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13 Things I Learned About Traveling Alone

13 Things I Learned About Traveling Alone

For years, you’ve dreamed about hopping on a plane and disappearing into the horizon.

You’ve bought your ticket. You’ve packed your bags. And your parents have finally built up the courage to let you go.

Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a journey that will change your life.

In this article, I share 13 things I’ve learned about traveling alone. Buckle up your seat belt and hop on board. It’s time to fly solo.

1. You learn to be selfish.

When you travel alone, the only person you need to think about is you.

Want to visit the Louvre? Be my guest. Want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Put on those hiking boots. Want to sing at a karaoke bar? Get in front of that microphone!

You get the point. Taste the opportunity of complete freedom, and make your own itinerary.

Be selfish and seek out the opportunities you want to experience. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish, as long as you respect others and their freedom to choose.

2. You learn to play a different role.

When you travel with family or friends, you often play a certain role. The irresponsible little brother. The spoiled sister. Or the shy friend.

Now all that can change. Forget what others expect from you. Who do you want to be?

Step outside your comfort zone and try on a different role. Don’t hide behind a mask or give into social expectations. Get comfortable in your own skin, and explore the role you want to play.

Remember: no one knows you. They only see who you are today. Right now.

Take this chance to get to know yourself and show the world your true colors.

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3. You learn to test your limits.

I won’t lie to you. Traveling alone is not easy. I learned this the hard way.

In 2011, I traveled to Hong Kong and ended up staying in Chungking Mansions. It was a bad idea. The place was creepy and dangerous. I couldn’t sleep at night, and I avoided my room like the plague. On the plus side, I explored the city!

This was my first time traveling alone in Asia, and since then I’ve learned my lesson. Spend a few extra dollars on good accommodation. Especially if you’re traveling alone for the first time.

It’s worth every penny. Take it from someone who knows.

4. You learn to plan ahead.

Although my stay in Hong Kong was memorable, it is not a mistake I wish to repeat.

When you fail to plan, you have to suffer the consequences. Such memories teach you the subtle art of forward thinking. As a result, you learn to plan ahead. You imagine different scenarios, and try to think of possible solutions to them.

Of course, a perfect plan doesn’t guarantee a smooth trip. Things happen on the road. That’s life. But the more prepared you are, the more you will be able to enjoy your trip.

If anything, you learn to handle stressful situations, and to play by ear.

5. You learn to take responsibility.

Want to know the worst part about traveling alone? You can’t blame anyone else.

Sure, you can blame the airplane company or the hostel site, but that won’t change the situation you’re in. You got yourself there, and only you can get yourself out. Wipe those tears off your sleeve and fix the problem.

In two words: take responsibility.

Don’t wait for someone to help you. Help yourself. If that means walking up to a stranger to ask for directions, so be it.

Take responsibility and watch yourself grow.

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6. You learn to speak another language.

Oh, the joy of not understanding a word of what someone is saying!

Body language can get you far, but a few useful phrases can get you further.

I remember when I went to Barcelona for the first time. I thought I knew Spanish. It turns out conjugating the verb “to be” in the subjunctive is not the same as ordering a pizza or asking for directions. Besides, I didn’t speak a word of Catalan and felt like a fool!

Open your mouth and let those foreign words tickle your tongue. Don’t worry about your poor pronunciation or imperfect grammar. You’re not in the school bench. You’re in Barcelona and the locals appreciate when you speak their language.

Why disappoint them? Give it a try! Speak the language. Nothing builds a stronger connection.

Bonus tip: Learn to speak the culture as well. Sometimes that means you have to kiss people on the cheek. Other times, it means you have to take a bow or shake a hand. Respect these cultural differences and you’ll be a much loved traveler.

7. You learn to grow your confidence.

When you travel alone, your confidence levels grow and you develop as a person. You prove to yourself that you can take on new challenges and deal with problems as they arise.

