Taking on a new part of the world totally on your own can feel a bit daunting. I remember planning extensively for my five weeks in Japan and thinking: What if I get lost? Will I be able to communicate? Will it feel lonely being away for so long? Do I finally have to resort to buying a selfie stick? What I found was that my questions were worth asking but ultimately outweighed by all the benefits of striking out alone.
After just a few days into the trip, I could feel myself relax into the rhythm of my own whims. I was able to embrace a new culture so openly and authentically when forced outside of my comfort zone. Without anyone else weighing in on where to go or what to do, I was completely free to explore at my own pace. And, most importantly, I showed myself that I was capable of more than I'd ever imagined.
So, here goes. If you're wondering if solo travel will work for you, here are a few of many incredible reasons why you shouldn't wait any longer to take your lone adventure!
1. You're free to be you every step of the way.
Everyone has their quirks. Not a morning person? Time-sensitive traveler? When you're on your own, you're free to be you! I've traveled plenty of times with people who prefer to wander on the plane last. Whereas, I'm all about getting on and getting the process over with.
Traveling on my own, I didn't have to worry about other's preferences. I could get to the train station early, grab snacks, and explore at ease. I could also sleep in anytime I felt, without the pressure of others wanting to start the day.
2. You can explore according to your own priorities.
When there is no one else there to weigh in, you can truly take each day at your own pace. Foodie? Eat your way through Barcelona's tapas bars. Art enthusiast? Spend a day hopping around London's free museums. Skip the day tour and hang at a local park if you feel like it.
There was such freedom knowing that how I spent each day was completely within my control. One of my favorite days in Japan, I rented a bike and cruised leisurely from temple to temple and along the cherry blossom-lined river. No plans or pressure to go anywhere but where I felt in that moment.
3. You build confidence and self-reliance.
On a solo trip, you can't be complacent or unaware of your surroundings. If you're lost, rely on yourself, your offline map, and the kindness of strangers around you. There's no travel partner to had the map off to! This teaches you to think on your feet and tackle new challenges calmly.
I was so grateful to all the amazing Japanese people who, despite some not speaking English, did their best to help. I also learned to trust myself to resolve any small hurdle I was met with, a mindset that has definitely changed how I approach my regular daily grind.
4. You learn so much about yourself.
Just by taking a solo journey, you're already proving to yourself that you're capable without having others at your side to guide you. Just that realization in itself is liberating. Not to mention, by leaving your normal routine, you're exposed to so many new challenges and ideas. You're bound to take away some realizations about your preferences, as well as your strengths and areas needing growth.
I always considered myself to be a fairly high-strung traveler. I liked to be early, became frustrated by frequent and inevitable lines, and tended to feel annoyed if something didn't go as anticipated. Somehow in my time allowed to just be me, with no one else sharing in any frustration, I learned to relax through inconvenience. A long line became time to browse photos or rearrange the months-worth of belongings in my small backpack. A rainy day touring Himeji castle, which would have bothered me in the past, was perfect because there were fewer people clambering up steps and stopping every second to take pictures in the zen garden.
5. You meet others from all over the world.
When you're in a group of friends, you're less likely to feel the pull to meet other travelers. You already have people to share these amazing memories with. But you'd be missing out on my favorite part of traveling and staying in hostels!
In five weeks solo, I can count on only one hand the days I was completely alone. I met countless incredible people from every corner of the world who I hiked, toured, ate, and explored with. I fed deer in Nara with a fellow American, hiked Miyajima with two Irish and a French guy, tried on traditional Yukata with two Aussies, and entered the boxing ring at Tokyo fight club with travelers from Sweden, Germany, and Singapore. It was impossible not to make friends, especially when some of the hostels I stayed in were almost entirely full of solo travelers just like me. Each day consisted of new perspectives, conversation and culture that I'll forever treasure.
So, why wait? Put any fears aside that you'll get lost - part of adventure is getting lost anyway, right? Don't worry about feeling alone - hostels, tours, and pub crawls are always around. And, remember you're capable of more than you think. No time but now to free yourself from routine and take the adventure of a lifetime!