I’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I moved out of my village in Devon to go to uni in Bath and then relocated again to London to work in the City. These things have meant a leap out of my comfort zone and lots of new experiences. But one thing I never thought I’d do is travel across the Atlantic aaaall byyyy myyyseeeeelf (cue Celine).
Deciding to travel alone to North America was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I absolutely loved it and learnt so much during my summer there. It was inexplicably exciting, completely terrifying and ever so rewarding.
To anyone considering traveling solo (or to anyone that can’t understand why on earth travelling alone might be fun?!), here are 10 reasons you should give it a go:
1. You learn that you can stand on your own two feet
Okay so let me give you some context. I’m that person in every friendship group that just sort of goes with the flow and leaves the organising to someone else. I’m extremely last minute and never really do anything with much of a plan. Before I went to America, everyone was like lol how is she gunna survive? Well bitch I did, and there was no one there to get mad at me for not wanting to plan too much. Which leads me on to my next point …
2. You can do what you want, when you want
Ahhh, no one to compromise with.. heaven. No one to roll their eyes because you want to go to LA and they want to go to Vegas. Or because you want to eat here and they want to eat there. Or because you want to get up for a 5am sunrise and they don’t fancy it, or vice versa .
I had a flight booked from London to the USA at the start of summer. I had no hotels booked, no real plan of what to do, except for a return flight booked back to London at the end of summer. I met some cool people in Florida, then flew to New York to hang out with one of them. From there I very last minute got involved in a road trip from New York to LA with a fab group of people. If I’d been with a group, I may not have had this freedom, and would have had to cater to other people’s ideas of the perfect trip too.
3. You meet some really, really cool people
‘Travelling solo’ makes it sound like I’m suggesting you spend all your time alone. I’m absolutely not. You’ll meet fab people from all sorts of cultures that you’ll have loads in common with. So, when you’re travelling alone you’re never really by yourself.
Look at these fab gals I ended up doing a road trip across North America with, all bonding over a mutual appreciation for Matthew McConaughey. 10 points to Gryffindor if you can spot the Hollywood sign in the distance.
4. You are more present
If you’re travelling with a friend or group of friends, it can be tempting to just speak to each other and not get involved with local culture. When you travel alone, you spend more time looking at what is around you and getting in touch with your surroundings.
5. You become more confident
By the end of your trip, you will be able to talk to just about anyone. Before I left I was like, do I even know how to get through airport security by myself? But as I navigated my way through the USA, I realised I was much more capable than I had thought.
6. You can make/change plans last minute
It is nigh on impossible to change plans on a whim when you are travelling in a group. You will be worried about messing up other people’s schedules/finances and getting a group of people to adjust their plans can be très difficile. When travelling solo, you’re on no one’s timetable but your own. If you want to skip that bicycle tour and catch up on sleep, go ahead. Found a cool steak restaurant nearby but you’d already decided on a sushi place across town? Easy decision.
7. It’s not as scary as you might think (but have your wits about you)
Don’t get me wrong, being a solo traveller can be intimidating, possibly even more so if you’re female. To save money when I visited New York, I stayed in Newark, NJ. When I first arrived to Newark with my backpack, I got followed up the street by some pretty dodgy looking guys who were yelling all sorts of things at me.
My advice is to just have your wits about you. Find out from your hostel’s reception if the areas you are planning on going to are safe, and find out when the last trains/buses back to the area are if you’re planning on exploring. If in doubt, get a taxi. Just do your research before you go, try and do most of your exploring in daylight and keep friends/family updated on your whereabouts. I actually used the Find My Friends app, which meant that my Mum/sister could track my location while I was away (it was more for their peace of mind than mine).
8. You get to know yourself a bit better
Back home, I have this need to be with people all the time. I live in a house of five girls, and when I’m home alone I feel oddly anxious and lonely. This feeling of never wanting to be alone and always needing to be busy probably isn’t overly healthy, so I was intrigued to know how I would find travelling solo.
There is no situation in which you are more likely to encounter your true self than when you are travelling alone. Without your family/friends around to encourage you to act a certain way, a little bit of solitude goes a long way in allowing you to be yourself. Let yourself just be alone and see where your mind goes. You’ll be surprised.
9. Solo travellers are more approachable
Ever walked up to a group of people who have a bunch of in-jokes and are chatting about mutual friends or past experiences? No, because it’s intimidating as hell. It is far easier to go up to approach people when they are on their own and as keen to meet others as you.
10. You will definitely want to do it again
Now that I’ve travelled alone once, I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. I’m not going to pretend there are zero downsides – for example when you have to ask people to take photos of you or when you’re witnessing something beautiful and you kinda wish you were sharing that with someone. But when you go back, you will have hundreds and hundreds of stories to tell and I can almost guarantee you will be desperate to book the next one.