Many regard those of us who embark on the journey of solo travel to be brave. Initially, taking that first step is all about conquering your fears. However, once you do, it opens up a whole world of freedom, opportunity & self confidence that you never knew you had. Here, are my ultimate 15 benefits of travelling alone to try & persuade you to take the plunge yourself!”
I originally travelled solo in my 20’s, keen to see what the world had to offer me. Unfortunately, none of my friends were able to join me so I went alone. The world was my oyster & a place of excitement & possibility.
Twenty years later I re-emerged into the world of the solo traveller in a very different position. The happy life I had built around me had come crashing down when I tragically lost my husband. I was renegotiating every part of my world alone for the first time in two decades. It was a scary place with emotional trauma at every twist & turn. I needed to find out who I was now I was alone again & turned to the one thing that had been a constant passion of mine, travel.
Thirty years after I first stepped out, I wanted to share my thoughts on the benefits of solo travel.
Whenever I tell people that I travel alone, the first response is generally “Wow, you’re brave, isn’t it dangerous?” Much as I love soaking in their awe, I don’t believe I have any more special powers than anyone else. What, after being blessed with a questionable sense of direction, serial clumsiness & at times painful shyness in a group of strangers. I am so easy going that if someone makes a suggestion, I’m likely to go along with it rather than air a strong preference of my own. Don’t ever ask me to pick a favourite as usually, I like everything. I hate making decisions & am an expert at running away from difficult situations. In addition, I am rarely the first person to put my hand up, preferring to watch, wait & see what happens first. And then there’s my mortal fear of rejection…
Sound like a brave person to you?
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin
So, if travelling solo is brave, then not doing it must come down to one thing, fear. Fear of your safety, fear of loneliness, fear of the unknown? Once you have overcome these, you have to then tackle a similar bombardment of fears from your loved ones. Taking the decision to travel solo against this backdrop is the first challenge.
However, if you read any thoughts on travelling alone from those of us who have taken the plunge, the overriding message is JUST DO IT!
15 Benefits of Travelling Alone
This is truly the ultimate benefit of solo travel. You have the ability to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it & with whomever you wish! For me, this is the reason I love travelling alone so much. I value my freedom above all else which is why this past year has been so hard. But when you have the ability to choose everything you do day after day, without consultation, discussion & negotiation, it’s hard to beat.
The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
Solo travel also gives you the flexibility to decide what you do…& then change your mind on a whim! You can travel whenever it suits you & if you love a place, stay longer. If you don’t gel with somewhere, move on. It also means that you are not tied down by anyone else’s commitments. Have you ever tried planning a trip with others & had so many commitments to work around that what started out as an exciting adventure, contorts into negotiation & compromise?
Life is complicated. Things go wrong, plans change, people let you down. You can multiply all these factors by the numbers in your travelling party. Travelling alone gives you the freedom to break out of this. Don’t want to travel in peak season? Don’t. Want to get up early & see the sunrise? Do it. Fancy hiking up the mountain…or rather laze around by the pool? You choose!
Freedom & happiness are found in the flexibility & ease with which we move through change” – Buddha
In 2018, I headed for the Caribbean for 6 months alone. I had planned my first month in the Dominican Republic, followed by Costa Rica & had a date with a sailing regatta in the US Virgin Islands. Beyond that, I went wherever the wind took me! It was an amazing experience, & I was able to take advantage of all opportunities that came my way. I ended up housesitting in the Cayman Islands, sailing around the British Virgin Islands & from Antigua to St Martin & attended a yoga retreat in Cuba. My final days were spent enjoying life in a villa back in the Dominican Republic with a family I had met in Antigua. All of these opportunities would not have been placed in my path, had I been travelling with others.
Solo travel can be exhausting at times. You have to organise everything, make all decisions & constantly be aware of your surroundings. You must entertain yourself & avoid getting lonely or fed up with your own company. It is a constant challenge. But with challenge comes growth. Immense growth. Along with a feeling that you can truly take on the world…because you are! There is nothing like solo travel to make you realise what you are capable of & feel invincible.
Smooth seas do not make skillfull sailors” – African proverb
Beyond your comfort zone
After losing my husband, everything seemed new & scary. I was used to having my partner in crime at my side all the time, someone who knew me better than I knew myself. Without him there, & with an underlying fear of anyone speaking to me, it was a frightening place to be. Travelling solo, I was simultaneously a fish out of water & in familiar territory.
The very nature of taking on the world alone is to put yourself well & truly out of your comfort zone. You are in unfamiliar surroundings, with people you don’t know, doing things that are not routine. Can you get any further out of your comfort zone than that? As a result, your zone expands & not being comfortable becomes the norm.
A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there” – John Assaraf
I’ll be honest, some people who cross your path may want to rob, con or cause you harm. There are many tips I have picked up through the years to help keep you safer. Travel opens your eyes to the worst, but most importantly, the best of human behaviour. Most people want you to see the beauty that their country has to offer.