Yes, it’s difficult and you will have to live with your mistakes. But better make mistakes than not to have lived at all.

You learn to be kind and forgiving to yourself. After all, you’ve got to like your own company. You learn to nurture and protect your confidence, because you know it’s one of your most valuable assets.

You’re not here to shrink. You’re here to expand.

8. You learn to be open-minded.

Traveling invites you to experience the unknown. To make the most of what the world has to offer, you better have an open mind. This is your key. Without it, you won’t go far.

When you travel alone, you test your assumptions and challenge your beliefs. The world is full of imagined barriers. You break them down by evaluating your own prejudice. You’re quick to judge, but fortunately travel brings awareness to your blissful ignorance.

Here’s an important security check: do you keep your mind open or closed?

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Remember that the best way to change your mind is to open it.

9. You learn to face your fears.

Fear of heights. Fear of spiders. Fear of being alone and unloved.

Yikes, we’ve brought some heavy luggage on board. I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news: You’re not alone with your fears. Others have them, too. It’s what makes us vulnerable and human. Find comfort in this.

The bad news: There’s not a fast cure to overcome your fear. There’s no pill to swallow. There’s no app to download. And just so we’re clear: fear doesn’t hand out any Getting Out of Jail Free cards, either.

Sorry, but there’s no way out but to face your fears. When you do, they stop controlling you. And the reward is worth the struggle.

But don’t fool yourself. Your fears are stubborn and they will return.You must fight back every single time.

10. You learn to live with less.

When the luggage limit is low and your bag is full, you know it’s time to say goodbye to a few things.

This can be difficult at first, but after awhile it becomes a welcoming routine. It’s easier to live with less than it is to drag around on useless stuff. Less stuff means less trouble. Besides, you can buy it again, if you have to.

In the end, relationships and memories matter most. You don’t need souvenirs to live a rich life.

11. You learn to look after your belongings.

Sure, less is more when you travel alone, but some things are hard to live without. Say your passport and money for example. These are your personal belongings and you need them.

Here’s the thing: others will try to steal from you. I was at a market with a friend once. We were buying vegetables when someone stole my friend’s wallet. We didn’t even notice.

Case in point: be alert and keep your belongings safe at all times. Choose who you trust. Observe your surroundings and be careful in large crowds and tourist areas.

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A general rule of thumb: Do as the locals. They know best.

12. You learn to make new friends.

It’s true. You will build new relationships on your journey, even if you’re shy.

It doesn’t take much. A friendly smile. A helpful hand. Or a shared fear. Indeed, nothing brings people closer than fear.

I remember when I went to the Nevis Valley outside Queenstown. It’s home to New Zealand’s most feared tourist attraction—the 134m bungy jump and the world’s biggest swing. Did we bond over the experience? You bet.

I know it’s tempting to check your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts when you’re traveling. Please resist this temptation at all costs.

You don’t want to miss what’s right in front of you! Take the chance to get to know someone. They can teach you things about life that you can’t get from your phone.

13. You learn to love your own company.

Yes, there will be nights when you sit alone and cry on your bed. Yes, there will be evenings when you stand alone on a beach and admire the sunset. Yes, there will be days when you eat alone and have no one to talk to.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter. You learn to love your own company.

You have moments when you’re alone, but you still feel at peace. You learn to appreciate the company of strangers. You learn to enjoy the beauty of nature. You smile because you live life on your own terms.

You know this: wherever you are in the world, you’ll always have yourself. And no one can take that away from you.

It’s when we are alone that we learn to love ourselves.

Conclusion

Traveling alone is one of the best investments you can make. Not only for yourself, but also for the world.

You fill your mind with memories that will serve you for a lifetime. You have stories to tell and experiences to share.

You figure out what matters most to you. You learn to live with less, but to be more. But above all, you live a life with no regret. And if that’s not worth the trip, I don’t know what is.

What have you learned from traveling alone? Or what stops you from flying solo? Please let us know in the comments.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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