This past spring, I went to Florida alone for spring break. As someone who enjoys alone time just as much as being surrounded by friends, I knew I would love a week of just me, myself, and I. But I had yet to understand the incredible value of traveling solo. And though there are certainly many more things to learn in future solo travels, here are seven things I learned while traveling alone.
1. The world isn’t full of terrible people.
Between the news and TV shows, we are surrounded by information telling us all neighbors and strangers are either serial killers or kidnappers. This is not the case. The majority of people are not out to get you. You don’t need to be paraoid everywhere you go with everything you do. Most people are just like you. Everywhere I went, I met people willing to help me out— from strangers on the street to *gasp* Uber drivers. I am not saying you should hop in big white vans and invite strangers into your hotel room. Always be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut, and use common sense. But don’t go through life afraid to talk to people or go places because "Law and Order" told you every other person on the street has people shackled in their basement.
2. Uber drivers aren’t serial killers.
As someone from the middle of nowhere who watches "Law and Order," I was terrified to use Uber. I was convinced my first ride would be my last. The idea of sitting in the front seat of a stranger’s car went against all safety rules I had been taught growing up. But my first Uber driver was awesome, and so was my second, and my third, and every one that followed. And after paying $70 for a taxi ride home when the ride there was $23 with Uber, I never went back. You can learn a lot about a person in a 10-minute car ride, and it is amazing hearing tens of stories you wouldn't have otherwise. For every bad experience with Uber and Lyft, there are probably a thousand good ones.
3. Eating alone is the best.
When I was younger I was always insecure about being alone in public. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t have friends or that I was a loner. The older I got, the more I envied people who had the courage to go somewhere alone. After my first solo meal, I learned taking yourself to dinner is about as good as it gets. There is no one you have to carry a conversation with, no one to please. You go where you want when you want and order whatever you want. You can take your time, read a book or people watch, all without the pressures of entertaining someone else. Some of my favorite memories from my solo adventure started with, “Table for one, please.”
4. Having a hotel room to yourself is as awesome as it looks in the movies.
Much like having your own table at a restaurant, having your own room at a hotel is borderline magical. You can do what you want, when you want, how you want to. You can watch what you want on TV, read a book, dance around naked, order delivery and eat it all— all without worrying about (or sharing with) anyone else. You can be clean and organized, or not. You can sing in the shower, or not. After a long day of exploring, having a king sized bed all to yourself is the epitome of bliss.
5. Appreciate the silence.
For many people (especially millennials) silence is uncomfortable. We fill it with small talk, music, videos, and TV, anything to fill the silence. When traveling alone, I learned to embrace silence. I didn’t feel the need to drown it with music, television noise or by scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I embraced the moments when I was doing nothing and nothing was happening. I would sit with my thoughts, reflect, and appreciate the peace. Though it is nice to be entertained here and there, it is also important to be comfortable without distractions.
6. I am far more independent than I thought.
Usually, when traveling with family or friends, there is someone with you if you’re lost or don’t know how to do something. When traveling alone, you’re on your own. You have to find your way around airports, you have to book and cancel reservations on your own, you have to ask for directions and plan your own adventures. While this may sound intimidating at first, it is incredibly empowering when you realize you are more than capable of doing it all on your own. You gain a sense of independence you may have never felt before. There is nothing quite like mastering something that scares you.
7. Everyone should try traveling alone.
When I told friends and family I was planning a solo spring break trip, a few applauded, but many cringed and said they could never be alone for so long. Though it may sound intimidating (and maybe boring), I bet even the most extroverted person could enjoy a trip alone. There is a lot to learn about yourself and others when you aren’t distracted by a traveling partner or group. I highly recommend taking at least one solo trip— even if it is just a day or weekend trip to a local park—and see what you can learn from traveling alone.