Benefits of Traveling Alone

By Kate Riley March 9, 2017

For me, travel is the best form of education. I find I learn and grow so much when I place myself in environments outside the one I live in, the one that is so familiar. I’m an independent person so I’m pretty comfortable being on my own. Journeying halfway around the world last month reminded me of the many benefits of traveling alone. On the long ride home I jotted down some thoughts on the topic.

I’ve taken dozens of business trips on my own so I’m comfortable getting around and relying on myself, and last week I returned from a trip to Australia, a trip I took without friends or family.  A friend of mine expressed on my return how nervous she’d be if she was on her own and how I felt about traveling alone. Years ago I was inspired to begin taking trips alone after reading Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea, a short and easy read but still relevant and inspiring even though the book is over 50 years old. It’s about a woman who spends a week by herself in a cottage on the ocean and in the book she reflects on motherhood and how we complicate our lives too much. I try to read it once a year.

Traveling alone takes confidence, it requires courage and stepping outside your comfort zone even in the face of nagging insecurities or fears. You can practice being brave by traveling alone. You can learn so much about yourself by exploring the world without a travel partner.

 

 

 

Too often as mothers and wives we get stuck in the routine and everyone’s dependence on us that we feel either guilty for leaving, or unable to because of our circumstances. Perhaps the kids are still too young to leave or there are more important things to spend the money on. My children are at an age where they’re just fine without me for a few days or even a couple of weeks, and knowing myself and my love of travel, I always save up a little money each month for a future trip I want to take. I’m lucky to be in that stage of life.

There are many legitimate reasons to avoid traveling alone like time and finances, but nervousness shouldn’t be what holds you back. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is where so much personal growth occurs. Some of my favorite perks of traveling alone are:

You Can Go At Your Own Pace. I love waking up when I want to, whether it’s early to catch a tour or late because I can sleep in. When I was in Salzburg last year I took the Sound of Music tour on my own, something that would bore my family. When I was in Melbourne, I visited art galleries and ducked into boutiques at my leisure. I love being able to stop and look at something for as long or as short a period of time as I want. I love to walk when I’m in big cities, and I can go for miles (these shoes help!) and when I’m on my own I need only worry about my own level of fatigue and no one else’s.

It’s Cheaper. One plane ticket, one shuttle ride, and one day of meals costs one fourth the price that it would if I went with my family. If there is someplace I really want to see, I plan ahead, work out a schedule with Matt, and off I go, and he does the same.

No Need for Conversation. When I’m with someone I always feel that additional pressure to be pleasant company, to make polite conversation, to have something interesting to say or observe or a funny anecdote or story to tell. When I’m alone it’s just me and my thoughts and I only need to speak when I’m ordering a meal! I can spend hours in silence listening to the sounds on the streets or the music on my phone without worry or care for anyone else’s conversational needs.

Meeting New People. Without a travel partner, I’m more likely to strike up conversations with others. The bartender, the concierge, the cute family sitting next to me in a restaurant. I’ve made so many friends this way and had some of the most delightful conversations with others, ones I’d likely not have at all if I had travel companions. I feel more connected to the human race when I do this.

Maneuverability. I find I can duck into corners at events or in restaurants and get a better view or seat when I’m alone since I only have to worry about the space that I take up! You can get lucky with “sold out” events too if you’re a single!

Etiquette. We’re all attached to our smartphones these days, myself included. When I’m with someone else I don’t look at my phone during meals or when I’m spending time with them, but when I’m alone there’s no guilt in browsing Instagram over lunch or editing photos on my phone in the pub.

Food and Beverages. When I travel alone I can eat whatever I want, whether it’s from a local fruit stand mid afternoon or dim sum at the local dumplings bistro or a cocktail at the hipster bar with that cool vibe. I never have to worry if they have chicken nuggets on the menu :)

You Get the Bed All to Yourself. This is one of my favorite perks, when I check into my accommodations, falling flat on my back on the bed and doing imaginary snow angels on the covers in celebration of the fact that it’s mine, it’s all mine! :) Sounds selfish, but when you live in a house with several people and pets, having a bed all to yourself for a few nights is a welcome indulgence.

