Spoiler Alert– GO!!!
This past spring, I spent four months in Europe as a part of one of my school’s study abroad programs. While I spent the majority of my time in London, I also traveled throughout Europe, two weeks of which I was completely on my own. To say it was a rewarding experience would be an understatement. In fact, it may have even been the best part. While the thought of traveling by yourself- whether it be planning your adventure or simply breaking from your everyday routine- can seem intimidating and even impossible, it might just be worth the leap of faith.
The Big Picture: Why You Should Travel Solo in the First Place
Traveling is one of the best experiences an individual can have, and well worth it: a 2013 study by The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies- in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association- found that after only a day or two of leisure travel, 89 percent of respondents in the study saw a significant decrease in stress.
The benefits don’t stop there, however. The same study also found that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.
Besides the multitude of benefits for traveling to begin with, there are numerous reasons why you should consider going on your trip alone. For one, you should travel alone for the sure sense of pride. Planning a trip by yourself is hard work. Transportation, accommodation, funding, attractions, entertainment… there are a lot of different elements to consider. Taking the time to plan it out all by yourself is half the fun and deserves a generous pat on the back when it’s all said and done.
If not for a sense of pride, do it for the sake of making your own agenda. The beauty of traveling by yourself lies in the fact that you can dedicate your time to doing solely what you want to do, without having to worry about partners or children or friends. This is a time to cross things off your bucket list, so take advantage of the opportunity!
Finally, you should travel solo at least once as a mechanism of self-reflection. Traveling provides a time in our lives where we can focus on our own growth, and such occasions are few and far between. Allow yourself to enjoy the time alone in an unfamiliar place. Feeling vulnerable while traveling is completely normal, but you may find you come back from your trip with newfound confidence and skills you never knew you had.
Tips For Your Solo Adventure
Funding: Plan ahead to make sure you’ll have enough money for all the planned stops along the way, as well as some emergency cash- you never know when you might need it. In addition, if you are planning on traveling out of the country, make sure to notify your bank where you are going so that they won’t put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. You also will want to make sure your card will work abroad and see if there are any other alternatives for securing cash if you are traveling internationally for an extended period of time.
Journal: The mental health benefits of solo travel are endless, and can help you recharge both physically and mentally. By taking some time at the end of each day to reflect and write down your new experiences, you can have a hard copy of your thoughts and emotions to bring back home with you and reflect on them later. A journal can also help you determine which aspects of your trip you did and didn’t like, which can help direct your next adventure.
Additionally, maintaining a journal has shown proven benefits, especially in regards to the aging process. In fact, keeping a journal can help boost your IQ, increase your emotional intelligence, and even boost memory and comprehension.
Utilize Social Media: If you find yourself drawing a blank on how to keep yourself occupied in a new city, use social media to help you think of ideas. Reach out to your Facebook friends and see if anyone has any recommendations. Check Pinterest or Yelp to seek out the best places to eat or little-known sights to see. If there’s one thing people who travel love to do, it’s share their experiences when they get back, and who better to ask for advice than your friends and other people who have been in your shoes?
Stay in the heart of town. Unfortunately, there is a bit of uneasiness for women traveling on their own. While it might seem nice to stay somewhere remote when traveling solo, for the sake of one’s safety, you should consider finding a quaint inn or hotel in a well-populated part of town instead. In addition, it is also a good idea to try and stay at a hotel that is close to public transportation so that you can get around easily.
Make sure to check in. While traveling, let a friend or relative know what your plans are so you can let them know if anything goes wrong. If a flight gets cancelled or something changes last-minute, having someone back home who knows your itinerary can help you get back on track. If you’re planning on camping or staying in an area with poor cell reception, letting your contact know your whereabouts ahead of time also ensures they won’t get worried if you’re hard to reach at times.
Avoid scammers. Even a question as simple as “where are you from” can be used to take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the area in order to charge you more for a ride, a common practice with taxi drivers. Instead, try planning ahead and arranging a car service to pick you up from the airport, or an Uber or Lyft, especially if you will be arriving late at night. By knowing the exact route and contact information of the driver, you will get exactly where you need to be, hassle-free.
Above all, the most important thing to remember when traveling solo is to keep an open mind. It’s easy to make judgements about the people and places you are traveling to, but the most rewarding parts about solo trips depend on how much you are able to step out of your comfort zone.
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