5 Deep Reasons For Traveling Solo

5 Deep Reasons For Traveling Solo

Why traveling alone may be the best thing for you
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Freedom

I think it's hard to understand what freedom really means until it is experienced. It’s one of those terms that have been tossed around so much growing up that it almost loses meaning. As a teenager, we think being an adult is having freedom. As an adult, we realize that getting out of debt (loans/mortgages) will be the real freedom. Then as we age we assume with retirement comes ultimate freedom. Yet true freedom is separate from all of these. True freedom is having not only the ability but the will to make one's own choices. As cliche as this may be there is no greater feeling than knowing the entire world is in the palm of your hands. Some people find that the weight of daily decisions is daunting but for me it was enlightening. For the first time, I could do what I wanted to do for the sake of me.

While backpacking Europe it was entirely up to me when and where I went. I could interact with people or I could sit back and relax. I could catch the next train out of the country or I could post up for just a few more days to soak in the culture. If a stranger and I became friends then I could decide to tag along with them or part ways. It really did not matter, every choice was my choice.


Self-acknowledgment

This is by far the most beneficial part of traveling solo. I learned more about myself through traveling by myself than anyone could ever have taught me. It’s the moments when you are lost in another country with no place to go that you really learn who you are as a person and how much of your character is actually you and not just a projection. When you are with multiple people who you are is different than who you are when you are with one person—it varies much more when you know these people. When you meet people you don't know and are surrounded by people who don't know who you are you, it allows for a much clearer view of who you are.

The best way to understand this is to picture yourself with your most outgoing friend. The friend that you have the most fun with because you never know what will happen next. You also become this fun, outgoing, adventurous person when you are with them. It is hard to realize how much of your outgoing fun personality is because of them or yourself? Even if you are naturally an outgoing person being with someone else who is outgoing just spring shots this trait it out of you. When you are with people for the first time who you can really see who you really are and how you really act without the influence of your friends.


Spontaneity

When you travel solo it is much easier for you to be spontaneous. You don’t have to consult with your travel buddy. You can do whatever YOU want to do. That is one of the most exciting parts of traveling. Each morning you wake up you have no clue what lies ahead. You jump in the shower, eat your breakfast and head out the door. A whole unknown world lies ahead of you.

I think one of my favorite examples of spontaneity is when I was in Vienna, Austria. I was nearing the end of my travels and I can feel myself wearing out. Several weeks of constant change can be exhausting. I told myself the only thing I wanted to do was stay at the hostel. I didn’t want to adventure. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I just wanted to do nothing for once. I sat down in the lobby and before I knew it I overheard a group of travelers talking about going to the supermarket. I realized through bits and parts of the conversation that they were all strangers just looking to make a trip to the market together. As they were leaving I had to make a decision. Join them or stay in. Before I had time to think it through I asked them if they would mind if I joined them. Next thing I knew we were at the supermarket planning for a picnic in a park where a giant projector would be playing a movie.

I went from sitting alone in a hostel lobby to being in a supermarket planning a picnic with strangers. We broke bread. We drank. We laughed as we tried to figure out what this Austrian soap opera was about. We talked until the food disappeared and the wine ran dry. We enjoyed each other's stories. This is the sort of thing that can only happen to a traveler. Just picture your reaction if someone overheard you say that you were headed to the supermarket and they asked to join? You would think that they are mad! Who is this weirdo who wants to go grocery shopping with me? But to a traveler, this is just another day in the life of spontaneity!






Comfort Zone

Somewhere in the back of my head, I remember hearing “change begins at the end of your comfort zone”. It was one of those random things that stayed in my head but never had any actual importance. It wasn’t until I decided to step outside of my comfort zone that I realized the implications. When you are comfortable you are content. When you are content you are not looking to change anything. Some of the times of my life happened when I was doing something for the first time. I mean hell, my first time on a plane by myself was a one-way ticket to Europe. I think that might be the definition of leaving my comfort zone.


I found it is much easier to step outside of my comfort zone when I was alone. There is something about when you travel with others that you focus on what they want just as much as you. It is very easy to use this as an excuse for not trying something new. I think traveling is not just about what you see, but what you do. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?



