A few years ago I embarked on an adventure through Europe with a friend. I had been looking forward to the trip all through the spring and everything was perfectly in place. I travelled to Poland by motorcycle and met up with my friend. Everything was set for the next day.
The following day, on just the first day of the trip – I ended up alone. My friend decided to head back to her hometown and I was left in Krakow by myself with a big decision to make about the future of the journey.
Going it alone was something I had never done before, I really didn’t know what to expect or how I would manage everything by myself. As daunting as it seemed, I didn’t want my plans to go to waste. I didn’t like the idea of returning home and having to explain to everyone that despite what was now an ended friendship, I had chickened out.
So I thought about it for the rest of the evening, and by the morning I knew what I was going to do.
I started travelling solo.
The decision to believe in myself became something I would never regret. From that day on, I had the time of my life. I felt liberated, I felt relaxed and most of all, I got my excitement back. I learned so many things along the way that I didn’t expect to find out. I discovered new things about myself, I conquered demons I had been hiding in the closet and best of all, I found out just how friendly locals are in new countries and how easy it is to make new friends on your travels compared to back home.
So I wanted to take a moment or two, and share the seven things that solo travel taught me.
#1 You will become more sociable
Every time I travel solo, I’m blown away by how friendly local people can be and how far they will go out of their way to help you feel welcome. Whether you need help with something, directions or just friendly conversation, all you have to do is politely ask and there will always be more than one person than is waiting to help you.
When you travel to far away places, locals often recognise that you have travelled a long way and can become curious of you and your stories from the road.
Try not to be shy, it’s completely normal to have conversations with people you don’t know on your travels. Making friends around the world is one of the most exciting aspects of travel and it seems to become easier when you are travelling alone. By sharing experiences with others you’ll start to notice that we aren’t that different from each other, even when we live oceans apart.
#2 You will become more interesting
You know the feeling when you’ve known somebody for so long that you’ve heard all of their stories multiples times over? This is something that can happen to all of us when we don’t get out of our comfort zone enough.
Going in search of new destinations, learning about fascinating cultures and histories and taking part in fun activities are just some of the ways life becomes more exciting when you decide to travel solo. The more new things you decide to try, the more you will learn about the people and places around you, and gain a better understanding of yourself too!
#3 You will have clarity in your life
Life isn’t always straightforward. We all experience times of feeling overwhelmed or tied-down. Trying to get through difficult times, grieving a loss or having an important life decision to make you feel lost and without purpose. A lot of the time the reason we can’t find the answers we are looking for is because we can’t see our choices clearly or understand the situation to the fullest.
Taking a break from your normal surroundings and that same-old routine with a change of sceney could be just the break you need from your everyday worries. My recommendation for times like these is to make a visit to destinations where you can be with nature and away from lots of people. Go and explore the forest, take a walk down some beaches or embark on a short hike through some mountains or national park.
Leave any distractions behind that you don’t need, unplug yourself from everything and take some time to listen to your surroundings. Find a view that you enjoy and become part of it. Listen to the sounds of nature and the difficulties you were experiencing in you daily life will be blown away, giving your mind the space and clarity it needs to be at peace and think clearly.
4# You will become a stronger person
By making the choice to be independent and manage everything by yourself, you’ll also notice your body becomes physically stronger! Carrying your own luggage, walking for hours on end around cities and old towns, climbing hundreds of steps to discover mystical temples and hiking mountain trails are just some of the ways that your body will become healthier and more athletic from all that independence.
When you return from your travels, you might find that some physical activities you struggled with before have now become more manageable! Don’t be surprised if your friends and family notice how you’re appearance has improved and how much healthier you look.
5# It works wonders for mental health
The pressures of our everyday lives can be damaging for our overall happiness and affect the way we view ourselves. Lots of us are battling with personal demons that try to stop us from enjoying life as much as we should. In our usual routine it can become really difficult to find the time to take a break and work on tackling the issues head-on.
Managing the important aspects of your journey like finances and acommodation can be great for creating a real feeling of independence and accomplishment. You don’t have to plan absolutely everything, it’s good to allow spontaneous events to be part of your adventure and often the less you plan the more you feel like you have discovered yourself.
Studies have shown that daily doses of green, nature-filled environments are an effective way of targeting depression and that locations with a large amount of grey from concrete are detrimental to the improvement of the condition. The more we connect with the forests, lakes, mountains and valleys around us, the more improvements we can see in our mood.
#6 You will become more appreciative
As your curiosity leads you down unknown roads and untamed nature, you will encounter many things that you have never seen or heard of before. From stunning examples of how beautiful our Earth is to cultures and bizarre traditions may take you by surprise, you will gain a greater appreciation for all that’s around you, and cause you to want to do more to protect it.
You will see poverty and riches almost everywhere you go. People living with almost nothing that will put your situation in perspective and make you realise how lucky you are to have the opportunity to travel. Travel is a privilege after all, and nothing should be taken for granted.
With this appreciation comes the desire to help, give and share whenever we feel it’s the right time and place. A little favour can go a long way and I believe that if you help somebody that needs you, help will be there for you when you need it most.
#7 You will become more adventurous
When you take the leap and go on a solo adventure, thrilling times are never far away and you often don’t need to plan adventurous things for them to happen. You will find yourself in moments where you will almost feel the need to pinch yourself, just to check that you are not dreaming.
Being alone with the world opens you up to so many new possibilities. The stimulating and challenging events that you will conquer alone become fascinating stories you can share with others. Not only will it give you more to talk about and make you more relatable to others, it will convince you that your life is a truly spontaneous journey of wonder.