I impulsively bought a ticket to Barcelona after planning my visit to Edinburgh. It ended up being the highlight of my entire trip! Prior to Barcelona, I hadn’t traveled alone since I studied abroad in Madrid. I picked Barcelona primarily because I studied abroad in Spain and had an unforgettable experience. I also picked this destination because I was familiar with the culture. After this experience, I’m now enthusiastic about the idea of doing more solo trips!
These are some of the things I learned about traveling alone:
1. It’s easy to make friends along the way
I’m guilty of overthinking and worrying if I’ll connect with others. With my personality, I enjoy being around other people. However, I’ve realized that it isn’t hard to make friends while traveling. Whether you find them in a hostel or while on a walking tour, there’s ample opportunities to interact with others. And since you’re out of your comfort zone when traveling solo, you’ll be more open to meeting new people. The only advice I can give is to be willing to put yourself out there. Who knows, you might end up making friends in the most unexpected places 😏.
Example #1: I met someone in Barcelona by walking up and simply asking, “Do you mind taking my photo?” After snapping photos, he asked my name and where I’m from; this ended up sparking a conversation about U.S. politics.
Every stranger you meet may not be someone you keep in contact with after the trip, and that’s okay. You’ll at least have the memories! For the life of me, I can’t remember that guys name and we never swapped contact information. But, I do remember the intellectual conversation we shared. And how willing he was to take a few photos of me until I got the right one 😅.
Example #2: I met 3 really cool girls in Barcelona! I would’ve never met them if it wasn’t for all of us staying in the same hostel room. We ended up sharing our social media information with each other and still stay in contact till this day.
They’ll be instances where you meet people who you’ll never meet, or contact, again. But you may also meet people who become good friends that you wouldn’t have met, or crossed paths with, otherwise. Like I did!
2. It’s liberating & empowering
This year has been tough for me, both emotionally and mentally. I thought the best way to get away, and somehow reclaim my life, would be to travel alone. When traveling alone, you can’t depend on anyone but yourself – and your intuition. I was confident in myself to know I could handle anything that came my way. Coming back, I felt self-sufficient, self-assured and self-reliant. I felt stronger and confident that I could go almost anywhere and do almost anything. Which is such a liberating feeling! I’ve always known I could travel solo, but actually setting out to do it, and accomplishing it, was freeing. It’s a feeling I encourage everyone to experience at some point in their lives.
3. It’s always good to get some “me” time
Going off of my point above, I felt that a solo getaway would be beneficial for me. I was able to: love my own company, reflect on my life and boost my self-esteem. These were all a necessity for me to decompress and feel happier. I came back from my solo trip feeling rejuvenated, empowered and somewhat like my old self again.
At the end of the day, all you have is yourself. That saying may be cliché, but it’s absolutely true. And what better way to get to know yourself, and what you’re capable of, than to travel alone? Of course there’s other, less extreme, ways of getting to know yourself and having that alone time. But traveling alone forces you to be by yourself for a great duration of your trip.
4. You can focus on what you want
Instead of trying to please others, all you need to focus on is pleasing yourself during your solo trip. You can choose what you want to get out of your trip and set your own schedule. You’re completely free to do whatever it’s you want, without feeling judged or receiving opposition. Want to wake up by noon? Take a walking tour? Go hiking? Relax on the beach all day? All of these decisions won’t affect anyone else but you when you’re traveling alone!
5. Embrace experiences, rather than fear them
I’m naturally an anxious person. I overthink every little detail, and the unknown is definitely intimidating. Prior to going on my trip, I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong. What if I get pickpocketed? What if I miss my flight? Will I like my hostel mates? But once I got to Barcelona, I realized there was no reason for me to be anxious or fearful. I faced every experience head on and felt accomplished, and capable of doing anything.
My advice would be to take every experience as it comes. Don’t overthink or over-plan, just go with the flow. I’m guilty of over-planning my trips. Having every hour planned with activities, but sometimes you just have to embrace whatever comes your way. If nothing else, traveling alone has taught me that you shouldn’t let your anxiety or fear rule you.
6. You learn your likes/dislikes
Example: My last night in Barcelona I had seafood paella, which I’ve tasted before. But this time there were mussels included. I’ve never had mussels before, shocking being from Boston, and didn’t know if I’d really like it. But I actually enjoyed it, so much so I ended up getting a second plate with mostly mussels!
If I were with someone else, I probably wouldn’t have been so willing to experiment and eat the mussels. But since I was alone, my opinions weren’t influenced by anyone. And I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself. Traveling alone let’s you experiment and really figure out what you like, and dislike. So you can eat that weird looking/sounding food, learn a new dance, or try to speak the language! All without being judged or feeling embarrassed. Besides, if you fail or end up disliking something, it isn’t like the locals will ever see you again 😅.
My advice for potential solo travelers? If you haven’t solo traveled and are contemplating trying it, just book the ticket! You’ll learn a lot about yourself if you take that leap.