Back in 2015 I was supposed to go to Rome for a long weekend with my friends. When it was time to buy tickets, however, my friends started to bail out. Suddenly they were too busy, couldn’t take days off or simply changed their minds. Having no one to go with, I was faced with two options. Option one: Stay home and wait for the day when someone will finally agree to accompany me to Rome. Option two: Stop waiting, go to Rome alone and live my dream. I went ahead and bought my very first solo ticket.
At first I was terrified with the thought of wandering alone in a foreign place. I played all worst possible senarios in my head – from being robbed to being killed. However, as I moved along, I got to absolutely love every part of the journey (except the part where I had to drag all my luggage to the bathroom because there was no one to watch it for me). Since then I started taking occasional solo travel trips out of choice rather than necessity. If you haven’t tried traveling alone yet, you should as it gives you the chance to see the world and yourself from a whole new perspective. To encourage you, here are three things traveling alone has taught me.
Fear of the unknown is one of the most common fears paralyzing us to act upon possible opportunities. Most of us have ideas we would want to share, things we would really want to change, and dreams we would really like to pursue if only we had the courage to do that. But here is the thing we are not born brave, we become brave. In other words bravery is learnt if practiced. Through traveling alone I not only moved towards what inspires me – traveling, but also got out of my comfort zone and taught myself bravery. It takes courage to roam alone in a foreign place, to dine solo surrounded by couples, to talk to strangers, to be alone. I realized that fear and elation are the two sides of the same coin. Only after you act despite fear, you can experience great satisfaction and accomplishment.
Practicing bravery taught me valuable lessons. I learnt to tackle irrational fear with action, I learnt hazard assessment, I learnt resilience. I became more confident and independent. These skills helped me respond more courageously to life’s opportunities and challenges.
Cherish alone time
Even if you are the social butterfly type, it is inevitable that at some point you will be alone. However, aloneness does not mean boredom. It means freedom. Traveling by myself allowed me to move at my own pace, take as much time as I wanted to admire a vista, change my plans on the go, and do anything really, whenever I wanted. I no longer had to make compromises with my wishes in favor of those of my companions. Solitude allowed me to take a break from the emotionally and mentally draining need of constant interaction. In the midst of this, my thoughts untangled and I could clearly hear that little voice inside my head. I had the time to stop and reflect on who I am and who I want to be.
To this day I have traveled a lot more with friends, rather than alone. While traveling with friends is always fun, it robs you of the opportunity to meet people. In the safety of the group you are not only less likely to initiate a conversation with locals and travelers but also to be approached by them. Through my few solo travel trips I got to know people from over 20 countries, all with different backgrounds and values. I have noticed that when I was alone I was more receptive. I sought to connect, listen and understand. It was only when I got out of the comfort of my own group that I got to see beyond the familiar. I appreciated and enjoyed diversity.
I became an avid believer that the road to world peace is through solo travel. We hold opinions on people, nations and countries more often than not imposed by others – media, politics, religion, history. Traveling alone, at the very least, allows you to form your own opinion. You will be surprised to find out that the world is predominantly good. You will prove some stereotypes right and others wrong. But you won’t feel hatred. Because how can you hate someone, when you have been sharing stories all night long over a few beers?
The only way to experience the beauty of solo travel is to buy a ticket. So go ahead and thank me later.