Many people are intimidated by the idea of traveling alone. They get so hung up on the fact that they are going to be somewhere they’ve never been that they completely lose faith in their own ability to do things alone. Think about this: on any given day, you probably drive, walk, or take public transportation to work on your own. You might do your grocery shopping or stop at Starbucks for a coffee or go for a run, all by yourself. When you think about it, traveling alone is really not that different from your average day. The only difference is the scenery and, of course, that instead of taking the train to work, you’re taking the train to something beautiful and unique that you’ve only see in pictures.
But traveling alone actually has a lot of benefits. Think about the last vacation you took with your family, friends, or significant other. Now think of all the times you were annoyed because you couldn’t agree on where to eat or you ended up spending time doing something you didn’t want to do. When you travel alone all those things don’t matter.
The single most important benefit to traveling alone is that you don’t have to compromise. I know that sounds like a bratty only child thing to say, but travel is expensive and most of us take very few vacations and they’re usually much shorter than we would like them to be. Why would you want to spend any of that time at a museum you don’t care about or on a tour you didn’t want to take? People who travel together have a hard time separating to seek out their own interests. So you invariably end up doing things on your vacation that you would have otherwise devoted less time to or skipped altogether. When you travel alone, your itinerary is yours to plan, modify, and experience as you see fit. You don’t have to be mindful of anyone else’s interests.
Another one of the benefits of traveling alone is that you can go at your own pace. Sometimes you have a lot of energy and you’re ready to go go go and see everything there is to see somewhere. Other times you’re jet lagged and tired and you want to go home. If you’re traveling with other people, you might end up staying out later than you wanted or kept walking after you developed blisters, just because you’re keeping up with the rest of the group. Conversely, when you’re traveling with others, you might be inclined to slow down to accommodate your friend who is tired, making you feel restless and anxious. When you’re on your own, you have no one to keep up with but you.
On a closely related note, when you travel alone you can wake up whenever you want. You never have to be up because of someone else’s alarm clock. You never have to sit around waiting for everyone else to wake up and get ready. If you’re the kind of person that wants to make the most of the day, you can wake yourself up early and get a start on the day without planning your shower around someone else. If on the other hand, you like to sleep in and wake up rested whenever your body wakes up, you can do that, too! No one is going to be there to stop you.
Because of all the aforementioned reasons, traveling alone also tends to be more relaxing. You don’t realize how much other people can stress you out until you have to travel with them. Less coordinating, less compromise, and less arguing means a better experience for you. Vacations almost never feel like vacation because they can be so hectic. Traveling alone is a good way to slow it down, go at a pace you’re comfortable with and really enjoy yourself.
One of the other advantages about traveling alone is that you are more likely to meet people wherever you’re visiting. When you travel with others, whether it’s a significant other or friends, you’re more likely to spend your time with only them. You’ll probably go to dinner with them, hang out with them at the bar and do sightseeing with them. That doesn’t leave much room for other people to enter into your circle. Traveling alone is a completely different experience. You might strike up a conversation with someone on the train or in line for a museum. You can talk to the bartender and see what life in that city is like for someone who lives and works there. You really never know who you’re going to run into. One of the most interesting people I ever met on a trip was in Oslo. I had gone alone and when I went into a particularly popular restaurant, there was nowhere to sit so the server sat me at a table with a young Norwegian gentleman. We got to talking and as it turns out, he had lived in Florida – where I’m from – for two years. What are the chances? We had a drink and bonded over the places we had in common. That’s the kind of experience that is more unique to a solo trip.
On a solo trip you can also enjoy other kinds of activities, like reading, writing and people-watching. You’re not forced to socialize every second of your vacation. You’re free to spend all your time with your favorite person in the world: yourself.