The kindness of strangers is endless, & ever-present when you are solo. There seems to be a part of human nature that is compelled to help. When you are a woman travelling alone & things don’t go right, you will be amazed who steps forward in your moment of need.
Even when I’m not wanting assistance, travelling solo I connect more with the locals. Anyone who serves me dinner, catches my eye on a bus, shows the tiniest bit of interest is fair game. I try to strike up a conversation & get a recommendation. Often fantastic & off the beaten path.
I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” – Tennessee Williams
Making new friends
One of the huge benefits of travelling alone is that you meet more people generally. It sometimes sounds counterintuitive, but I can genuinely say that when I am solo, I speak to more individuals & make stronger connections. As I result I have developed some lifelong friends. You are also often mixing with an international community, building friendships across the globe. What better way to travel than to see a friendly face for a drink, dinner or even stay with them for a few days when you’re next in their hometown?
Here’s to the nights that turn into mornings and the friends that turn into family.” – Unknown
Cliched though it sounds, solo travel really does give you space to “find yourself”. I should know, I’ve found me twice! It allows you time to stop, to breathe & to reassess. What is in your life, what do you want there & where do you want it to go next? You get a chance to face up to the big questions & time to find the answers. There is power in the strength of being alone & enjoying it. You learn to be selfish with your time & attention. To focus on what you want & only that. To organise your day, your week & the rest of your life accordingly. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?
To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde
Learn about your capabilities
Through the constant challenge & self-reliance, comes an opportunity to learn what you are truly capable of. And I guarantee you will surprise yourself! When you get into scrapes on the journey (& I have had many), you are given no choice but to get yourself out of them. You learn to trust strangers & depend on your gut instinct. It is rarely wrong. It’s empowering & comes with a self-belief that you never knew you were capable of.
If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Alva Edison
All of this has an impact on your mindfulness & therefore your wellbeing. Just to sit alone with your thoughts as you watch the ebb & flow of life in a café is a magical opportunity. I can sit for hours on a bus, listening to people talking in a language I don’t understand. You can learn a lot about their culture by just observing. The benefit of solo travel is not needing to worry about anyone else, their mood, their conversation, their plans. Writing, reading, digitally detoxing. Tune in & listen to your mind & your body. It’s all good for the soul!
You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” – Wayne Dyer
Go your own way
In essence, travelling alone does not make for a cheaper trip, especially in a world of single supplements. Travelling with another person allows you to split the costs of many things. However, have you been in a situation where you are happy to go for budget accommodation while your friend has a certain expectation of luxury? Or when you fancy a treat, but your travelling companion is on a strict budget? For dinner, when there are 2 of you, it’s tempting to have that extra drink or go to that nice restaurant you spotted. Travelling alone you can stay, eat & do what you like. No stress. No guilt. Just enjoy.
Compromise brings harmony to both, happiness to none.”― Amit Kalantri
I have a language rule when I arrive anywhere. Learn how to say: Yes, No, Please, Thank you, numbers 1 – 5 & usually the words for beer or wine! For me, this is the minimum I can get away with. I am always struck by how lucky I am that so many people speak English (& the arrogance we have to assume that everyone does). Beyond that my language skills are limited to basic Spanish & schoolgirl French (& my school days are a long way behind me!).
But you don’t have to speak the language to communicate. Human beings are genius at that. On my first ever solo trip, I spent 2 weeks in Italy. Pointing, gesturing, a ready smile & the ability to laugh at myself took me a very long way.
When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
If there is one thing that travelling alone makes you an expert at, it’s problem-solving. After all, who else will do it for you? If you don’t know the information, you learn how to find it. Ask for advice. Don’t speak the language? Find someone who speaks yours & ask them. No one speaks it? Gesture wildly, point a lot & attempt their language. Do it with a smile & you will be amazed at how far it goes. You will get to where you want, have what you were hoping for…or not & that will be a learning experience. You will have an adventure & a story to tell.
No matter how long it takes, or how many people it involves in helping you…trust me, it will happen!
To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?” – Jim Rohn
One of the benefits of travelling alone is that you are responsible for everything! That can be daunting at first. But if something doesn’t work out, you don’t feel guilty about inflicting it on anyone else. It’s your own fault… move on both literally & figuratively. Alternatively, if you find a gem, there’s nobody to congratulate but yourself. Take responsibility for your actions, learn from your mistakes, celebrate your triumphs.
The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.” – Hal Elrod
And you ask, What if I fall?”, Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson
So, I hope that all of these benefits of travelling alone have convinced you to go for it. If you still need more confidence building then why not check out all the resources at the amazing Empowerful? Empowerful is an always-on festival focused on Safety, Wellness, and Sexual Wellbeing for Solo Female Travelers. You’ll access 30+ sessions, 35+ experts and over 50 hours of learning via masterclasses, panel discussions, and inspiring interviews to help you travel solo safely. What more can you ask for? It doesn’t have to be far from home at first, or for very long. But I hope my argument has been compelling enough to persuade you to face any fears you have & choose your freedom.
I rest my case!
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