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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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