For me, traveling has been more than passports and bucket lists. It’s been more than packing up a suitcase, posting pictures of dreamy places on social media, and pairing them with captions like, "Wander where the WiFi is weak." That’s because it’s taught me so much. It’s given me one-on-one lessons on life, love, and taking leaps of faith. It’s made me realize my place in the world, and the power of empathy, passion, and personal victories. Most importantly, it’s the one type of experience I love to do alone. The first time you travel alone, you discover so much about yourself. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
First things first: You’ve learned a lot from your other travels, and it’ll show when you’re traveling alone. You may arrive at the airport and go through your usual routine in your head like, "Check bags, grab boarding pass, get to security, and then get a snack." It’ll feel like second nature, and soon enough, you’ll be eating a crispy chicken wrap while waiting at your gate.
A few hours or so later, you’ll arrive at your destination with a lot of nervous energy and excitement. You’ll call for a ride to your accommodations and get settled in — once again, going through the same ‘ole motions with comfort and ease. Truth is, you know what you’re doing and what to expect when you’re traveling. The only thing different about traveling alone is that you may discover these seven things about yourself.
1You Don’t Need To Pack Everything You Own
I’ll be the first to admit that packing was never my strongest skill. Before spending a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, I brought basically everything I owned on a week-long vacation or two-day trip. I lugged around my heavy bags, filled with shoes and outfits that I never even wore at home. This habit changed when I started traveling solo.
You’ll realize the first time you travel alone that the people going with you often encourage you to bring more — to pack your suitcase to the brim. They mention that they might want to go out one night or hit the beach during the day, and rarely remind you to leave room for souvenirs.
Don’t get me wrong: You love having these adventures with them. But, you’ll realize that you can, and will, travel lighter when you’re alone.
2You Like Following Your Own Itinerary And Schedule
Traveling alone means one thing: Your itinerary is yours. You can choose to spend your mornings leisurely taking a bath and enjoying breakfast in your room at a resort, and your afternoons roaming around museums instead of going on a bunch of excursions. It’s honestly very freeing, and one of the most rewarding parts of traveling alone.
3You Know When To Listen To Your Inner Compass
Where your itinerary falls on your shoulders when you’re traveling alone, so do your decisions. It’s entirely up to you to decide where to eat, where to stay, and when a situation feels a little off or not right. In those moments, you’ll learn that you know when to listen to your inner compass and follow your own two feet.
Your gut will say loud and clear, "Don’t try the sushi here," or "Let’s check out this part of the beach instead!" You’ll hear its advice and make some amazing memories because of it. You likely developed this skill during your other life experiences or travels, but you may just be discovering it right now.
4You Don’t Need To Be Attached To Your Phone
During my solo travels, I found that having my phone in my pocket was really comforting. I made sure I had a good data plan prior to leaving, just in case I needed to contact someone and didn’t have access to WiFi. I also made sure that my location was turned on and could be seen by my closest friends and family. But, I also learned that I didn’t always need to be staring at the screen.
When you’re visiting famous landmarks or roaming around the beauty of a national park, you want to look up and soak in what’s around you. You want to remember the details in the paintings, and the views from the top of a mountain of red rock. That way, when you get home, you can tell people about those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you had, and hold onto them forever.
5You Like Trying New Things With A Travel Buddy
Traveling alone is already a huge step outside of your comfort zone. You’re navigating airports by yourself, and possibly another language, too. You’re surrounding yourself with a whole lot of "new."
So, it’s only natural that you may discover you like trying new things when you’re not alone. You like taking surfing lessons with a buddy who’s been there and done that, or eating shrimp tacos with a friend who can tell you that they’re spicier than you may think. That’s OK. You may learn that not every part of this experience is ideal or perfect for you, just like any other travel experience you’ve had or will have.
6You’re Capable Of Making New Friends Everywhere
One thing you’ll likely learn about yourself when you travel alone is that you’re able to make new friends from around the world. You’re able to connect with them based on your favorite television shows, or even your stories from traveling. It’s one of the most rewarding things, and makes you feel a lot less alone during your adventures.
Imagine this: You’re hiking and decide to stop for a snack in a little clearing. You pull out your apples and peanut butter, and watch other people go by. A couple of girls around your age stop for a snack, too. You start talking about all the trails you’ve done and your favorite places in the world. You swap social media handles and suddenly have a few new friends.
7You Would Love To Travel Alone Again
Last but not least, after traveling alone once, you’ll likely want to do it again. You’ll fall in love with all the beautiful parts of the experience, from spending your days however you please to perfectly balancing your camera in random places for the best shots. I understand, and it’s one of the many things I love most about travel.
Here’s the thing: This experience, or any experience that requires your passport and a bucket list surprises you. It may take you outside of your comfort zone a bit, and teach you things that you never thought you needed to know.
I never thought I’d love traveling alone, and your first time hopping on a plane by yourself, you may not either. But, you’ll reach your destination and start making memories and go head-over-heels for it all. It’s the greatest discovery of all.
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