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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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8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has been around for a long time, finding favor with many people, including Pythagoras clear back around 580 B.C. It’s been presented as one of the most healthy diets around, including being touted by the Egyptians to the point of abstaining from meat and animal clothing due to karmic beliefs. The vegetarian society (vegsoc.org) defines vegetarianism as:

“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

While it’s pretty obvious that there are multiple benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it’s always good to be informed about the cons of this dietary choice as well.

Outlined below are several things you might want to be aware of before you say good-bye to meat forever. Whether you are a current vegetarian, or contemplating making a shift, keep in mind these 8 things to keep yourself healthy.

1. You could suffer from B12 vitamin deficiency

The B vitamins are especially important for stress management, adrenal health, and brain function. Vegetarians in particularly are at risk for B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is attached to the protein in animal products and without enough B12 you can suffer from depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

Due to its attachment to animal proteins, B12 is the hardest for vegetarians to obtain when they don’t eat dairy or eggs in their diet. This essential little vitamin can be found in some algae and has been added to some yeast, but research doesn’t currently provide enough information to say whether or not these forms of B12 are of good quality and can provide adequate supplementation.

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The body is unable to make this vitamin, meaning it has to be taken in through food or supplementation. Essential for making red blood cells, DNA, nerves and various other function in the body, a Harvard Health Medical report in January of 2013 found symptoms of a B12 deficiency can present in sneaky ways including depression, paranoia, delusion, and loss of taste and smell.

2.  You could suffer from higher states of anxiety/depression, lower sense of well-being

According to a CBS Atlanta report, vegetarians suffered from a higher rate of anxiety and depression than their counterparts. Read the full report here. Depression and/or anxiety can be a result of many possible deficiencies including essential vitamins and amino acids you can find only in meat products, including Omega-3s from wild caught salmon.

Without the correct supplementation and proper understanding of diet, including the importance of micro and macro nutrients, depression and anxiety can become a serious problem, bringing down the overall health and well-being of vegetarians.

Even though reports on health and lifestyle show vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower consumption of alcohol and drugs, it also shows they suffer from more chronic illnesses and more visits to the doctor than their meat eating counterparts.

3. You could suffer from excess weight

When you go vegetarian it opens up a lot of food, but just because there isn’t any meat in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary healthy. Though pizza and beer technically fall under the vegetarian diet, it’s not a healthy choice for your waist line.

Just because being a vegetarian is associated with a healthier lifestyle in many cases, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Making bread and pasta your staples and not understanding where your protein sources should be coming from, can pack on body fat, which increases your chances of health issues such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.

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If the choice to go vegetarian happens on a whim without the proper understanding of food control, portion, and nutritionally dense alternatives you can find yourself reaching for vegetarian foods, which could cause serious problems down the road. Nuts are a good example, but just because something is touted as healthy, it doesn’t mean, your should eat it in excess.

Eating too many calories in fat will still cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in carbs will cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in protein will cause you to gain weight. See a pattern here? Not to mention you’ll miss out on important nutrients the body needs by over-eating in one area and under-eating in another. Re-read number 2.

4. You could have a higher risk of heart disease

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a goal we all strive for, but when you cut out meat, you also cut out what is known as complete protein, which you find in animal by-products. Complete means more than just the essential amino acids, it means those amino acids contain dietary sulfur. Without enough dietary sulfur, which is found almost exclusively in fish and pasture feed grass beef, the body will struggle with the biological activities of both protein and enzymes.

The effects cascade downward, effecting bones, joints, tissues, and even metabolic issues. In short, a low intake of sulfur associated with a vegetarian diet can result in high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries, blood clots raise your risk of stroke and heart attack. To read the full report click here.

5. You could suffer from low cholesterol

I know, at first you’re thinking, wait, low cholesterol is a good thing. Yes, it is, when it’s LDL cholesterol, which you get from eating an unhealthy diet, but low HDL (good cholesterol) can cause serious health issues. HDL, according to the mayo clinic, is in every cell in our body and can help fend off heart disease, not enough of it though, and too much LDL can go the other way, will be building up plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease.

Cholesterol, the good kind, is actually vitally important to the making of every steroid hormone in the body! There are six, and without cholesterol the body is unable to convert hormones, and it can cause damage in the endocrine system.

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A vegetarian without a balanced diet, meaning enough protein, enough veggies, and enough good fats, could disrupt his or her adrenals, which are directly connected to the endocrine system and the body’s ability to make and synthesize the hormones your body needs. The six major hormones in the body help do everything from metabolizing carbohydrates, to the electrolyte balance, to making sure if you’re a woman you can carry a healthy baby through pregnancy.

6. You could suffer from lower bone density and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, the disease where the bones get thinner, weaker, and fractures become a high risk with day to day movements. It’s often associated with the older generation, but your risk for osteoporosis increases with a lower bone density. Bone density can be directly related to diet and lifestyle, along with many other factors.

When it comes to eating a vegetarian diet it’s possible to miss getting enough of the right nutrients, causing the bones to begin to break down. If your vegetarian diet isn’t balanced and providing you with the correct nutrients and the means to absorb the correct nutrients, your body could begin to break down.

Recently, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led a review of both Australian and Vietnamese research around the bone density of vegetarian versus their meat eating counterparts. Helping Professor Nguyen was Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from Pham Ngoc Thac University of Medicine in Vietnam. The review was designed to sort though years of research surrounded by discrepancies and inadequate clinical data.

At the end of the review, with vegetarianism rising to around 5% of the populace in the western continents, and with wide spread osteoporosis reports – 2 million in Australia and closer to 54 million in America – the decrease in bone density of vegetarians is a serious issue which needs to be addressed, if you’ve cut meat and animal by-products out of your life.

7. You could be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer

Cancer seems to be running rampant through America, and it’s within everyone’s best interest to do all they can to keep their body healthy and happy to prevent cancer from finding a place to grow. In most studies it’s been found vegetarians are at lower risk for cancer, but a European Oxford study with over 63 thousand men and women in the United Kingdom found the risk for colorectal cancer higher in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

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Extra care needs to be taken when establishing a diet to ensure the body is receiving and able to up take all the important nutritional benefits and requirements from food.

8. You could end up eating more processed food

Depending on how deep you choose to go as a vegetarian, it could create the need to substitute a lot of food and recipe ingredients in your diet, but what happens when you cut out meat, eggs, and dairy and your recipe calls for meat, eggs, and/or dairy? You have to end up using a “healthy” vegetarian alternative which include stabilizers, thickeners, and various other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Lauren from Empowered Substance puts it into a great perspective with her comparison of Earth Balance, a vegetarian approved butter replacement compared to butter. She points out the ingredients in Earth Balance consist of: Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto color. Meanwhile, the ingredient list in butter, is much shorter. It’s butter.

That’s only one example. To appeal to the vegetarian lifestyle food manufacturers have found alternatives which fall under vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily healthy for you. Consider baked goods, which though vegetarian can be filled with more sugars and binders than regular baked goods with diary products. It’s the same with vegetarian items like mac and cheese, without using real cheese you may just be getting oil and thickeners, without even the smallest amount of nutritional value.

The reality is, most vegetarian substitutes contain the same junky alternatives which even meat eaters should be avoiding to remain happy and healthy.

On one final note, whichever lifestyle you choose to work with, remember anything in excess – including protein and animal by products – isn’t healthy for the body. It takes a wide spectrum of food and nutrients to keep the beautiful body you travel around in all day running in prime condition.

 

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