Right before I left for study abroad, I challenged myself to travel alone. This might sound crazy, but hear me out. I was nervous at first, but honestly, traveling alone is probably the best thing I could have possibly done!
So much of study abroad in the media focuses on going to exotic places with a group of pals, but nobody talks about all of the great things you can get from traveling by yourself. I learned a ton from traveling by myself, and for that reason I highly recommend it to everyone. Here are some of the amazing perks you can only get from traveling alone:
1. Boost your navigation skills!
Before coming abroad, my mom would always make fun of my navigation skills. I was bad at giving directions, I had a hard time orienting myself properly, and in general I just sucked at getting from point A to point B.
However, when you’re in a new place all alone, the only person you have to rely on making sure you get to the right place is yourself! Even though I was pretty bad at navigating when I got to Sheffield at first, I knew that in order to *survive* and properly explore I needed to figure out how to get places by myself. Traveling alone forced me to become a better navigator, and I really am thankful for it! Now, you can drop me in (almost) any place with a map and I can get to where I need to be.
2. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone.
If you ever wondered why I only recently started putting photos of myself in blog posts, it’s because I used to get nervous to ask strangers to take my photo. I love taking pictures, but I always felt super insecure about posing for them myself. When I was traveling Amsterdam by myself, though, I somehow put all of that anxiety aside and successfully asked strangers to take pictures for me. Long story short, I didn’t want my insecurity to get in the way of capturing a memory.
If I hadn’t been alone, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask a rando to take my photo. I’m so happy that I was able to step out of my comfort zone, and in turn that led to me being able to become more confident in other ways. I achieved a long-term goal of mine and started vlogging (IN PUBLIC!) for my very own YouTube channel, and I don’t think I could have been emboldened to do so if I didn’t become comfortable with traveling alone!
3. The littlest things are rewarding.
One of the phrases I’ve adopted willingly this semester is, “It’s the little things.” This is because I found so much truth in this statement during my alone time! Things like getting on the Metro in Barcelona without getting lost or accidentally stumbling across a cool bookstore feel infinitely cooler when you do them alone. I’m not sure why this is – maybe it’s because it’s your little secret? Or maybe it’s the realization that you don’t need anybody else to get things done?
Regardless, when you travel alone, the smallest successes are the most satisfying. Take my word for it and try it out for yourself – you will feel amazing. Which brings me to my next point…
4. When you travel alone, you are in charge of the schedule.
This is probably my favorite perk! When you travel alone, there’s no rushing or worrying about pleasing anybody else. If you want to have a cheeseburger for dinner, you can do that. If you want to spend a little while longer in a museum, you can do that too!
I especially love this part about traveling alone because I can be a little indecisive, and this in combination with a group of people often leads to me doing things I wouldn’t have chosen on my own or skipping things I really wanted to do. When I had free time by myself in Dublin I spent time really getting lost in the city, and that was probably one of the most rewarding parts of an already amazing trip. I ate a donut for breakfast, stumbled upon the National Gallery of Ireland, and wandered in and out of different shops throughout the city. It was liberating not having to answer to anybody, and that experience is how I knew I would be okay traveling to Amsterdam alone.
5. You gain an unprecedented amount of independence & confidence.
I will be 100% honest and say that I am not the most confident person in the world. However, traveling alone forces you to trust your gut and get through things on your own. Every decision you make affects you and you alone, and while that sounds kind of scary it’s also super liberating.
In my case, it made me take pride in the decisions I make and learn to trust my instincts: I don’t really get nervous about navigating anymore, even though it used to stress me out. I trust myself to judge a situation and its safety. My limits and comfort zone are both things I am very familiar with. These are all things that I definitely didn’t come abroad with, but I am bringing home with me. I think that’s pretty cool.
I am so happy I had the opportunity to travel alone while abroad. It played a large role in my growth this semester, and I can’t wait for my next solo trip. Sure, traveling alone can be daunting at first, but I hope these 5 things will encourage you to try it anyway!