Whether it's out of necessity or by choice, traveling alone is a great way to discover the world - and yourself. If you've never done it before - maybe because it's just not your personality, you're a little nervous, or you just don't think it'll be that much fun - here are ten reasons why you should travel alone - at least once and, ideally, once in a while.
1. You can mentally recharge
Whether you've been overwhelmed at work, struggling with some personal stuff, or you're an introvert that thrives on having some "me"-time, traveling solo gives you the perfect opportunity to get away from everything and be alone with your thoughts.
2. You'll notice more
Often times traveling with others, especially in groups, keeps you engaged in great conversation and activities; the flip side to this is that you can be distracted from what's happening around you. Without the comfort and distraction of family/friends you're bound to notice more of your surroundings. You'll appreciate even the smallest things - the sights, the smells, the sounds, and, most importantly, how all of it makes you feel.
3. You'll become more in touch with your instincts
There's no doubt that traveling alone requires extra caution, especially when it comes to safety and security. You can't rely on others to watch your back. And although you'll come across the occasional kind stranger, you'll learn that you have to trust your gut when it comes to certain situations. Is walking alone at night through this neighborhood a good idea? Is this a legitimate taxi company or just a strange guy trying to exploit tourists? You'll become more in tune with your instincts and do what's in the best interest of your well being.
4. You'll learn how to problem solve creatively
No one to take your pictures for you? No problem! Selfie sticks were made for solo travel. So were self timers and remotes. No one to help you carry your suitcase around, or watch your stuff for you while you run to the bathroom? No problem! Solo travel will help you learn to not only pack lighter (so you don't kill your back in the process), but to pack smarter. Because let's face it, do you really need to bring a blow dryer, curling iron, AND flatiron??
5. You'll indulge in your hearts desire
When I travel alone one of my favorite things is being able to do what I want, when I want - without having to worry about other's plans (or budgets or preferences). For a short period, I get to be a little bit selfish. And when you're in a beautiful place, that's great - because you get to do and see everything you want, as much as you want. Stuff your face on the best pasta in town; lounge out by the pool until you're burnt to a crisp; wander the forest until you're sure you're lost. Indulge - just because you can.
6. You'll learn to stand up for yourself
Travel can be overwhelming, with missed flights or difficult encounters with unfriendly people - that's true whether you're traveling alone or in a group. The difference when you're solo is that you have no one to stand up for you but yourself. Even if you don't think you do well in stressful situations or you shy away from confrontation, you'll be surprised at how well you can stand up for yourself when push comes to shove. That's not to say you have to be rude or overly assertive; just simply how to strategically position yourself in situations so that you can make the most of your experience.
7. You'll feel accomplished and empowered
You know how people say that travel changes you? Well this is a perfect example. One of the best things I've experienced when traveling alone is the overwhelming sense of accomplishment. You'll be proud of the things you didn't think you could do alone; even small things - from climbing to the edge of Lion's Head (pictured above) to ordering your meal entirely in French. This sense of empowerment will carry with you throughout your entire trip and ultimately when you return home.
8. You'll learn to laugh at yourself
You might think that traveling alone means you'll laugh less than when you travel with others -- but you'd be surprised at how often you can find humor in yourself and the everyday things that you begin to notice. Those embarrassing moments that you would usually share with friends are still (if not) more embarrassing when you're alone -- and there's nothing you can do but laugh it off. Like the one time you couldn't figure out how to operate the Balinese ATM machine only to realize you actually needed to insert your debit card first. Or the time you slid backwards down a restaurant ramp in front of a crowd of people because your sandals had no traction against the smooth marble surface. Or that time you had explosive diarrhea (... in the middle of a rural village in Uganda... with mice running across your feet... on your birthday).
9. You'll become a storyteller
When you learn to laugh at yourself you'll also learn how to share those moments with those you wish were there at the time. It can sometimes feel as though you're bragging or showing off but in reality you'll find that people will be so interested to hear about your experience and eager to re-live it with you as you retell your favorite parts.
10. You'll reflect on yourself
The entire experience of traveling alone, from getting through airport security to deadlifting your 15 lb suitcase up a six-story hostel with no elevator, will teach you something new about yourself. Maybe you're more adventurous than you realize; maybe your street smarts are sharper than you gave yourself credit for; or maybe you realize that your 9-to-5 isn't really what you want out of life. Whatever it is, you're guaranteed to learn something new about you. Sometimes you need to literally get out of your comfort zone in order to remember who you are, what you love, and what you want in life.