If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Without hesitation, my answer was Ireland. However, I hesitated in other ways. I kept waiting for a friend or a partner to join me. I thought it would be weird to travel alone. Would the supposed benefits of solo travel outweigh the potential loneliness and boredom? Or worse… what would other people think of me traveling alone. I’d always traveled with friends and family before, could I even manage all of the logistics and budget on my own?
One night, tired of hesitating, or waiting on the right time or the right person, I decided to find out. I booked my first solo trip to Ireland. On this trip, I fell in love with traveling solo. I loved being in complete control of the itinerary, I loved the surge of adrenaline each time I started a conversation with a stranger, and I loved the confidence I felt as I navigated bus routes and train stations. I was hooked, so much so that I left my job to pursue a year of long term, solo travel.
The benefits of solo travel far outweigh any of the potential awkwardness and ripple into all aspects of your life upon your return.
So here you have it, the 5 life-changing benefits of solo travel:
1. Quick Decision Making
Every decision on your solo trip is up to you. What time you get up in the morning, where you stay, how you get there, what you eat along with hundreds of other decisions are all up to you. It is a bit overwhelming, but over the course of your trip, through trial and error, you will become well adept at making these decisions. You’ll know the best route to take to get home, you’ll be in tune with the type of food your body is craving, and you can tailor your day’s activities to your energy levels. This quick decision making will spill over into your career, financial, and lifestyle decisions.
2. Stellar Friend Maker
Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger with the hopes of making a new friend is uncomfortable for many of us. When you travel with a friend or partner, there is much less of a need to put yourself out there because you already have someone to check out that restaurant with or take a day trip with. Why do something uncomfortable if you don’t have to? Additionally, people may be less likely to approach you if they see you engaged with someone else.
But when you travel solo, even if you’re introverted like me, you are more likely to strike up a conversation with someone. Whether you’re making friends with locals or other tourists, you are opening yourself up to learning about other belief systems, ways of living, and yourself. A simple ‘good morning’ over the breakfast table could lead to enjoying a meal together in the evening. Or commenting on someone’s delicious-looking dessert at a cafe could lead to getting insider tips for what to do in the area.
If you decide to solo travel on your way to a Pangea Dreams Retreat like I did, you can guarantee to meet like-minded women from around the world. Suddenly, it’s not so “solo” anymore!
3. Improved language skills
No matter if you’re traveling solo or buddied up, it’s important to learn a few key phrases in the local language to help you communicate. Being alone forces you to rely on your own linguistic skills so at the very least you can say thank you or understand how much you’re paying for that pineapple at the local market. As you spend more time in the destination and use the language more frequently, your skills will develop and perhaps by the end of your trip, you can have some polite conversations!
4. Complete Control Over Your Itinerary
Hate the museum you’re currently wandering through? Just leave. Love the tiny town you’ve stumbled upon and want to book an extra few nights? Stay.
You don’t have to run your itinerary by anyone else or worry that your travel buddy isn’t enjoying themselves. Conversely, you don’t have to participate in activities or stay in places that you don’t enjoy. On your solo trip, you can be completely and utterly selfish, in the best way possible. In this selfishness, you’ll learn how you like to spend your time, energy, and money. This increased knowledge of yourself will last long after your solo trip.
5. Soaring Confidence
Yes, you may feel like a fish out of water your first day or two, but as you settle into a rhythm, you’ll notice your confidence begin to soar. That labyrinth of a subway system now becomes familiar as you expertly purchase your ticket from the machine in a foreign language. You might get a bit lost, but have no problems popping into a local shop to ask for directions. When the language barrier creeps in, you learn how to use hand signals and gestures to communicate. You strike up conversations with other travelers in your hostel. You’ll stand up for yourself when they try to overcharge you for a taxi. You’ll enjoy a meal alone, losing yourself in a good book or creating elaborate backstories for other patrons.
On your solo trip, you will learn what is important to you and what isn’t. You’ll learn that the world isn’t as scary as it seems and that you can move confidently through it. These benefits of solo travel and the confidence you build will echo into various aspects of your life.
Blog post written by Puerto Vallarta Retreat 2018 Alumna Katie Minahan. Find her on Instagram: @just_chasingsunsets. Check out her full guide to solo travel here!