Confidently strolling into Paris’ famed Moulin Rouge, I approach the attendant:
“Table for one please!”
“Just you, ma’am?”
“Oh yes.” I cheerfully reply.
Some might find it odd I went to one of the most romantic cities in the world by myself, and then proceeded to take myself on a date to a place that many dream of going while with a significant other. But in the last year of travel, I found myself to be excellent company. So off I went to Paris to treat myself! No one to hold me back - a weekend getaway in the City of Love.
Frequently the trips I take are with other people. Nothing brings me greater happiness than sharing in the joy of discovery with someone I love. Want to get your partner as excited to travel as you? Check out how!
After all they say the quality of your close relationships is what determines the quality of your life. And nothing brings people closer than shared experiences.
When you are on the road experiencing new cultures and having exciting adventures, it’s inevitable you’ll get close to whoever you’re traveling with… but like many people who embark on a long trip around the world, sometimes I travel solo.
So who do I have to get close to, then?
And I am so glad I did.
Here are the top 10 things traveling solo has taught me:
1. My Likes and Dislikes
As a chronic people pleaser who always wants everyone to be happy (maybe you can relate?) it was a strange but enlightening experience when I took my first solo trip through Europe.
For a brief period of time it was only me. There was no one else to look after. No other stream of opinions to take into account. I woke up and did exactly what I wanted to do each day. My itineraries were focused solely on how I wanted to travel and what I liked. No one was there to rush me along. If I wanted to just sit in awed admiration before a painting in London’s National Gallery for a length of time well, I could do just that.
It made me stop and think about the kind of travel I prefer. My likes and dislikes were more clearly defined and developed. My sense of self became stronger.
When no one else is calling the shots, what do you like doing just for you?
2. Being alone doesn’t have to be scary
It can do wonders for your self esteem when you realize you can look after yourself.
You can make your own decisions and solve your own problems.
Figuring things out on your own doesn’t have to be bad or scary. It can be rewarding and enlightening. In fact, planning your own itineraries and deciding how to spend your time can be a form of self discovery.
Consciously choosing to act bravely can be difficult at first but soon it will become much easier.
Live bravely and courageously. We don’t need to fear being alone.
Perhaps you always get lost and laugh it off by saying “Oh I’m just terrible at directions” or “Oh I’m awful at figuring out public transportation.” I did that for years.
But when I found myself alone in the Middle East surrounded by only Arabic speakers and I needed to travel across several cities to catch a flight… you better believe I learned. I stopped making excuses and managed to get there.
You stop saying “I can’t” and you just do it. One way or another, you figure it out and your self-confidence grows.
You really learn to trust in your own abilities.
I no longer reinforce the idea that I’m bad at something or claim that I’m unable to learn. If millions of other people have figured out the metro station in Istanbul, then there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to figure it out too. Just watch me figure it out.
This new-found confidence has spread into all areas of my life. Check out how my newfound self confidence has even made me a better friend, confidant and gal pal.
4. I enjoy my own company
I’ve always been a social butterfly and spent an obsessive amount of time with my friend group. It wasn’t until I started traveling solo, I found that I enjoy my own company just as much. I mean, I always considered myself “fun” but hey! I’m even fun to hang out with when there is no one else around! Just me, myself and I, having a great time.
Before traveling solo, the thought of going to dinner or a movie alone seemed weird to me. But now, I am comfortable (and even love) doing things like that from time to time!
5. You’re never actually alone
Whenever you travel solo you always wind up making friends. It’s inevitable.
People are fascinated when they see you traveling alone. They will want to hear your stories and get to know you.
You’ll be surprised how many kind souls will introduce themselves, help you when you’re lost, guide you around a new city, or invite you to join in on their fun!
I’ve been invited to multiple weddings from new friends I met abroad, drank beer with strangers and gone on spontaneous dinner dates with people I only just met! I’ve spent entire days exploring with new friends and wound up totally changing my plans to continue traveling with them. You might start your journey solo but you won’t be alone for long.
6. If you’re bored, it’s your own fault
Some people might claim that traveling solo seems lonely or boring. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, long-term solo travel might be. But to shake up your routine, try something new and get a much needed dose of adventure - a solo trip is ideal!
Besides, we live in a world of endless possibilities. Every day you could wake up and start a different project, read a different book or explore somewhere new.
If you’re claiming that there is nothing stimulating around, then you have become ungrateful. Time to practice a little gratitude my friend!
Take out a piece of paper and write down ten of your greatest blessings. When you’re done, make a list of ten things you want to accomplish and get to work. There is no reason to ever squander our most valuable resource, our time, with the lame excuse of being bored.
Go find something amazing to do instead. You won’t regret it.
7. Stay Present
It’s easy when we are alone at a restaurant or an event to pull out our phones and mindlessly scroll social media. It feels safer than confidently sitting alone and leaving ourselves open to interactions.
But I urge you to stay fully engaged in the moment. Be observant. Notice things. Watch all the miracles of the world happening right before your eyes.
Happiness is in the present moment, in the “here and now”.
Stay present while traveling and notice the exponential difference that it makes in your life.
8. You can grant your own wishes
If you’ve always dreamed of going abroad, you can. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, there are ways! And even if your friends can’t get the time off work, you can go yourself. (And have just as much fun!)
There is no reason to sit around waiting for someone else to make your wishes a reality. There is absolutely a way and you are the only person you need to put the plans into action. Get to work!
9. The Media falsely makes us afraid of “others”
Especially in the United States, the media makes you think everyone who isn’t like you is bad, scary or can’t be trusted.
We are told that traveling to other countries is unsafe. But these opinions are being formed by people who haven’t even traveled.
Ask someone who has actually been to Egypt if they felt safe. Most likely the answer is yes. After some initial culture shock, I loved my time alone in Egypt and definitely plan to return.
Check some tips on how to stay safe while traveling solo so you can enjoy your adventure to the max and don't let your fears overshadow your experiences.
10. Travel isn’t always pretty, but it does change you for the better
You might get lost (a lot) or sick abroad. Maybe you will feel homesick, sad or lonely sometimes.
But maybe, you’ll embark on a journey that changes you for the better, forces you to grow and develop as a person. You will meet people from all walks of life, create lasting friendships, maybe even fall in love a few times.
Adventure awaits you if you’re brave enough to start.
See you out there in the world!