I have been traveling the world all of my adult life. Until 2010 I had always traveled alone.
Initially I would fly from New Zealand to Australia for mini breaks. Then I moved to London to go to makeup school, only knowing one person there. For some reason that didn’t scare me, even though I was only 20 at the time.
6 months later I went for my first spin around Europe. I took a six week Contiki Tour with a bus full of 18-35 year olds, not knowing a soul. It was one of the greatest, most fun, most formative experiences of my life, and I am still in contact with several of the people I met on that trip. Had I gone with a friend I wouldn’t have been forced to get out there and meet people, so being by myself was lonely for a couple of days, but then it became completely brilliant.
With the exception of the trips I took home to New Zealand and to Australia with my young son, every international trip I took up until 2010 was a solo mission. I didn’t even think about traveling with anyone else! Then in 2010 my bestie and I decided to go to Italy together. Since then I have mostly traveled with friends or tour guiding my Glam Italia Tours, but I try to block off days by myself at the end of my tours, and I still take trips alone too.
There is a magic that happens when you travel alone. You get to see the very best of yourself. You get to enjoy your own company.
I always love seeing or meeting solo travelers when I’m out there in the world. I chose this Eiffel Tower picture for this post because it was taken by a girl I met sitting in a cafe on the left bank in Paris. She was in the city of light for the first time and was all by herself, so I invited her to hang with us and come to see the Eiffel Tower. It was fun for her and she was able to see an entirely different side of the Eiffel. It was fun for us because she was just delightful to be around. Everybody wins!
Here are 10 reasons why you should travel alone at least once in your life. I hope you will read them and that they will inspire you to give solo travel a try.
10 Reasons Why You Should Travel Alone At Least Once In Your Life
Traveling Solo Will (Literally) Push You Out Of Your Comfort Zone
One thing I have learned in life is that the very best things, the most exciting, the most memorable, the most fun, all happen when you get outside your comfort zone.
Traveling alone pushes you out there. It forces you to take chances you normally wouldn’t take. It makes you see the world and its many wonderful peoples from a different perspective.
When you step (or leap) out of your comfort zone you really start to experience life. You don’t just watch things happen, you become a part of the experience, and the tapestry of your life becomes richer, more vibrant and more textured.
When You Travel Alone You Will Meet The Most Amazing People
You really will. And you will form friendships that will last your entire life.
When we travel with a friend or a group of others we do still meet new people, but the interactions are different and maybe not as fulfilling, because we have the group or the friend to lean on and go back to.
When you travel alone you need the social interaction, so you gravitate towards others, whether to help you find your way, or whether to just have someone to chat with over coffee in the piazza.
People generally are pretty fantastic. And most people really are very nice. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Maybe you will become someone’s interesting story ~ the traveler they met in the piazza who is now their friend from country X. Regardless, if you open yourself up to the opportunity there are really amazing people to be found when you’re wandering the world.
There is a restaurant in Rome that I go to every time I’m in town. It is always totally packed with a line waiting outside, so they can’t give me a table to myself, instead they always find me a seat at someone else’s table. It’s so much fun! Everyone is always so welcoming and friendly and I end up having a blast while meeting new people, who always tell me cool places to go see in the Eternal City, and introduce me to fantastic new experiences I would have otherwise never known about.
It Takes Courage, You Face Your Fears, And You Experience Triumph.
You have to face your fears and your insecurities when you travel alone. Many people have never really been alone in their life, so the idea of being out there in the world with no one can be super daunting. Others have experienced being alone before, but the first time or two that you travel alone can still be scary.
The second part of the equation is that it takes courage to do it. Sometimes a courage you didn’t know you possess. But when you’ve muscled up the courage to take on your fears you then experience triumph. And nothing builds you as a person quite like accomplishments that are your own. Traveling solo can make you feel incredibly triumphant.
(The first time I drove from Florence to San Gimignano alone, without my bestie was incredibly scary. Of course I got lost several times, and she was on a plane back to the USA so I couldn’t even call her for help. But when I eventually got there, and in one piece no less, I finally understood why they erect triumphal arches, and seriously considered building one for myself).
You Find Freedom
When you travel alone you truly experience freedom. You are free from all that keeps you tethered. You can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Your plans can change on a whim. You’ll meet other travelers who will tell you about cool places to go and things to do, and you’ll either wind up going places with them, or venturing off solo. You aren’t beholden to anyone. For many of us it’s the only time in life we are completely free, and its incredibly exhilarating.
