Have you ever caught yourself wishing you went out of town more but didn’t have anyone to go with? Well you do, and they’re interested, it’s just that they’re busy with their own lives and it takes forever for your schedules to meet. Have you ever wanted to pick up an outdoor hobby that none of your friends were into?
For me, it was surfing – and it happened often that I wanted to go surfing but none of my friends were available or committed enough to give it a try. So i bit my lip and went off on my own.
I imagine now what would have happened if I never took that leap into going on surf trips alone, checking into massive hostel dorm rooms by the beach and connecting with complete strangers that turned out to be life-long surf friends. I’d probably be too afraid to explore solo, be kinda into surfing, and kinda into traveling, but mostly still into getting shit-faced (i.e. drunk) and high on weekends in the city.
Since then, I’ve discovered a few more reasons to enjoy traveling by myself be it to catch waves or just to explore on my own:
1. Complete Freedom and Flexibility
Without having to wait on anyone at any time, I can go wherever and whenever I choose. Hand in hand with this is the freedom to change plans at any moment, as I often choose to do when I hear or read about new places in transit.
What makes flexibility so appealing is all the pleasant surprises that await you around each corner. One thing leads to another, and that chance meeting in that hostel ends up transforming your trip into a new adventure altogether – but only if you let it.
Giving yourself that openness to change plans is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself.
“Adventure is allowing the unexpected to happen to you. Exploration is experiencing what you have not experienced before. How can there be any adventure, any exploration, if you let somebody else – above all, a travel bureau – arrange everything before-hand?”
― Richard Aldington,
When I’m traveling with someone, we always end up filling our time with things to do or talk about. I cherish my time alone, especially when it’s out in the open with the wind, birds and trees, the sky and the sea because it’s so much easier to be present in the moment.
Finding that inner silence is a lot simpler when in conjunction with outer silence as well.
And silence teaches many things. If silence makes you uncomfortable, that is an even surer sign that you ought to try it once in a while. With the nonstop bombardment of advertisements, news, politics and social media we expose ourselves to, we are left with little time to just enjoy a walk, the view, or the breeze – that is, without the internal monologue we usually mistake for who we actually are.
Scientifically proven, silence is good for your brain.
“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
― Cheryl Strayed
3. Authentic Self-Expression
What would you do if you landed in a place where no one had the slightest notion of who you were and what you’ve been through? Would you be afraid? Would you laugh? Or cry? Or just be yourself?
The total anonymity one gains while traveling alone helps us to be ourselves in all aspects and situations. We are suddenly more aware of what we really like or dislike, without peer pressure or social forces, so we choose to act completely on our own volition. We are given the simple freedom to fulfill our heart’s desires, no matter how “trivial” they may seem to others.
When traveling alone, no outside influence can steer us – no lovers or family, no colleagues, no priests, doctors, teachers or bosses can tell us what to do, feel and how to fit in. Societal norms are left behind when we venture out.
Expectation and self-consciousness – brothers in the battle to change how we carry ourselves to gain acceptance – quickly disappear when not surrounded by people we know. Without the subtle fear of people’s judgement which affects our own self-view, as is normally the case, the tendency to put on masks disappears and we are left with, at the least, a more real version of ourselves than we’re used to.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― Carl G. Jung
4. Human Connection
Intimacy and connection amongst ourselves is arguably on top of everyone’s agenda, after all things survival-related, of course. When strangers are expressing themselves authentically, aren’t imposing and are receptive at the same time, friendships easily arise and intimacy, even platonic intimacy, is bound to follow.
When traveling alone, we suddenly open up to certain attitudes that will surprise even ourselves. We will be more sincere, more compassionate, more patient, more curious, more open. All this will allow for meaningful human connection with everyday normal people: the waiter, the housekeeper, the gas station attendant, the fisherman, the tricycle driver, etc.
When we interact with people who are so far removed from our lives back home, our reflexive and sometimes subconscious tendency to impress and ego-boost disappears and that puts us at ease and allows us to be more humble and receptive.
It’s strange to find you can connect deeper with people you never knew than people you’ve known all your life.
It’s not the people, of course, but our own mindset that allows for deeper human connections when away on our own.
So integrating this mindset no matter where we are is a matter of meditation and understanding (and maybe a little effort).
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James
What started off as my simple desire to surf more often became one of the most life-changing and rewarding practices I’ve only just started indulging in.
Have you had a similar experience? What are some reasons you do or don’t travel solo? Leave a comment and share your thoughts! Thanks!