Ask almost any seasoned traveler and they’ll tell you the same thing: the best way to travel is to travel alone.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you avoid contact with others and become a loner on the road. In fact, quite the opposite is true – you become a self-assured social butterfly. But that transition doesn’t happen overnight, so we asked a lot of experienced travelers about the barriers they faced on the road to traveling solo, and two major themes emerged.
Staying safe while you travel solo
Hollywood and the media often make the world seem like a dark, dark place, but nearly all seasoned travelers hold a markedly different view: the world is full of pleasant surprises waiting to be uncovered. While it’s true that some areas of the world are less safe than others, most of the places we consider to be dangerous have come a long way in the past few decades, yet the public perception – always a laggard – has been slow to catch up. Take Medellin, Colombia, once the centre of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine trade (as shown in the Netflix series Narcos), yet today is one of the most safe, charming cities in all of South America. If you’re in Asia, you can always start off your travels in known-to-be-safe cities like Singapore, Chiang Mai, or Hong Kong, and then start branching out a bit more once you feel comfortable. It’s not about exposing yourself to any unnecessary risk here, but instead learning to see that the risks you perceive are not there at all.
You’ll need self-worth to travel alone
One thing you’re going to need in spades when you travel on your own is self-worth. But if you don’t have it yet, that’s okay: every traveler gains their self-worth while on the road. The experiences you have while you’re traveling are what’s going to help you discover who you are, and along that discovery trail is when you’ll see just how much of an amazing, beautiful person you really are. There’s truly no substitute teacher for the difficulties and obstacles you’ll face while traveling solo, so it’ll be your response to those things that make it clear who you are.
Once you’re able to get over these two barriers, which will take a matter of days for some and months for others, you’re ready to start reaping the real rewards of traveling solo. Here’s where the fun begins – these are just a couple of them:
Traveling alone gives you complete freedom
The feeling of being free never truly hits you when you’re traveling with someone else; you make decisions together, you compromise, and you’re always balancing multiple sets of desires. But when you travel solo, this all goes out the window, because now you and only you are in the driver’s seat.
What would you do if you were in a foreign land where nobody knows who you are and you can do anything you want? Whatever it is, you’ll probably have an amazing time doing it. Explore a new city at your own pace, jump on a plane to somewhere you’ve never been before, or spend a week by a deserted river reading and writing about your travel experiences. For many of us it’s the first time in our lives where we feel truly in control, and it’s a feeling you won’t give back without a fight.
Solo travel forces you to make an enlarged friends circle
How does traveling alone help you to make more friends? It forces you outside of the comfort zone of your regular clique and into meeting new people of all sorts of backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews. Even the most independent traveler craves social stimulation sometimes, and you’ll quickly realize that your fellow travelers are the most open people on the planet. They’re open to having a conversation with you, open to exchanging stories, and open to learning from your experiences as much as they’d love to share their own. Travel communities like #nomads or meetup.com and Facebook groups such as Expats in Your City (good examples are the Chiang Mai Expats Club and Buenos Aires Expat Hub) are great places to start, though it’s just as easy to go for a walk in your area and strike up a conversation with someone who piques your interest. Remember: no one knows you here, so you can afford to push your limits further than you normally would. The worst that can happen is a stranger sees you embarrass yourself for a few seconds, and then they forget about it forever. The stakes don’t get much lower than that.
Solo travel is one of the most enriching experiences you can have on this planet, and it’s so, so easy to do. Here’s how you can get started today:
- Choose your destination. If you’re going during summer, we recommend taking a look at these 11 cool places to visit this summer and these 13 off the beaten path summer destinations. Otherwise, read through the 9 most creative cities of 2016 and the 15 coolest neighbourhoods in the world for inspiration. Always remember that the destination is far less important than your mindset: you can have a life-changing experience in the most desolate place in the world, just as you can struggle through your time in the most enchanting of areas. Don’t stress about choosing the “perfect” place; just commit to going somewhere, and then make that a reality.
- Book your flight. We recommend consulting Yore Oyster, a flight hacking service which helps travelers save 20-50% off the cost of their flights anywhere in the world. Their platform costs just $50 and comes with a savings guarantee, so there’s absolutely no risk on your end. Most of their clients today are repeat clients, so that says a lot about how much travelers love saving time and money with them.
- Get out and go. Pack your bags, say your good-byes, enlist the help of a few incredible travel tools, and go explore the world. You’ll come back smarter, stronger, and full of a zest for life that can only be discovered by seeing more of our amazing Earth.
And when you return, drop us a note on Facebook or Instagram. We talk to travelers all around the world every single day, so we’d love to hear your thoughts, your stories, and the impact traveling solo has had on you, too.
Also, since so many of you have been asking us for them, here's our full list of country-specific posts outlining how to ship anything from Amazon to any country in the world. Our 2-step method makes it as simple as humanly possible, and takes about 3 minutes total: Austria, Bahrain, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Asia as a whole, Europe as a whole and the United Arab Emirates.
While you're at it, international travelers should read our N26 review for the best way to get free ATM withdrawals the best rates on currency conversion - anywhere in the world.