I caught the travel bug at a very young age, 6 months old to be precise. My first airplane trip was to Colorado and over the years my travels increased to be longer and further from home. For the first 15 years of my life, I stuck to traveling as many of the States as I could but then that international travel bug hit. I went to Central America, Europe, and Asia over a span of three years with different friends and organizations, then began going on my own. There is nothing more thrilling and exciting to me than going off completely on my own and having to figure out each problem that comes my way on my own.
Traveling by yourself gives you a sense of freedom, confidence, and you feel incredibly accomplished. Experiencing a new culture, language, and foods is something I wish everyone could do because of how much your eyes become opened to the different countries in this world. You’ll find that what you thought was “wrong” or “weird” in your perspective now makes sense in that specific culture. You also will become open minded, which is in my opinion, one of the best things you can do for yourself and others around you.
1: You’ll meet more people. Most of the people I meet on my solo travels are groups of 2 or more people who already know each other, which isn’t a bad thing, but usually that means that those people stick together without meeting as many people as you would or could if you were traveling on your own! I walked into a hostel last month and met two Irish men who within about 5 minutes of introducing ourselves had invited me to go to the pub with them to meet up with some other friends of theirs. It ended up being one of my favorite evenings of my trip, thanks to my three separate trips to Ireland, I had enough stories to keep up with them. “My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.” – Foer
2: You get to figure out the solution on your own. Is it weird that I like having problems on my trips because I feel so accomplished once I figure it out by myself? I enjoy the challenge and responsibility, there’s a sense of accomplishment once I get to the root of the problem and do something about it. Once when I was in Europe, flying from Bulgaria to Ireland, I lost my bag. I had never lost my bag before and didn’t exactly know how to retrieve it as I had never dealt with this problem before and didn’t have a number of the friend I was visiting. (10/10 would recommend getting contact info beforehand!) Ended up having to leave the security area to go outside and get contact information, then call the airport to have them deliver my bag to my friends house. Bonus! Tip: always pack a few outfits in your carry on as my bag didn’t arrive for another 30 some hours!
3: The adventures you experience. This seems like an obvious one, and also a bit hard because while it would be fun to have another person to experience the crazy things you’ll do, it’s also quite fun to be the only one who can tell the story that doesn’t even sound believable. Like that one time my bus never showed up in Byron Bay, one appeared four hours later, hopped onto that one with no accommodation pre-booked at my destination. I had planned on walking from the bus station to find a hostel but by the time I arrived in Brisbane it was extremely late and dark out. My phone was nearly dead and I had no idea where anything was. Figured that I’d just sleep in the bus station only to find out it closes at midnight. Went and sat outside trying to think of what I should do, only to end up seeing that there were some other people that were sleeping on the streets just around the corner so I went and slept right there on the sidewalk. No roof, no sleeping bag, no pillow. Just the stars up above. Used my backpack and blanket to sleep on, grabbed my towel out for a bit more cushion. (I didn’t really realize how hard sidewalks are.) It ended up being an incredibly eye opening event as I laid there trying to sleep, I was thinking of all of the homeless men and women who have to sleep outside every night. In that moment I realized how deeply grateful I am for a bed and a roof over my head. “I’m a product of all the countries I’ve visited and people I’ve known.” – Koudelka
4: Doing things you wouldn’t ever do at home. Back in good ole Minnesota, where you have about 3 months of summer and 9 months of winter, there isn’t a big window of opportunity to do a lot outside that doesn’t involve dressing up in about 7 layers of clothing and resembling a snowman. Living over in New Zealand and now Australia, I’ve been able to experience something along the lines of 9 months of summer and 3 months of winter. I can go surfing on a regular basis, see different wildlife you can’t find in the States, getting Koala designs on my coffee, and trying new foods like kangaroo!
5: Last but not least, the people. I know I mentioned people earlier in this post, but this is solely about the native people to the specific country you’re visiting. If you’re traveling alone, more than likely you’ll have an easy opportunity to befriend someone who could give you a tour around the town or city you’re in. They can show you the culture and help you experience the country for what it really is – not just the version that every other tourist sees. I am so grateful for all of the people I’ve met who have taught me how to do things in their culture that are completely foreign to the culture I grew up in. Who I was before I moved overseas is not the same person I am today. My heart and mind are opened, my beliefs have expanded and deepened because of my travels and the people I’ve met. It makes you appreciate how vast and spectacular this planet and the people in it are.
If you’re looking to do something different, or want to expand your worldview, or start your life over, go travel the world. You won’t regret it.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener