christ the redeemer

Why travelling alone is good for the soul

Find the call to adventure.

This year has been a good one for me. I finally ticked off a ton of countries I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. 

While the thirst for travel will always be in me, six months of making my way through Europe and The Americas has quenched it for the time being. 

Ironically, one of the greatest parts of travel is coming home. The time and space we have from our homeland can make us appreciate it especially if we’ve previously taken it for granted

That feeling of coming home is like no other. Although fleeting, it is joyous.

Like myself, a lot of people I met while travelling were doing it alone. 

Some were travelling for a few months whereas others were taking a full year to see as much of the world as they could. 

During the six months I was away I met people from all around the world who had the call to go and search for adventure alone. 

Male and female Brits, French, Germans, Dutch, Swiss, Spanish, Israelis, Americans, Mexicans, Colombians, Australians, Chinese and every other nationality you can think of. 

They all shared the same common trait regardless of their gender or where they were from.

That being to experience as much as the world as they possibly could. Alone or not. 

We are born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we are not alone.

Orsen Welles

Enjoying being alone is vital for your own self-reliance and how you move through this world.

Having the calling to go explore and knowing that ‘this is all on me’ heightens your senses.

The feeling after returning from a solo trip having had the time of your life exploring new places and meeting new people is like no other.

It brings a form of confidence that helps to shape a well-rounded character.

When you travel alone you get to know yourself better

cotopaxi ecuador
Cotopaxi, Ecuador

When you spend time alone in unfamiliar countries you’ll find out things about yourself you didn’t know existed. 

Situations will test you. Your comfort zone will be shattered. There’ll be moments of fear and doubt.

You’ll occasionally find yourself in dangerous situations or doing activities that put the fear of God into you. 

I’ve found myself in a couple of predicaments while travelling over the years that caused my ‘fight or flight’ stress response to kick in.

Then there are the moments of doubt. Situations when you begin to wonder if it what you’re doing was a wise decision.

And of course, even the most ardent solo traveller will tell you there are bouts of loneliness.

But the periods of solitude, like when you’re on an overnight sleeper train with no phone connection and unable to sleep, or lying on the airport floor because your flight is delayed for 9 hours, that will allow you to reflect.

And if you’re not reflecting you’re not connecting.

You’ll meet new people from around the world

Top of the volcano Acatenango in Antigua, Guatemala

In the past, I’ve travelled with friends and we generally stay in our own bubble. When you’re with people you know and like there’s little need to go through the process of getting to know strangers.

Unless you’re a complete introvert, travelling alone forces you to interact with new people by striking up conversations with random strangers. Sometimes those strangers become friends.

Throughout the years I’ve travelled I’ve met new friends along the way. Some of which I still consider good friends today. 

Shared experiences are the basis for any relationship and what better way to experience life than through travel. 

The world is getting smaller. Meeting people from countries and cultures different to your own, you’ll realise that the human condition is the same wherever you go. 

Every mistake you make is yours

Top of the rock in Banos, Ecuador

You got to Cyprus Airport at 1am only to find you booked your flight the following day? Your fault. 

Maybe you arrived at Gatwick Airport only to find that you’re flying from Stansted at the other end of the city? Your fault.

Or how about getting to the Cambodian border without a visa only to be told by officials you need one? Your fault. 

The three predicaments above are not just to make a point but actually happened to me while travelling. 

When you travel alone every mistake made is yours. You have to own it and more importantly, learn from it.

Trust me, every time I go for a flight I triple check to see if I have the correct date and departure airport. And thankfully Cambodian officials aren’t averse to a little bribery. 

Equally, every success is yours too. When you make the right moves, go to the right places and discover amazing things you can thank only yourself for it.

You’ll experience things you otherwise may not

The best sunset I’ve seen in Minca, Colombia

Some people like to travel and do nothing but lay by the beach or pool every day. Some prefer to stay up all night and party then sleep all day.

When I was younger I was more about that life. Now I prefer to explore.

If you depend on others to travel you could miss out on doing and seeing things that appeal most to you. You won’t be blindly lead by the group to engage in activities you may not want to.

You can let the chips fall where they may and allow serendipity to take hold. 

The new people you meet will give you tips and advice on new places to visit and see. 

When I sailed around the Belize coral reef in the Caribbean for three days it wasn’t part of my plan. Instead, it was because I met other travellers who were doing it and invited me along for the ride. 

I hiked across North America’s beauty spots not because I planned it but because I was open enough to meet new people who were doing it.

Some say life is a journey but if you think back to your own life you generally only remember the important moments. In my own life, many of those moments were created while travelling.

Most people fear to be alone in any situation, travelling or not. It takes an inner confidence to decide to pack your bag and explore a new place by yourself.

I have nothing but respect for anyone who travels solo to places that require them to get out of their comfort zone.

It’s about finding that call to adventure and rekindling the spirit that people so often lose as they age.

It’s about flexing that self-reliance muscle to know, not think, that everything will be alright even when you’re alone.

And that’s why travelling alone is good for the soul. 

Written by Ste Davies

Ste ‘Stephen’ Davies is a freelance digital consultant, traveller, writer, podcaster and speaker based in London, UK. You can reach him here or follow him on Twitter below.

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