Traveling solo is an experience that is unparalleled. I had my doubts before I booked my tickets and had all the same worries that everyone does before they travel alone: Will I be lonely? Won't it be more fun with friends? I don't know anything about getting around big cities. I don't speak the language...ect. My worries and doubts were put to rest within my first 24 hours abroad. I have never talked to a solo traveller who wouldn't recommend it to another person. It really was the best summer of my life. Here are just a few of the many things you'll gain from your solo adventure...
1. It will force you to stand on your own two feet
You don't realize how much other people act as a crutch for you until you don't have them around anymore. If you're in a situation where you are with a group of people and you need to ask a stranger for help, naturally the most outgoing person in the group will do all the talking. If you are alone, it's all on you. I have had to ask countless people in countless countries for help, in broken languages, using ridiculously large hand gestures or simply by pointing at a place on a map. It made me uncomfortable at first but then after becoming desperate and finally stepping out of my comfort zone, I realized how capable I was of asking for help and communicating without help from friends. I have learned how to navigate confusing cities, the best tricks for airplane travel and how to keep occupied on a 16 hour bus ride. And I did all of it alone.
2. You realize how much you can handle
Let me paint a picture for you. I was just getting off of my flight from New York to London, this is the first time I have ever been out of the country, and I'm alone. My phone isn't connecting to wifi, so I can't communicate with anyone (AKA...my mom). I'm standing in the immigration line, which has the most people I have maybe ever seen in a single room. My flight to Dublin, Ireland leaves in half an hour and there are hundreds of people between me and the border agents. I start to cry (I am normally not a crier). All I want to do is be home in my bed watching Netflix. At this time, an airport official comes over to me and puts me at the front of the line, I dried my tears and made it to Dublin. This was just the first of many stressful situations that were completely out of the ordinary for me during my solo trip in Europe. I didn't have anyone to laugh about it with if we had missed our flight or anyone to rely on to fix the problem for me, and I'm a better person for it.
3. The pure freedom of it
I cannot stress this enough. Traveling solo means that you don't need to negotiate with anyone. If you want to visit every store that sells stamps in whatever city you're in, you're free to do so. If you want to waste the day and stay in bed to watch movies all day, you can do that too. If you want to get up at 3am to hike to the top of a mountain and catch the sunrise, you can do it. I have never felt so free as when I was traveling from city to city, on my own accord, deciding to leave the places I didn't care for early and staying in the places I loved an extra week without having to explain myself or convince anyone.
4. You get really good at making friends
I am not the best at starting conversations or reaching out to people I don't know. But it took me about an hour in a hostel to realize it was sink or swim and I better go introduce myself to someone. Tip to make sure you avoid awkwardness: Make sure they speak english first. People are generally very warm and welcoming in hostels and by my second day I had already made great friends and we were planning loads of activities together, I even met up with some of them again in other countries down the line. There are also usually lots of other solo travelers who are also looking to make friends! I promise it's not weird to just go up to someone and say "Hey! Where are you from?". You'll be chatting for hours before you realize you never even caught their name.
5. You will be a more confident person
My confidence has sky rocketed since traveling solo through Europe. I can navigate confusing public transit systems, read maps more efficiently, cary conversations with strangers, speak bits of other languages and live out of a backpack for months at a time. I don't feel uneasy at gas stations at night anymore, I have less need for material items and I stand taller due to my experiences. Also I have no problem jumping in the car and going to that place I've always wanted to go, even if it means going alone.
6. You get to practice your self timer/selfie skills...
Okay so this is not actually one of the best things about traveling alone. You usually end up with great pictures of pretty much everything except for you. Yay for lots of scenery.