You’re More Interesting. The more I travel the more connected to the world I feel. Travel has opened my eyes on so many topics: poverty, healthcare, lifestyle to name just a few. When I meet someone who’s from a place I’ve been to or visited it too, we share an instant connection. My favorite thing to talk to people about is where they’ve been and what they’ve seen in the states of my country or the nations of the world. When I meet someone from a different place I always want to hear what they think and learn how they live. When I meet someone who shares a passion for travel, I find them more interesting.

I loved this article rounding up inspiring quotes on reasons to travel more. I encourage all of my friends out there to take the opportunity to travel alone and if you’ve never done it, start small. Book a room in a city nearby, one you’ve always wanted to visit, sleep in, take yourself out to lunch, walk around, or go to that art exhibit you’ve been wanting to see. You’ll return home with all the benefits, I promise!

How many of you have taken trips alone? What did it teach you?

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26 comments

  1. I took my first trip solo, ever, to Italy and it was life changing for all of the reasons you listed in your post. This trip was also my first trip out of the United States. I really can’t recommend it enough. It does take courage, but once you get over the anxiety and all of the “what if this happens,” it’s wonderful. If you’re thinking about traveling solo, do it!

  2. I rely on other peoples opinions to make decisions SO MUCH. This could be a really good exercise for me to trust my gut and do what I WANT and not what other people think I should do. Not going to lie though, my anxiety kicked up when I thought about traveling alone – mainly just the sense of feeling lonely. I think I might make planning a trip alone a personal goal of mine this year!

  3. I went backpacking solo around Europe for 9 weeks a few years ago. Sitting in the airport before departure I rang my partner crying as I thought I’d bottle out almost immediately, then come home and have to hide for the remainder of the time so people didn’t know! Instead, I thrived. I could be as selfish as I wanted; I saw more and spent less than I would have if my partner (definitely NOT a hostel kind of guy!) had travelled with me, but it also made me much more confident about fronting up to strangers: “Hi, I’m travelling alone. Do you mind if I eat with you?”. Great for meeting heaps of people you wouldn’t approach if you already had company! It WAS tiring being ‘on guard’ most of the time, but it did wonders for my self confidence. Since then, I’ve done a few other shorter trips solo, including Thailand, Fiji and Noumea. Whilst travelling with someone can be nice, I really recommend travelling alone. Especially if the option is travelling with the ‘wrong’ person!!

    • Bravo Jodie I loved reading about your experience, I’m so impressed!! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I’ve been a solo traveler since age 12 and it’s so rewarding! My favorite part is your first point at going at your own pace. When you’re on your own, you can truly slow down and experience things in detail instead of fussing with whether or not it’s what someone else wants to do as well. This is particularly true in places where there’s lots of history and beauty (ie Italian churches).

    xo, Sofia
    http://www.thecozie.co

  5. Hear! Hear! I absolutely agree (and sometimes feel a bit guilty at how much I enjoy traveling on my own!). I love traveling with husband, kids, grandkids as well but it’s an entirely different trip (as you’ve captured so beautifully) when you’re on your own. I’ve done the same to Mexico, Thailand, Hungary, Canada plus innumerable trips in the US for both business and pleasure–to eventually meet up with women friends in some cases, but often not. There’s a special kind of leaning into the trip which occurs when all your senses are heightened and its just you and the open road!

  6. My first taste of traveling alone was when I went to Washington, DC for several days as a college student. I spent the nights with friends (the only way I could afford it), but I had WHOLE DAYS to myself. The Smithsonian on one’s own in magical. All the exhibits you like, none of the ones you don’t! Between semesters in grad school, I spent 3 weeks traveling sola through Costa Rica. It was an amazing journey. Most recently, I spent time in Buenos Aires by myself. Now I’m married, and my husband is my favorite traveling partner (a deal breaker for me…could never commit to someone I can’t travel with), but there are times when I long for my adventures alone. Someday!

    • Exciting journeys you were on, I explored the Smithsonians alone too, loved it!!

  7. Ditto! I ventured to France last fall, solo and I’d do it again! Group travel (8-12 people) can also be fun, but there seems to always be the whiners in the group. What ever you do, just go! The dollar is really strong right now so the time is perfect!

