Solo traveling changed my life. I was was 24 years old when I first went abroad on my own. I did not have an Instagram account. I did not even have my phone to show me the way, so I got lost more than once. I only had maps, an old camera, and one of those old iPods that can only be used to listen to music. It was simple. I came home from Ireland completely changed. I remember the exact moment, as if I had been in conversation with someone else, when I promised myself adventure. I wanted adventure for the rest of my life. Years later I moved to Madrid on my own, and had an epiphany-filled solo trip to Barcelona. Then traveled on my own to Mexico City, where I now live. While I do not go on solo trips often, each time I have returned a different person (in a really good way). While traveling with friends, family, or a significant other can be quite sweet, there are times when I must choose to go solo in order to grow. Here is how I decide when it is time for a solo adventure:
1. I will be going through a major transition.
What can I say? I like to mark an occasion. Whether I am reaching a personal milestone, switching jobs, or simply needed more change in my life than a bold haircut. Traveling on my own allows me to mark an occasion in a special way that will continue to be meaningful when I reach old age. We all get to live with ourselves 24/7, so in my case, I think it is important to spend quality time alone while pursuing the same significant experiences I might have with my closest friends.
2. I am restless, and feeling irritable about every day little things.
If you are into going to the movies or coffee shops on your own, then I think you can relate to this one. While I have been living abroad for 4 years, it’s not all adventures and tan lines. During my time living abroad, I still have all the same responsibilities I would have back home. It’s easy to take everything I have for granted and become irritable. Whenever I leave Mexico City (my home of 2 years), I return with newfound love and appreciation for its people, food, transport, and weather. Much the same way, simply taking time off from my routine and relationships allows me to emotionally unplug and reset. I know my boyfriend and I always do well when we make time to do things without each other.
3. I need to get into a creative flow for a new project.
Because part of my job is writing and creating social media content, I like to have a concentrated period of time with brand new smells, flavors, and colors. While you can experience new stimuli traveling with people, I am not really paying as much attention if I am interacting with someone. When traveling with a partner or a group, you have to set a wake-up time and a sort of schedule (even if loose), and you engage in conversation while eating or being on transport. Being alone allows me to truly pay attention to the new sounds, take in views, smell my food and taste it mindfully. There also is not a need to be “on.” I can exist in my surroundings and allow inspiration to happen. I get my best ideas about what direction I want to go next in life when I am solo traveling.
4. I need to heal.
Solo travel is the strongest medicine I’ve ever had. It has healed me from heartbreak so deep, I thought I’d hurt forever. Travel allows me to see the world beyond myself. Suddenly, there is a whole new place with new challenges, and millions of other people going through their own painful breakups and career failures. When going through some kind of emotional pain, people who love you tend to want to make it better and shower you with not only their love, but also their opinions. And while I appreciate being cheered on, or getting some advice, I also need time to process what happened. Feeling all my feelings in a place where no one I know can put in their two cents allows me to bring any despair to a much sooner end. I also tend to get a more concrete idea of what my attitude will be from then on…Because when someone’s hurt us, it is easy to take the bitter road.
When I created a social media poll about solo travel I was surprised to learn that 80% of people did not want to go on a solo trip because they are afraid of their safety. Yet about 80% also said that solo traveling would show them how capable they are. Traveling solo gives you the kind of confidence that is not cocky but empowering. But thanks to social media, we are now seeing so many people experiencing the world and embarking on solo adventures. According to a Booking.com survey, 65% of women in the United States are taking solo vacations, with Millennial women out numbering non-Millennial women.
Whatever your reason for looking into flights and contemplating a solo trip, there is really no better time than now. Travel is becoming so accessible, and even with all the dangers of the world, there are countless ways to stay safe (including choosing to visit places with lower crime index). Your solo trip is yours to tailor, and there is no one you need to run your ideas by. For many, this is the most effective way to feel truly free to be themselves.
What’s the longest you’ve gone on your own?
Photo: Vanessa Uzcategui