Friendships

When people think of traveling they think of adventure. They see it as a feat or an accomplishment. They don’t realize what makes it a life changing event is not what you see or where you’ve been but the people you have met. Humans are inherently social creatures. We can not function properly without social contact. Traveling solo heightens the need for this interaction. At the same time our social guards are let down allowing for friendships to be made in a blink of an eye.

Normally we are surrounded by people that know us and that we know. This makes it very difficult to let our guard down and meet new people. In the back of our head, we are aware that if we reveal something personal about yourself that it may get back to someone else you may know. However, when we travel this fear does not exist. You know. You both know. That this may be temporary. That this is a 24-hour-friendship. You two, or three, or four, may have the best time of your life, have the best conversations, connect on an unbelievable level but know that this is only temporary. There is something about knowing that this friendship is temporary that allows for a deep connection. By the end of your time together you will have felt like you have known each other your whole life. You care for them as much as you would you friends and family. Not only will you remember what you saw and where you have been, but you will remember who you met for the rest of your life.


Anonymity

Being able to travel somewhere without the baggage of who you are can be uplifting for some. A lot of times people spend more time worrying about what people think of them then how they themselves feel. It is very difficult to learn who you are when you are focusing all your time on other people’s idea of you. Traveling solo allows for you to leave some of that behind. You can experiment with different “selves”. Now I am not saying go out there and be the next James Bond or pretend you are Madonna, but to take steps out of your normal tendencies. You can tell those jokes you always think of but never say. Take the lead and see who else follows. Decide to try something that you would never do at home like group dance lessons a hostel is offering.

The goal is not to come back a different person, but to come back with a deeper understanding of who you are. I lived abroad for four months. I traveled Europe for two months and lived and worked in Germany for another two. When I came back I felt like a different person. I still loved all the same things I loved before. I just felt more centered. I was more confident in my capabilities. I knew that when push came to shove I could survive. I don’t think I would have grown as much as I did if I traveled with my friends. I strongly believe that everyone should travel solo at least once in their life. It doesn’t need to be a full-blown endeavor. Just head to a city you've never been. A state you’ve always wanted to see. Just go!


If you are interested in reading more about my travels click here to see my blog.

Cover Image Credit: I Am Nikon

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8 Struggles Of Being 21 And Looking 12

The struggle is real, my friends.
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“You'll appreciate it when you're older." Do you know how many times my mom has told me this? Too many to count. Every time I complain about looking young that is the response I get. I know she's right, I will love looking young when I'm in my 40s. However, looking young is a real struggle in your 20s. Here's what we have to deal with:

1. Everyone thinks your younger sister or brother is the older one.

True story: someone actually thought my younger sister was my mom once. I've really gotten used to this but it still sucks.

2. You ALWAYS get carded.

Every. Single. Time. Since I know I look young, I never even bothered with a fake ID my first couple of years of college because I knew it would never work. If I'm being completely honest, I was nervous when I turned 21 that the bartender would think my real driver's license was a fake.

3. People look at your driver's license for an awkward amount of time.

So no one has actually thought my real driver's license is fake but that doesn't stop them from doing a double take and giving me *that look.* The look that says, “Wow, you don't look that old." And sometimes people will just flat out say that. The best part is this doesn't just happen when you're purchasing alcohol. This has happened to me at the movie theater.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things People Who Look 12 Hate Hearing

4. People will give you *that look* when they see you drinking alcohol.

You just want to turn around and scream “I'M 21, IT'S LEGAL. STOP JUDGING ME."

5. People are shocked to find out you're in college.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had a shocked expression on their face after I told them I'm a junior in college I could pay off all of my student loan debt. It's funny because when random people ask me how school is going, I pretty much assume they think I'm in high school and the shocked look on their face when I start to talk about my college classes confirms I'm right.

6. For some reason wearing your hair in a ponytail makes you look younger.

I don't understand this one but it's true. Especially if I don't have any makeup on I could honestly pass for a child.

