The title of this article may initially make you think, “I’ve heard this all before.” But hear me out, you may not know exactly why it will, but rather have read all the reasons why you should.
Traveling solo has been something I’ve experienced a lot throughout my twenties. Living in Italy, traveling to Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, England, Hungary, Sweden, Croatia, and, not to mention, all the in betweens. I spent most of my childhood in Europe, on a small military base in Mons, Belgium. We’d spend our weekends hopping on a bus or a train and going somewhere new. Exploring was the essence of my childhood. It is ingrained in me.
So I’m not here to tell you that you should travel solo because exploration is the key to discovering yourself (though it can be), but it’s actually something else that I find life changing about traveling by yourself.
When you travel alone, versus with family or friends (and I’ve done all the above) there’s a difference in the way that travel plays out usually. You’re more likely to have a plan when you’re with others, you cater to the group dynamic, and in some cases, may even compromise the agenda of what you do according to majority rule.
When traveling alone, you have complete liberty to make whatever choice feels right in the moment. What I find so life changing about traveling solo isn’t about all the exploration itself, it’s actually how I experience it that’s different.
You are more acutely aware when you travel solo. It causes you to focus on details, pay attention in ways you never have before. It makes you a keen observer in a situation you may have otherwise been oblivious to or not noticed. This can serve you well, whether you’re walking home and have to navigate through a dark alley, or you’re watching a young man playing the violin and notice the change in his eyebrows or the tapping of his toe on certain notes. It’s this ability to be all at once seemingly invisible and yet so utterly dialed into the present experience. It’s life changing because it jolts you into awareness on every level. Sensory, imagery, feeling, smelling everything is firing at a faster, more intense level.
You observe better when you’re alone. You’re not distracted. There’s no comfort to retreat to, no friend to go the bathroom with, just you and your funny ass self making sense of the all that’s around you — in your own opinion, your own mind.
You learn your strengths and weaknesses, and learn that what you’re good at you can monopolize. You grow in solitude. You’re forced to. Forced to see your life outside of what it appears and instead in how it feels.
This is why traveling solo changes you.
It allows you to become more of who you truly are. It forces you to face all parts of yourself (even the ones you may not be fond of) and then it gives back to you in these memorable experiences to constantly remind you, this is who you are.