Sometimes it is just having the freedom to decide you want to curl up on the couch in your rental apartment with a glass of wine and a good book. Whatever it is that you decide to do, when you travel alone the choice is 100% yours.
You Get To Do 100% What You Want To Do
When you travel with someone else, or with a group, you have to give up a portion of what you want to do. There are things you are dying to do, places you want to eat, experiences you want to have, that you have to give up because the others don’t want to do them. Or there’s not enough time to do everyone’s everything.
Traveling with others means you have to compromise, and that can be a very hard pill to swallow when its a once in a lifetime trip, or somewhere you are not likely to go back to.
You Get To Be Selfish And Totally Indulge Yourself.
It feels really good to be able to completely indulge yourself and be selfish. Its wonderful to sleep in when you feel like it, get up at the crack of dawn if you want to, stop for as many coffees as you want, or stop for none. Just find every single thing that makes you happy, and take full advantage of it.
Life at home can be super stressful, whether that be from work/school/family – you name it, and most of us don’t really get much opportunity to totally and unapologetically spoil ourselves rotten, so having that chance and embracing it unashamedly can recharge your batteries like nothing else.
Your Experiences become More Meaningful
When you travel with someone else your experiences are shared experiences and can be very much diminished if the person you are with isn’t 100% as invested in them as you are. When you are alone otherwise simple things can suddenly become quite profound, and move you in ways you never thought possible. I have had paintings move me to tears (frescoes in Santa Croce, the Caravaggios in Rome), have lain on the floor of the ballroom in an empty palace, looking up at the ceiling art, completely overwhelmed (Caserta) have been completely exhilarated white water rafting without even thinking about my comparative lack of skill (Austria). I could list loads more but the point is that with just one more person in the equation the experience would be diluted and probably nowhere near as meaningful. Being on your own allows you to let go of inhibition and get the maximum out of every new experience.
You Realize That You Absolutely Can Rely On Yourself
When there is no one else to lean on, no one else to take care of the details, you have to rely on yourself to figure things out. It can be quite daunting at first, but then you see that you can do it. You become the person that you truly can rely on. It gives you a whole new faith in yourself, which is super empowering.
You Can Completely Re-Invent Yourself
When you travel alone you get to be exactly who you want to be.
For starters you can leave the tired/grumpy/exasperated/moody/sickly/over worked/stressed out/extroverted/introverted/people pleaser/whatever your poison is/ behind, and become the person you always wanted to be. Or never thought about being – however it plays out.
Explore parts of your personality you haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen in a while. When you travel solo there is no one to call you on it, so you have the freedom to be anything.
Some of the wildest people I ever met while traveling have turned out to be the church mouse type when we reconnect in their home country. Friends who live their normal life with military precision have lived out a free spirited bohemian existence while traveling alone.
If you could be absolutely anything, what would you be?
There Is No Drama
I don’t think boys get embroiled in drama when they travel, but girls frequently do. Not so much fighting as going on and on about medical woes, relationship woes, perceived injustices, rehashing past traumas. Who needs to hear all that when you are on a dream trip somewhere out there in the world, that you have had to save and save for? Or someone gets their nose out of joint for heaven only knows what reason, and now they’re not speaking to another person, or creating a heavy atmosphere – its exhausting! But when you travel alone your entire trip is drama free.
A quick word about Contiki Tours.
I took a Contiki Tour for my first trip around Europe. I was young and not really equipped to do it alone. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I traveled through a bunch of European countries on a luxury bus with like minded 18 – 35 year olds who were just as excited as I was to see everything. I can’t even tell you how much fun I had! Decades later I am still friends with several of the people from my tour, and we stay in contact via Facebook and also via this blog!
I thought Contiki just did Europe but recently found out they go all over the world! My niece just came over from New Zealand and did a Contiki Tour of California, Arizona and Nevada. Her experience was similar to mine – she was so nervous on the first day, but went on to have the most incredible experience, got to do so many cool things, and not only had the most fun of her life, but also emerged from the tour with a whole new level of self confidence and a wonderful sense of adventure.
I hope that if you, or your child/friend/relative are in the 18 to 35 age group and want to travel and see the world but don’t want to go it alone, you will have a look at Contiki as an option. Traveling alone doesn’t need to mean traveling by yourself. Both my niece and I were traveling alone on our respective Contiki Tours but we weren’t out there in the world by ourselves. This was the stepping stone that opened up the entire world to me and I am so incredibly grateful that I had that opportunity and that truly amazing experience.