7. Meeting an actual 12-year-old who looks older than you.

We all know one. That random 12-year-old who looks extremely mature for her age and you get angry because life isn't fair.

8. Being handed a kids' menu.

This is my personal favorite. It happens more often than it should. The best part of this is it's your turn to give someone a look. The look that says, "You've got to be kidding me".

Looking young is a real struggle and I don't think everyone realizes it. However, with all the struggles that come with looking young, we still take advantage of it. Have you ever gone to a museum or event where if you're under a certain age you get in for a discounted price? Yeah? Well, that's when I bet you wish you were us. And kids' meals are way cheaper than regular meals so there have definitely been a couple times when I've kept that kids' menu.

So, all in all, it's not the worst thing in the world but it's definitely a struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Jenna Collins

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Solo Travel As An Extrovert Is Not Easy

Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

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Life has a funny way of revealing itself and after my mom ditched me on our mother-daughter trip to Taiwan, I found myself on a plane headed to a country I had never visited where I didn't know a soul. (Disclaimer: I have relatives in Taiwan but had never met them prior to the trip.) I was excited for the adventure that awaited, fear not setting in of how difficult it would be not to just travel in a foreign country where I didn't speak or read any Mandarin beyond the very, very basics (Literally my vocabulary consisted of 10 simple words/phrases, one of which was the word for "apple" which isn't that helpful for getting around. I have since picked up a few more phrases.), but also be alone with just myself for company.

So much of who we are is influenced by the people around us. A large part of our identity comes the communities we choose to be part of and how we interact with others. But who are we when no one's looking? Who am I without the pressure of other people around me?

I am an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. It's not that I can't spend time by myself; I just prefer to be in the company of others even if we aren't always interacting the entire time. My best friend and I will even do independent activities together. (Once when we were hanging out, she was knitting and I was doing a puzzle. I swear we don't act like grandmas all the time.)

Although an extrovert, I'm still a pretty independent person who doesn't like to rely on others for help. But traveling alone in Taiwan, I don't have much of a choice. I'm forced to learn to navigate public transport myself and somehow survive with the basic English that Taiwanese locals know.

Learning to travel alone has been an emotional and difficult journey as this is the first time I've been on my own for this long. Although lonely at times, I've realized that loneliness is a mental state of mind. There is the Sanskrit saying, "Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha moksayoh" which translates to "As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind." My mind determines my emotional state of being and perspective! Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

Through solo travel, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own company which has been the biggest challenge. I was never an only child, I've always had a roommate in college, and even when I study, I go to public spaces like coffee shops so I can be surrounded by people. I don't know what to do when it's just me and my thoughts all the time. (Especially during meals. Should I appear busy on my phone like all the other single people around me?)


Because when you're traveling alone, you're in charge. You have control. You can change the itinerary from moment to moment without anyone's approval. No one's holding you accountable. Spontaneity? Let's go. You can build barriers but you can also tear them down. It's fun, it's exhilarating. But it's also scary. And unpredictable.


Would I go on another solo expedition in the future? Preferably not as traveling is way more enjoyable when you have someone to share the experience with. It's the people, not the place who make all the difference on a vacation. Yet I do believe solo travel is an experience that everyone should embark on at some point in their life (to grow and learn more about yourself).


This trip has taught me to find spontaneity in the fear and excitement and I've learned to embrace discomfort and unpredictability. To travel with not just my mind and logic but my heart. There are so many unique experiences, if you overthink too much, you'll lose your chance.

I've found that when I am alone, I become more vulnerable and open to meeting new people and having more offbeat experiences. I say yes with zero hesitation. Certainly, there are friends I made, hikes I climbed, streets I meandered, and epiphanies I had that wouldn't have transpired had I been with my mom or a group of people.


Traveling alone, I am now more confident in myself and am ready for the next wave that life throws me. Because I've learned that once you overcome the fear of being by yourself, getting lost (which you will), or accidentally eating meat as a vegan because you didn't understand the signage (I'm sorry!), the world in all its vast infinity can be pretty great. And there are some things that you can only learn on solo travel.

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