Does the idea of solo travel leave you cold?
For some, the thought of hopping on a plane, navigating foreign streets, or dining in a restaurant without a companion leaves them wide-eyed and paralyzed with fear. But while there are perks to exploring someplace new with your trusty crew or beau, sometimes you are your own best company. Traveling with a book as your sole companion can lead to deep soul-searching and relaxation on a higher level, advises April Masini of Ask April. Not convinced? Consider all solo travel can offer you:
1. Meet new people.
Without a travel companion for social engagement, you’re forced to notice strangers beside you. If you’ve got a friend, it’s easy to ignore the mysterious musician at the bar or the group of girlfriends sipping coffee at the café. Traveling alone opens you up to chatting with strangers. Everyone has a story and you can meet some really fascinating people if you’re just willing to put yourself out there. That woman at the table next to you? Maybe she owns a winery and she’d be happy to show you. The group of friends over there? Perhaps they’ll invite you to that kickin’ underground music venue all the locals love.
Furthermore, if you’re on the shy side, the fact that you’re alone will likely encourage others to approach you first. You’re less intimidating when not wrapped up in conversation.
2. Plan your own itinerary—or have no itinerary at all.
It doesn’t matter if your daily plans are well-researched or off-the-cuff. The only one you have to please is yourself. If you want to go for a hike in the nearby mountains, feel free. If you want to zip-line through the jungle, you can. If you want to shop for local trinkets without someone complaining that they’re starving—“Why did you eat the last croissant? Maybe if you had just gotten out of bed earlier there would have been bagels left, you always do this!”— you can. You can wake up when you want, go to the shows you want to see, and, heck, you can eat churros for breakfast if you want because no one will know but you.
3. Revel in your new-found time for reflection
You may decide to fill your solo trip with adventure and activities, but there will inevitably be ample time alone with your own thoughts—perhaps more time than you want. Breathe. This is good for you. Half the appeal of a vacation is unwinding from the stress of everyday life. We’re always rushing through our days, trying to make it to the weekend. This is your time to unwind; breathe deeply, feed your soul and absorb how fortunate you are to be able to have this experience.
4. Gain confidence by going outside your comfort zone.
Even seasoned travelers will feel unsure in new situations. Experiencing a new city, a new language, or a new culture can be overwhelming and intimidating. Not having a friend or significant other to help you navigate these waters can be extremely uncomfortable. You’re likely to be terrified, but that’s OK. Finding your own way to the popular local pastry shop or the historical battleground you read about online can deliver more excitement than you ever dreamed. As I stressed in Reason #1, forcing yourself to strike up a conversation with a stranger can be tough, but doing so will give you a renewed sense of confidence. Yep, you can do anything. YOU’VE GOT THIS!
5. Catch up on your reading list. Finally.
Due to life constraints, it’s likely you don’t have as much time to read as you’d like. Traveling solo allows you to be alone with a book. Whether it’s that new spy novel you’ve been dying to read, a romance your friend recommended, or that nifty paperback on the history of utensils, this is your time to indulge. And by the time your successful and soul-feeding quest is over, it’ll be ready to plan your next solo adventure. Perhaps one of these books will serve as inspiration.
The Mystical Backpacker: How to Discover Your Destiny in the Modern World by Hannah Papp (Atria Books/BeyondWords, May 5, 2015)
There’s outer terrain and inner terrain, both of which should be explored. In Hannah Papp’s The Mystical Backpacker, the reader takes a geographical and psychological journey. Part memoir and part travel guide, this book follows Papp across Europe, after she quit her job and left with absolutely no plan. Can you do it? Can you rediscover yourself while discovering the rest of the world?
Traveling Solo: How to Successfully Travel Alone by Mike Wallace (Amazon Digital Services, 2013)
If you want to strike out on your own, here’s the book to throw in your knapsack. Mike Wallace tackles some of the problems people might face when traveling alone, including the nerves that could come into play. It’s not so difficult to get out there on your own, especially because you can go whenever you like. Just make sure to have this handy-dandy guide.