The mere thought of venturing to an unknown city for the first time can be enough to induce waves of excitable-nausea, but many will agree there's nothing quite like the feeling that comes when you're about to explore the big, wide world. Many studies have confirmed what the more intrepid amongst us have known for a long time - travelling solo is a great way to go, as it can be an empowering and invigorating experience. As our writer ponders heading off alone, here are her favourite reasons to go without a plus one.
The focus is all on you
Sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, you just need to take the time to re-evaluate your life and your place in the world. Take novelist and hiker extraordinaire Cheryl Strayed, for example. She embarked on an amazing 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States in 1995 as a journey of self-discovery following her mother's death, and this had a profound effect on her life (her experience also formed the basis of a best-selling novel and film Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon).
Having that period of uninterrupted time to focus solely on your own needs and wants can give you a fresh perspective on yourself, and can serve as a gentle reminder that it is okay to look out for number one.
You are your own boss
As a solo traveller, you decide where to go, when to go and how to get there. Scary as this may seem, it can be supremely invigorating to call all the shots. From the simple logistics to what you eat and the sights you see, it is all down to you.
The realisation that you can cope with this while doing it your own way can be an eye-opening experience and will give you a true confidence boost. Suddenly all those little worries in life - from paying bills to work-related stresses - won't seem so big anymore. You can literally do anything. The world is your oyster, and with no one else to please, the only person you have to worry about keeping happy is you.
It is definitely empowering
The purpose of travelling is to see new cities, new cultures and embrace a different way of life, if even for a short time. We gain more knowledge and appreciation for all that is different about the world, and this will invariably change our outlook and make us a little wiser. Once we've travelled beyond the realms of our fair land alone, we soon realise that if we can do that, surely we can do anything we put our minds to - what could be more empowering?
Meeting new people becomes easier
If you're a born extrovert, travelling alone can be a wonderful way to meet locals and make new friends. Similarly, if you're more introverted, this can be the ideal way to come out of your shell. Before you know it, you could be chatting with some interesting folks at a sidewalk cafe or even joining a group of like-minded people for yoga on the beach. The key is to be as open as you can, while always keeping safety in mind, especially in a foreign land.
Your bucket list finally gets ticked off
Everyone has some sort of bucket list, and what better way is there to check items off yours? Is there something you've been dying to try that no one is willing to try with you? It's okay if your friends or family don't share all of your interests, but what isn't okay is to put your ambitions and dreams on hold. Life will pass you by if you're waiting for friends to get their act together and travel with you, so don't be afraid to get out there and start going through your list on your own.
You will thrive outside your comfort zone
Most of us are creatures of habit so to learn to cope outside of an environment that you're used to is a great thing. Travelling leads us to unfamiliar places and situations. When you travel, there's the feeling of being out of your comfort zone, and when you're travelling solo, that feeling is completely intensified. You may surprise yourself by not just surviving, but thriving outside the realms of what you consider normal. You're smart, strong and well capable of going it alone, and this will prove it to you.
You can truly recharge your batteries
Travelling alone is a great excuse to take some time out and recharge your batteries. The daily stresses of worrying about everything and everyone in your life can be draining, and as you'll just have to focus on yourself, this is the perfect?time to take a breather. Having a leisurely wander in a place you've always wanted to visit and immerse yourself in the sun, sights and sounds of an exciting place pretty much guarantee a new lease of life.
You'll have a deeper appreciation for home
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and never will you appreciate the familiarities of home more than when you've been abroad for six months. You'll yearn for your favourite comfort food (crisp sandwiches with real butter and a cup of tea), and everything you once thought irritating (the always-changeable weather), becomes a bittersweet memory (who else loves the smell in the air just after the rain?). Home is where the heart is, and once well-travelled, you'll never forget this.
Before you set off on your journey to foreign places sans partner or best mate, it is important to remember a few tips to ensure maximum fun and safety:
- Whenever possible, explore in the daylight - it's just safer in general.
- Tell someone from home where you're going to be each day and check in with loved ones at predetermined times.
- Trust your instincts. If you're not sure whether to go to a specific tourist stop alone, then don't.
- Update your list of important phone numbers and carry your phone with you.
- Before travelling to a foreign country, get advice about recommended medications specific for your intended destination. Travel Counsellors can advise in advance.
- It's also wise to have travel insurance, just in case of an emergency. And don't forget your EHIC card if you're headed for the continent.
The world is waiting for you, and going it alone might just be the greatest journey of self-discovery you'll ever take. We wish you safe and fulfilled travels
Main photograph via Unsplash