  8. I haven’t done this-but you make a wonderful case for trying it. My only sort of alone traveling has been tagging along on business trips with my husband. He works all day, and has dinner meetings-and I end up exploring on my own. I’ve done this in NYC, London and SF. I do enjoy being able to choose my time-museums, restaurants, shopping or even just sitting in a cafe with a book.

    • And you get an evening “this is what I saw today” conversation partner when you’re done exploring, the best of both !

  9. Is love to hear about what precautions you take to be safe. i.e. not go out at night, make sure someone at home knows your general whereabouts in case you go missing, not go certain places… etc. Or do you just go do whatever? I have never been out of the country alone but it sounds exquisite!!

    • Hi Robin, that’s a great question! I stay close to my hotel in the evening, and pick a restaurant nearby. I’d never go out drinking alone at night, yikes! I’ve gone to shows in the evening alone but then come back to my hotel at night. I also have taken a few self defense classes and I’m taking one more next weekend, I think it’s good for women to practice being in a situation where you’re compromised and having the tools to get yourself out! I stay in pretty good shape, I am a regular fitness kickboxer, so that helps me feel physically strong. I check in regularly back home so everyone knows where I am. I never look down at my phone when I’m walking alone, that sets you up as a target. I never tell any stranger I’m alone, I always say I’m meeting my friends or husband later. You do have to have your guard up more but I don’t let that stop me, I just try to be really smart about where I go.

  10. The guy I worked for had a jet and when they vacationed and there was an empty seat I could hitch a ride. I’d split off and have solo adventures. I loved the freedom. I’ve stalked wild flamingos in Bonaire. Cherry picked the Smithsonian exhibits in DC. Daytripped New York and chose MOMA and H&M. I loved being on my own timetable and chatting up strangers.
    More recently I went with my husband on his biz trip to Nashville and had a blast while he was working during the day. It makes for great dinner conversations.
    I love being alone in a new place I experience the moments more intensely without the filters and overlays of anyone else!

    • Yes Kerry, even with just a few hours alone in a new place you can reap the benefits!

  11. I’m so glad I saw this post! I’m gearing up to renovate a utility van to travel around the U.S. And I’ve been pretty nervous about the whole process. It’s nice to hear that other couples travel alone, too!

  12. Paris, alone, is the best way to see the city. I have been to over 70 countries with my husband, and I love this. However, I go to Europe solo every year just to be with me. Traveling alone is so relaxing.

  13. Inspiring post, and I couldn’t agree more … being happy getting around life alone particularly traveling is a huge plus… I’m married, but not to someone who likes to travel or even go out much, so I’ve learned to enjoy even simple things like going to movies alone.

    Also LOVE LOVE LOVE Anne Morrow’s “Gift From The Sea” has been a life time of reference for me… I’ve read, re-read and gifted that small volume many times over the years.

  14. My first solo trip was a week hitch hiking Ireland by myself. The following summer I took off to Europe solo with a one way plane ticket and a 3 month Eurail pass. I had the freedom to head to a train station and take the next train headed out with no care at all to where I was headed. I can’t imagine a travel companion being up for that. Several times I met people on the train and joined up with them for a few days at a time.
    It’s been years since I’ve struck out on my own (other than for business travel). This summer I’m taking my 12 year old daughter to Berlin to stay with the German exchange student that stayed with us last summer. I’ll be on my own for 10 days and I’m so excited for another solo adventure. Thanks for reminding me what an amazing experience solo travel can be!

  15. I’m happy to have found your site and read about your solo travel. I’m a single 67 year old and have traveling alone for years now. I love it for a lot of the reasons you mention. I do have times I’m uncomfortable like sometimes in a fancy restaurant (I’m not going to miss out just because I’m alone) but on the other hand, once I conquer an uncomfortable situation, I feel more confident and proud of myself. If I don’t get a little nervous, I’m not having an adventure.
    Thank you for your posts

  16. Thank you so much for posting this. I always enjoy traveling alone and my friends can’t “get it”. You described eloquently all the reasons why it is rewarding. Traveling alone makes you experience things intenser.

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