Thursday, October 2, 2008

5 Benefits of Traveling Alone

Not that you needed any reasons to go it alone, but here are some reminders or insights that might give you the push you need!

1) FREEDOM!!
Think of the open road, the wind in your hair. You get such a wonderful sense of freedom when you travel alone.
You can't hear the phone ring or the kids crying. Hopefully, work can't track you down and bother you. If you take a vacation alone, there should be no ties, chains or tethers to stop you. Enjoy the freedom.

2) Confidence Boost!
Traveling alone really helps to boost your confidence and I think women need this a lot more than men do. Often we (as well as society) tell ourselves we're too small or not strong enough, not smart enough or any number of negative things.
When you have to rely on yourself, you can see just how capable and resourceful you are. Even if you're the type of person who is always prepared, fearless and in control, travel will always push you that little bit more to remind you how amazing you really are.
If you're a little scared before leaving and think you might not be able to handle it, sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other is a challenge, but go slowly and the confidence will build. Remember that life doesn't put anything in front of you that you're unable to handle. Keep your thoughts in the present moment and trust that you can handle anything that comes your way.

The last time I went off by myself, I was reminded of a quote by Goethe - "the sooner you trust yourself, the sooner you know how to live." I felt I needed to remember that always, so I got it tattooed to my wrist. Remembering to trust myself got me through the times I was scared and in doubt. I came back with more confidence than ever.

3) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
We're all creatures of habit and travel takes us through all sorts of new and different climates, cultures, timezones, food and schedules - we have no choice but to take a few chances here and there and try something new. The benefit of getting out of your comfort zone is that you, as above, gain more confidence and new skills. It helps you understand what you really like and what you hate. From there you can learn what you want and don't want, in general.
You have to give up control and old habits and learn a new way sometimes. In the end, it will make you more flexible and adaptable in life. Great skills to put on a curriculum vitae! Don't ever underestimate the value of travel for your career and education.

4) Meet More People
A great benefit to travel is meeting new people, especially locals. Often they have tips for the best restaurants and places to see. They can also help you avoid scams. (Just be careful who you become friends with.)
As a loner, it's easier to meet other lone travelers or couples. Often people take pity on us (they don't have to!) and think we're lonely, so they'll invite us solo chickies to join them. (There are also times when you will truly be lonely and be more than happy to join others!)
If you take a tour as a singleton, you may be matched up with other singles for seating arrangements and such. No matter which way you meet people, I simply find it's easier to do it when you're not already with a group of friends (people tend to get cliquish and exclusionary) because it's less intimidating for the other person you're meeting.

Also, if you think you're the shy type at home, you might be surprised how you open up when you travel. I'm not the social butterfly type at home, but when I travel I become Ms. Friendly and talk to everyone. I just find it fun to get all sorts of info and perspectives on where I'm
going.

The other benefit of meeting travel friends is that you can dump/avoid them the minute you want to be alone again. I know that sounds mean, but it's true. You don't owe them anything and you don't have to keep in contact or ever see them again if you don't want to.
On the upside, you might meet someone great and have a free place to stay the next time you visit ;)

5) No Compromising!
This one is probably the best - you don't have to compromise with anyone. You have an excuse to be selfish and do only what YOU want to do.
You can go at your own pace or change plans on a whim. Want to sleep in your hotel room all day? No one will make you feel guilty for "wasting" the day or not enjoying the sites.
You don't have to fight with anyone to choose a restaurant; you can eat when, where and what you want.
You don't have to go see sights you get care to see or pay entrance fees for things you're not really interested in.
If you want to buy a strange and overpriced souvenir, no one can talk you out of it.
You don't have any travel partners you have to worry about slowing you down or getting sick or injured.
If you want to sing loudly in your car or walk around naked in your hotel room, you can.

Traveling alone is a time of complete indulgence, hedonism and selfishness, but for balance in our lives, we need that every once and a while :)

So go take on the world alone! Relax, unwind, unplug and have fun!
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