The Benefits of Solo Travel, I had the opportunity to travel a few months ago, after being laid off from my job. I had a bit of savings but couldn’t find any friends with enough time or money to come with me. Instead of jumping right into another job, I decided to go to Europe for five weeks … alone.
Solo travel might sound scary or daunting, but it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. While concerns like safety might hold you back from attempting an adventure like this, I found that the benefits of traveling alone far outweighed the negative aspects.
Several years ago, at the age of 21, I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in London. This was my first experience traveling outside of the US, and I was able to visit a few other European cities with some friends at the time. At one point, I decided to visit Paris, but found no travel buddies who could go. I traveled alone from London to Paris for a 3-day weekend, spoke very little French, and probably had a few anxiety attacks, but consider it one of the most empowering experiences of my life. Since that trip 5 years ago, I have ached to go back to Europe, and was thrilled when this most recent opportunity presented itself.
In the summer of 2012, I traveled to Stockholm, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Athens, Santorini, Rome, and Zurich in the space of 5 weeks. Here are the main benefits to solo travel:
1: You won’t be lonely!
The idea of traveling on your own might seem like a lonely experience. It’s not! While during the day, I toured cities mainly by myself (which I prefer), I met many new friends at my hostels. I almost always had someone to get a drink or dinner with in the evenings. I met some amazing people, some of whom I still keep in contact with.
2: You will meet locals
When I travel with friends, I find that it is much easier to resist immersing myself in the local culture. Friends spend time together and don’t really need to step out of their comfort zones. When I travel alone however, I am forced to meet new people. I met other Americans and Europeans in the hostels, as well as many locals when out at restaurants and bars. And really, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
3: A flexible schedule
When you travel alone, there are no annoying (but necessary) conversations where you and your friends try to fulfill everyone’s (often very different) wishes. There are no compromises. You want to go to an obscure, out-of-the-way museum? Go ahead. Want to randomly stop at a cafe for 3 hours to sip a coffee and just take in the ambiance of the city? Do it. Not so interested in seeing Big Ben? Skip it. You will have no one else to please. The trip is totally about you and what you want to do.
4: Traveling alone is empowering
I found it extremely empowering the first time I traveled alone. Women, especially, are often encouraged to travel in groups. But to visit a foreign country (where you probably don’t speak the language) and master the public transit system (okay, probably after a few wrong metro line changes), to make it to the sights you want to see (after getting lost only a FEW times), to successfully negotiate a lower price on that cute hat (at least, you THINK it was a good deal), and to do it all on your own is a huge accomplishment. I traveled alone to Europe and I made it back in one piece. I can do anything.
About me: I am a 26 year old female who traveled alone for the first time at the age of 21, and most recently at the age of 25. I didn’t speak the language in the vast majority of countries I have been to. I am not a “daredevil” (no sky-diving or bungee jumping for me!). I’m just a normal person with a healthy sense of adventure. And yes, my parents thought it was crazy and irresponsible of me to travel alone (although I obviously ignored them). If I can do it, so can you.