You have no idea how much you’re capable of until you have to do it alone.
For my entire life, and I assume this is true for most people, I always traveled with my family or friends.
I mean, when are teenagers sent out on vacation by themselves? Traveling like that is fun and it’s a great opportunity to make memories with the people you love, but it’s rarely truly challenging. I can’t recall a time on a family vacation where I thought, “Wow I am being so challenged right now! What an experience!” You’re a member of a cohesive crew and do things and get things done together. You also always have someone to do things with. Someone makes the dinner reservations. Someone plans the day trip. Someone calls the hotels. Someone does this. Someone does that. Doing things alone, planning a trip, eating in a restaurant, going on a hike, whatever it may be, seems really difficult and awkward.
It’s the fishbowl effect, where you’re convinced everyone is looking at you, maybe feeling sorry for you that you’re alone. You almost want to yell “Hey! I chose to be alone! I have friends!” But, something really valuable I learned is that no one around you really cares what you’re doing. No one feels bad for you, no one is tweeting a picture of you Steven Glansberg-ing in a local cafe. It’s incredibly empowering to get things done by yourself: go out into the world on your own and realize that you could do it, after all.
For once, you get to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it.
I absolutely love my friends and family. Okay, now that I’ve issued that disclaimer, I’m free to say that sometimes it’s really frustrating traveling with loved ones. On every single vacation I can remember, there’s at least a handful of examples of outings, restaurants, or events I was forced into that I was not crazy about. I have so much in common with these people, but our interests still vary drastically, and therefore so do the things we like to do on vacation. Enter: traveling alone.
Imagine not compromising your trip at any point. Every day I wake up and do exactly what it is that I want to do. I don’t have to consider anyone’s feelings or incorporate some exhibit or restaurant or landmark into my day if I don’t want to. If I want to sleep in, I can. If I want to go meet people in town, I can. If I want to go to the beach, I can. It’s incredibly liberating to have no commitments, no one you’re accountable to aside from yourself. It’s a feeling you literally cannot experience if you’re traveling with anybody else.
Clear your head, for real this time.
When you’re able to be away from home and clear your head, you’re able to think clearly and uninhibitedly about the life you’ll soon return to, wherever home may be for you. Distancing yourself from your reality gives you perspective on things that you cannot possibly get while surrounded by people and things that are familiar. When you’re alone, you have the chance to leave your life behind for a beat and finally disconnect yourself from your life, from who you are back home, and really find clarity. Maybe your job sucks and you should really pursue whatever it is you’re passionate about, maybe things aren’t really working out with your boyfriend or girlfriend but you’ve been to scared to change things, or maybe you’ll realize how amazing your life is, and how grateful you are for that annoying younger sister. Either way, good or bad, you’ll be able to have such pure unadulterated thoughts about your life that you wouldn’t possibly have gotten if you had hit the road with your bestie.
You can FINALLY disconnect (like you’ve always sworn you will).
On the heels of clearing your head, traveling alone allows you to virtually disconnect. Try and ignore your millenially-ingrained FOMO and remember that your friends aren’t going to have THAT much fun without you. You don’t need to stay updated on everyone’s Snapchat stories or scroll through your Twitter feed. You’re traveling! There’s so much to see! So, throw your phone on airplane mode and go out and see it. From time to time you’ll be tempted to post an Instagram or some type of status update, and that’s fine, but let your solo excursion be a time where you allow yourself to unplug. Read a book in a cafe, lay in a hammock and listen to music all day, sit in a cabana on the beach, go for a run, write in a journal. There’s no shortage of things to do, people to meet, and places to go, and I advise you not to miss out on those things because you were too busy taking a Buzzfeed quiz about “What Fruit Are You Based on Your Zodiac Sign?” Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows how important and beneficial it is to disconnect, but no one does it. When is the last time you saw a twenty-something without their phone in their hand? Bring a camera, buy a map, and leave your phone in your hotel (or hostel, or Airbnb, or whatever).
You’ll learn how much you adore the people at home.
This sounds so painfully cliche, but distance makes the heart grow fonder. While being away, you’ll think so fondly of the awesome people you’ll eventually be returning to. Yep, even your sister who steals your clothes and your dad who leaves you 5 minute voicemails solely to ask you to call him back. Traveling alone has taught me so many things about myself and kept me so busy, that I almost didn’t realize I was learning how much I love home.