My solo travels started when I was studying in New Delhi. During my stay as a paying guest in Munirka, weekends used to annoy me. I did not want my weekends to be about just washing clothes and getting bored. Every day on the way to my PG I cross Rao Travels, a shop that had posters of destinations they covered. I dreamt of experiencing those places first hand. One day, I finally gathered enough courage and entered the shop. I told myself, I would just enquire and not decide immediately. I had butterflies in the stomach thinking about the possibilities of seeing new places. The guy at the counter explained about their tours to Rajasthan covering Jaipur, Jaisalmer and finally the deserts! I checked my purse slyly and asked if they had a seat for me next weekend. He said they had. I bought it. That was the start of my solo trips and by the time I completed my studies and left New Delhi, I had covered all the North Indian destinations that was worth a dekko.
Till now, I have travelled to 34 countries in three continents and have not had enough yet. This led me to write about the positives of traveling solo. I love traveling alone. Why? You are about to find out.
Traveling alone is supremely liberating. You can do whatever you want and whenever you want to without anyone breathing down your neck. There is nobody to judge you and your decisions. You do not have to adjust with other people’s time and habits. You go, check in to a hotel and follow your own itinerary. You may even decide not to go site-seeing and instead enjoy the hotel room and all the facilities the hotel has to offer. You can order room service, watch TV, read a book or just chill. And if it is available, you may even order in a spa therapy in your room!
2. Time Management
This is one of the best part of traveling alone. Once I went on a group tour offered by one of the best travel and tour companies. The list of countries, destinations to cover was interesting. I got allured in only to find out later what a waste of time and money it was. Managing a group of around 15 people was not easy even for the group guide. People were never on time and someone always had some issues regarding health, motion sickness and altitude. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to free myself from the group trip. I requested the company for a refund and went on my own trip. I took public transports, stayed in beautiful places that I came across and spent longer time wherever I wanted to. I was thrilled at the freedom of being at my own pace.
When you are on your own, every step is a decision you take. People like me, who are free-spirited and love to travel, take responsibility of their own actions. This is an empowering experience. It helps you to know yourself, your limitations and capabilities better. It makes you experimental yet responsible. It is a huge part of evolving into your true potential.
The moment you decide to travel alone, it automatically means you are ready to move out of your comfort zone. Nothing great happens when one is cocooned in their comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone is a huge confidence booster, especially when you follow through your solo travel adventure and get back home safe and sound. That is the time when you look back what you accomplished and feel good about yourself. My confidence quotient rises up every time I come back from my solo travels in a completely unknown place. It is such a liberating and satisfying feeling!
5. Sangha – Possibility to make new friends
One of the most fun part of solo travel is that you get to meet complete strangers and yet can bond with some of them. It is a strangely nice feeling when you meet someone completely new and realise that there’s so much in common between you two. I have made many friends during my solo travels who I know would remain friends for a lifetime. Being alone lets you observe people and connect with them as well.
A small example of how Maggi and I became friends. Maggi is girl I met in Shanghai. It was my first trip to mainland China all alone. I did not know a single word in Chinese and I am a vegetarian. I was there to attend an event representing my travel magazine. She was appointed as my interpreter. Regardless of where one is, girls everywhere are the same. Besides business, we also bonded over lunch, dinner and of course shopping. During my stay there, I got to know her as a person and she me. At the end of the ten days long event we parted. But our bond remained. We are still friends and do share our ups and downs with each other.
6. Learn – contemplate
Solo travel gives you lot of time to contemplate on many aspects of life. Your goals, relationships, career, objectives, life path and so on. I strongly believe that everyone should at least once in their lifetime go on a solo trip somewhere completely unknown. It lets you learn a lot about yourself first and then about life in general.
The more I travel alone, the more I realise how people are the same when it comes to their emotions. We all have the same emotions, we get hurt by the same reasons and we all crave for the same things in life regardless of our geographical locations. It somehow helps me feel more humane towards everyone around me.
7. Explore (on your own terms)
When you travel alone you can explore those things which wouldn’t have been possible had you travelled with company. Even when I travel with my best friend, I take a day off to explore on my own. I always need that personal space. That space allows me to explore things that attract me. To do this I should not not have to drag someone else against their will to go with me. I understand the importance of doing the things you want to do at a certain destination, especially when you are spending a lot of money to get there.
For instance, when I visited Amsterdam I not only wanted to go to Anne Frank’s house (author of the Diary of a Young Girl) but also wanted to visit all the places that still holds her history. My friend there was not interested in such an itinerary for a day. I went anyway. I wanted to get transported to Anne Frank’s time to understand better, how life had been for that brave little girl. I went to her school, the playground where she played (it has a statue of Anne now), the bookstore from where she bought her books and that diary, her old house and so on. Exploring Ann’s world has been one of my most cherishing experiences of solo travelling.
Self-care or self-love, we especially the women tend to ignore it big time. When you are travelling on your own, self-care becomes mandatory. Because you do not want to fall sick in a foreign land. You become more alert. your every sensory organs stay alert and in their best form. That is how the body works. When you are in a very comfortable environment, like your home, the senses are not so alert. You perform your daily routine on auto-pilot mode. But when you are in an unfamiliar environment, your body takes itself to its peak performing state. Moreover, in a new place, you want to stay fighting fit yourself. Therefore, you take care of yourself too.
9. Changed Perspective
Everything that is happening in your life is because of your perspective. Sometimes you need to step back and look at an event or happening as an outsider. Going away from the thick of things helps in getting the big picture. There is nobody to influence your thoughts. You can see any situation of life as a spectator. You can get newer perspective when you are left alone with your thoughts.
Talking of changed perspectives; solo travel also helps you to have fresh perspective on the place you are visiting. You may have a pre-conceived notion about a place before even visiting it. But it may change completely when you visit it. More about this later.
10. Be you
The best part about solo travel is, you can truly be YOU. Yes, I wrote it in caps because I cannot emphasise it enough. In our lives, we play our roles of being a son, daughter, friend, spouse and so on. In the process of playing so many roles, we more often, forget to be ourselves. Sometimes it becomes difficult to even identify our true selves. It gets lost somewhere in between those roles we play. Traveling alone is the best and perfect time to be yourself.
Take your backpack and go to your dream destination. Enrol in that Flamenco dance class you always wanted to if you are visiting Spain. You do not have to be a stage performer. Learn it for yourself. Enrol in that perfume making class if you are visiting Paris. Create your own fragrance. Live just for yourself for however short days you are travelling alone. Just for few days live for yourself, you owe it to you.