just go up to a stranger to randomly talk to them, especially not in a country whose first language isn’t English. But when the need to approach strangers come, especially for help, I know I’d have to just get over myself and ask for directions no matter how terrible my French or German is.
It’s not as unsafe as most people think.
If safety is your main concern, and it usually is for anyone and everyone else who hears you’re planning on embarking on a solo trip, don’t let this hinder you from going on an adventure! I know, the world is a scary place, and there are a lot of scammers and evil people around… The key is just to be SMART about traveling. Always tell someone about your plans, be self-aware and always keep your guard up, just in case. Believe in the kindness of strangers, but don’t be naive either. If something feels wrong, listen to your gut feeling. Staying put doesn’t mean you’ll be safer, it just means you’re waiting for danger to come for you — so you might as well live while doing so ;)
In Berlin, I came across a guy who I believe was trying to scam me. I accidentally made eye contact with him outside a very busy train station crowded with pedestrians. He asked me if I spoke English, and just that moment alone where he picked me out from the crowd and approached me made me feel unsafe, so I walked as fast as possible, zigzagging between people so he would lose me. It was a few good meters away until I had the courage to look back to check if I was safe. He was gone. I know he probably was just trying to scam me into buying something or maybe distract me so a pickpocket can get to me, but by being alert I got out of the situation fast. You won’t lose anything by ignoring sketchy strangers.
(You’ll be alone, but…) You’ll never be lonely
This is one of the things I reveled in the most. I loved traveling alone because I could just be by myself, but never really be lonely. There are so many travelers like me around so I never felt out of place, or lost, or lonely. I saw travelers like myself, solo or in groups, and it somehow felt like I belonged. It was quite nice. If you ever do feel lonely, stay at hostels where you can meet loads of travelers and even travel with them!
You’ll be best friends with yourself
The best relationship you can ever have is your relationship with yourself. Believe it or not, you’re good company. Think of this solo trip as a “getting to know me” trip, because you’ll definitely learn a thing or two about you that you didn’t already know before.
You’ll feel empowered
Surviving a solo trip is empowering because it makes you feel like you can do absolutely anything. You’ve planned, gone, and survived all the hurdles and challenges that came your way, and you came out of it unscathed!
You’ll learn a lot about yourself
I learned that despite being disorganized and messy, I can fix and plan my own trip and follow my itinerary down to detail, but I also learned that I will forever love the freedom and spontaneity. I learned that despite being an introvert and enjoying huge amounts of time with myself, I missed real life human interaction and would envy groups of friends I saw while traveling. I learned that despite my desires of moving to Europe, I will always, and I mean always, miss home.
Solo travel is an experience you should try at least once in your life. You don’t have to travel to another continent, although that’s a lot more challenging. Travel within your own country and you’ll emerge just the same, you’ll still be you, only wiser, stronger and more in tune with yourself. After the entire experience, I’ve decided that in the future, I should travel solo to somewhere new, at least once a year. :)