Lately, the idea of isolation has become a step-play-cousin to the idea of quarantining; meaning, it has a bad wrap. When in reality, a bit of isolation can be a good thing. Now, I’m not a medical doctor, nor do I carry a Ph.D. (yet), but I do hold to my plight. As a recovering globetrotter and travel extraordinaire, it’s my experiences that tell me that I’m correct about this. Sure, traveling solo comes with challenges, dangerous hiccups, and is rough on the wallet, too. But there are undoubtedly some sensational benefits of traveling solo, double goes for traveling as a solo female.
When I boarded that plane to Bangkok for the first time back in 2014, I was terrified and excited. Mostly terrified if I’m being brutally honest. It was my first time visiting the Asian continent and pre-Peace Corps, which should explain a lot. I had tried desperately for a month to coordinate with friends to travel (at that point anywhere) with me without success. So instead of waiting, I just went anyway. Unbeknownst to me, this decision was the first of many that led me to continue to do just that; explore the world solo.
Coming to that decision on my own also served as lesson number one of an infinite list. Quickly highlighting for me the mental benefits of traveling solo by way of self-empowerment. As I continued to travel solo for the next six years I realized there are physical and spiritual benefits, too.
In this post, I discuss my experiences learning a bit about each of them to inspire you, too, to just go solo.
Mental benefits of traveling solo
Once you know something, you know it. For example, once you know you can travel to Asia solo and survive it, you now know you can travel solo and survive, periodt. It may sound cliche and blatantly obvious, but it’s as simple as that. The dopamine and adrenaline that accompany each cultural exchange or daredevil adventure is evidence enough.
Having to put yourself first can be difficult for some, but when solo traveling, it’s compulsory. Being selfish never felt so good. Because being self-sufficient and rehabilitating the faith in yourself you may have lost somewhere along the way is invigorating. You are often way outside of your comfort zone which stretches your self-belief in positive ways. Thus making it another sensational benefit of traveling solo.
Walking in that kind of self-acceptance creates a mental headspace with an Iron Man-like armor.
Physical benefits of traveling solo
Now that you’ve had a taste of the mental benefits attraversiamo (let’s cross over) to the physical benefits of traveling solo. Obviously, general mobility is beneficial to us all, but when traveling solo it too is compulsory at times. Walking miles with my 60L pack strapped to my back trying to locate that hostel in Vietnam being a prime example. But when you believe you’re unstoppable, then you become that. Wear that attitude with pride. You earned it.
Physically challenging yourself on adventures is par for the course. As a result, there have been plenty of experiences over the years that have left me feeling like my own superhero. And there have been experiences that have made me doubt it twice over, too. Two prevalent examples being bungee jumping 42 meters down the side of a fjord in New Zealand in 2017. An adventurous activity I will likely never (I said what I said) repeat. Or while on a 4-day trek up the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru later that same year.
On both occasions, I had to choose to go forward or backward. Clearly, I chose forward each time. What I learned is that I am inarguably stronger than I think I am, and so are you. Looking back now knowing that I did that has me feeling like my own version of Black Wonder Woman.
This level of self-reliance can be scary, but grounding, too.
Spiritual benefits of traveling solo
Each solo traveled journey around the globe has brought me closer to Mother Earth. As did my awareness of interconnectedness and the injustices of now political topics like climate change and displacement. Watch how your empathy blossoms like a lotus when you learn stories of triumph from locals. How humbled I felt to be so tiny and insignificant below the canopies of the Amazon jungle. Or when I got too close to the tail of a whale shark and was swatted snorkeling in the Philippines.
I cried like a toddler who lost her binky when I surfaced and at first glance, everyone thought I was injured. When truly my third eye was wide open and blinking at the wonder of this magical blue rock. Gasping for air and wanting to be back below the surface and beside this majestic being. Priceless moments I wish for you all.
The vulnerability that exists within this kind of global existence has been the fundamental beauty of solo travel. The sensory stimulus of brand new experiences in long dreamt about destinations teaches mindfulness on an epic scale. Everything in you is awake and tingling. It becomes addictive, and adventure is its delivery system. A deeper understanding of your role in the world and how equally important and insignificant it is all at once. You understand the ideals behind ‘Hakuna Matata’ and not to sweat the small stuff.
Secret sensation benefit
There is a secret sensational benefit to traveling solo; it’s that you’re never really alone. A journey may start that way, but it won’t end the same way. Even the least talkative people can manage to make the acquaintance of a fellow traveler while adventuring. When you’re as mega friendly and comfortable in your own skin as I am, it’s super easy to make new friends. In fact, I thrive on it.
I often plan my solo adventures around small group tours. This allows me the best of both worlds. I have time alone to explore the parts of a country that interest me plus get the chance to meet travelers while gallivanting the more touristy cities. I’ll reserve free walking tours or other outdoor activities that put me in the company of others, too.
The relationships made adventuring, most accidentally, may stay with you for years to come. Plenty of relationships I have made over the years have opened up more opportunities for travel to destinations I never considered I’d be in. Like Denmark because of friends I made touring New Zealand, or Switzerland to visit friends I made on a trip to India. I always dreamt of having friends all over the world and now I can confidently say that I do. Doesn’t that sound pretty sensational to you?