Now that I think about it, I took my first flight by myself when I was 14 years old. I was going back to Cuba for the first time since I had left in 2007 and I was so nervous. That was also my first time on a plane. Since I was underage, my mom had to pay a flight attendant, by law, to guide me through the airport, something that I found quite useless.
Now, many years later, I still travel solo 90% of the time, except thankfully there’s no need to pay a flight attendant at this point!
Throughout these years of traveling by myself, I’ve learned a few things here and there. I’ve grown, I’ve matured, and I’ve changed.
Don’t get me wrong — I love traveling with friends and family. I think it’s so ridiculously fun and I’d do it in a heartbeat. However, because of my experiences, I truly believe that you need to travel solo at least once. Don’t be scared!
- You get to reflect — When you travel solo you truly get to know yourself as a person. It’s just you and your thoughts. You learn about what you like and about what you hate, about your values, and even about your aspirations. Since you’re alone, you get to reflect and don’t have the need to be talking constantly, something that you’ll most likely be doing if you’re with others. It’s like therapy, except probably cheaper! I use my travel time to write. I always keep a journal and write on it every time I get a chance. I write about my life, my goals, and my feelings, and use it as a time of self-reflection.
- You’re in control — Want to go to the museum? Do it! Want to sleep in and not do anything all day except drink coffee for one of your travel days? Do it! You’re in control! One of my favorite things about traveling by myself, and especially backpacking by myself, is that I get to do what I want. Some days I’m tired or not feeling like seeing the city, so I take it easy and don’t do much that day. Maybe I’ll sit a café and write or maybe I’ll just sleep in. Whatever you decide to do, you don’t have to worry about it because it’s just you. You get to be much more adventurous and carefree.
- You get to step out of your comfort zone — Let’s say you only speak English and you’re going to Mexico with a friend that speaks Spanish. That’s great and sounds like fun, but if you were by yourself in that country, you’d HAVE to step out of your comfort zone. That means you’d have to be inventive and find ways to communicate and try to speak Spanish, whether with a dictionary, funny hand gestures, or an app on your phone, since your friend won’t be there for you. Traveling by yourself is already stepping out of your comfort zone, but everything that you go through along the way can help you get out of your comfort zone even more. When you’re by yourself, you know that you have no one else and every task is a fun challenge, especially in a foreign country. It’ll suck at first when you struggle to ask for the check in Spanish, but once you do it by yourself, it’ll be so rewarding! This brings me to my next point.
- You learn more — When you travel solo, because you’re constantly stepping out of your comfort zone, you learn a lot more. You learn how to deal with people different than you, by yourself. You learn to interact with individuals from all walks of life; different religions, ethnicities, and customs. Someone is being rude to you? What do you do? You have to figure it out by yourself when solo! These are skills you’re acquiring that will help you on your life back at home (and whenever you travel again.)
- You become more responsible — Since you don’t have anyone to depend on, you also become more responsible. That means that it’s on you to wake up at a specific time, or to be at the airport for your next flight with enough time in advance. If backpacking, it’s on you to do laundry, make sure all your stuff remains safe at all times, book hostels, etc. You technically become a travel guru.
- You make new friends — Let’s be real, you’re a lot less likely to meet new people when you’re with others, and that’s fine! When you travel with friends you’re meant to be with them! Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and it doesn’t mean you won’t meet anyone if you’re with friends. I’ve met plenty of awesome people while traveling in groups. However, traveling solo kinda makes you seek out friends and meet new people. There’s no better feeling that having friends every where you go to. Actually, one of my goals when I travel is to meet at least one person in every country I go to, and so far I’ve done it! If you travel solo you’re more likely to meet locals and learn more about the country you’re visiting, beyond the surface of what tourism shows you.
- You learn that’s it’s okay to be alone at times, and you learn to love it — For some reason, we’re afraid of doing things alone, generally speaking. As a whole, we care way too much about what others may think. Traveling by yourself will change the way you do things for the rest of your life. When I first started traveling, it was a bit difficult to ask for a table for one at a restaurant, for example. You generally don’t see people eating by themselves, so I thought others would think I was “weird.” I quickly got over that within my travels, obviously because I had no other choice. Now, whether it’s abroad or back at home, I will gladly ask for a table for one, and I’ll enjoy my meal the same way! Trust me, the food will taste the same. After traveling by yourself you learn to not rely on people to do the things you LOVE. Want to go see a new movie but all your friends are busy or don’t want to go? Go by yourself! This is probably the best thing that I’ve gotten out of traveling solo; learning to spend time alone, understanding that it’s okay and a huge part of life, and loving every step of the way.
- You develop more self-confidence — Because you courageously do things alone when traveling, you will have more self-confidence. Talking to strangers suddenly won’t seem like a big deal, and having to speak a new language won’t be so embarrassing after all. Traveling alone will help you understand that you’re good enough, and that you can have fun with others and by yourself just the same way.
- You will learn how to deal in stressful situations — What do you do when you miss a bus? What do you do when the restaurant doesn’t accept cards and you just ate and don’t have cash on you? How do you get around when all the signs are in a different language? After traveling by myself for so long, I don’t stress too much about things I can’t fix, even in stressful situations. After getting on wrong buses, missed flights because of unexpected protests, and even having to find a place to stay within hours because your AirBnB host cancels on you, you learn to deal with stress in a whole different way.
- You will never regret it — Simply, you’ll never regret traveling by yourself! You will grow as a person because of it, and the skills you acquire will serve you for the rest of your life. I promise you’ll have a blast.
Thinking of traveling solo soon? Are you a bit nervous or scared? That’s understandable! Shoot me a message if have any questions and I’d love to talk to you more about ways to stay safe and tips for traveling by yourself.