This article was previously published on April 1, 2016.
A new friend and I were talking about fun things to do in the city, and I invited him to check out my favorite yoga studio. I told him some times to attend, and he said, “I’m not going to go alone.” I laughed to myself because I had been going to yoga alone three times a week, every week, for the past three months. Had I become that uncool?
After three months of backpacking solo, I moved to Austin, Texas. I live 20 minutes away from relatives, but I didn’t really know anyone my age when I arrived. I thought I’d have had enough practice traveling and going out alone after backpacking…I was wrong. Here’s a secret about backpacking alone: alone time can be few and far between. Between hostels, walking tours, Couchsurfing meetups, and those random strangers who caught my accent at the bus station, I craved alone time. I craved a long bus ride every now and again, so I could just turn off for a minute. (Learn more about the pros and cons of backpacking alone here!)
Traveling, moving, and going out alone changed how I interacted with strangers, friends, and myself. At first, I felt totally awkward, but quickly I realized I was the one making things awkward, not anybody else. Every time I ventured alone, it got a little easier. I totally recommend solo adventures. Here’s why:
1. Oddly enough, you might become more social.
This didn’t come immediately for me. A month into my backpacking trip, I sat in a hostel room in Bristol, texting my friend and asking him to give me a pep talk. I wanted to grab a drink at the bar downstairs, but even the thought of introducing myself to someone made me want to crawl into my sleeping bag and zip it all the way around. So I started giving myself little challenges. “Go compliment that person” or “Just go up to them and say hi. See what happens.” It always ended well. Eventually, the fact that I had to call it a ‘challenge’ or an ‘experiment’ became silly. The fear of introducing myself to people was my biggest barrier in going out alone; with that fear conquered, I now have no excuse to stay in. I met most of my friends in Austin through volunteering, attending shows, and going out on my own. My expanded, diverse social circle keeps me from having the need to pep talk myself into going out alone, but at least now I’m not afraid to do it.
2. You learn a lot about yourself and your interests.
Going out alone is a great time to explore different dimensions of your personality; there’s no pressure to be anyone but you. Before moving to Austin, I wouldn’t go to shows or events that interested me because I couldn’t find a +1. Now, if I see something I want to go to, I’m there. I can check a lot of sights, restaurants, and shows off my bucket list faster because I’m not waiting for someone to want to come with me.
3. It’s surprisingly…calming?
I am more mindful when I’m out and about on my own. When I’m with another person or a group, I have to consider the energy of the group, our conversations, etc. On my own, I have the opportunity to focus all of my energy on my surroundings. I love to people watch and I’ve always had a goal to be more observant; I can absolutely do this while I’m in a group, sure, but taking in my environment is easier when I’m alone.
4. You never miss out.
I think about all the awesome shows I would have missed, events I would have skipped, and people I wouldn’t have met if I was still afraid to go out alone.
I’m not saying you should ditch all of your friends and never hang out with them again. But if none of them are down to hit up that new bar that looks really cool or spend an afternoon in a nice park, you shouldn’t have to stay home all day. When in doubt, go to the show. Take the class. Book the trip. Leave the house. You’ll have the chance to catch up on your favorite shows or go to your usual bar with your friends any day…will you have the chance to see that band again?
Are you a fan of solo adventures?
Also by Megan: 5 Convenient Dishes to Spice Up Your Vegan Brown Bag Lunch
How I Backpacked in Europe for Three Months Eating Vegan
Related: 5 Budget Travel Tips to Take You Anywhere
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Photo: Andrew Phillips via Unsplash