Traveling, even with a strong support system alongside you, can be daunting. That’s why when I decided to start traveling alone, there was a hint of unsureness mixed among my excitement.
I consider myself an avid adventure junkie: I love visiting new sights, tasting unfamiliar cuisines, and photographing beautiful landscapes. However, I felt myself relying on my friends or family as companions to keep me company on my travels. It even came to the point where I would pass up possibly exciting opportunities because I didn’t have at least one partner in crime to explore with.
This is the kind of issue that can only be solved by jumping in headfirst. After studying in Ireland, I had always wanted to go back. I had been researching flights for a while, and there was a point where a round trip ticket was the cheapest price I had ever seen. I had two choices: I could let the opportunity pass, or book a flight and accommodation for myself. I choose the latter. What ensued was a series of lessons I taught myself, which is why I encourage anyone and everyone to do what I did. Here are a few ways that traveling alone boosted my confidence and changed the way I continued to live my life.
I found the beauty in silence.
Sometimes I don’t know when to stop talking. I’m a bit of a chatterbox, as are my friends, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We converse, we joke, we laugh, we tell stories, we tease. Most of the days spent with ones close to me are full of conversations, from the awful coffee we had that morning to a great new album we started listening to. That’s why when I first started traveling by myself, I felt the silence to be overbearingly heavy. Having no one to talk to, my thoughts would run wild in the quiet – is that person staring at me funny? Do I look awkward sitting by myself? If I get up right now will everyone turn and look at me?
These thoughts were definitely tyrannical, and stole what were supposed to be moments of peace and traded them for senseless worrying. However, the more I went out alone, whether it be cafes, parks, shows, or even bars, I got the hang of shutting down these anxieties. After all, I don’t know these strangers, and they don’t know me. It would be narcissistic of me to assume everyone was focused solely on me, even if I was convinced they might be silently judging. After we all leave, one by one, no memory of the 20 something year-old girl with long, dark hair sitting by herself would be remembered.
Knowing this, I could enjoy the silence and let the thoughts in my head shift from negative self-doubt to daydreaming about the adventures I had been on that day. I am now not only more comfortable in public spaces by myself, I enjoy it. Although I love company and good conversation, I don’t rely on it to feel at ease.
I read. A lot. And became a better writer because of it.
As a writer, I always thought that you’re either good at putting words together, or you’re not. I was always satisfied with my own work; I didn’t think I was the greatest writer of all time, but I definitely wasn’t the worst. It wasn’t until I started reading more – novels, articles, poems, biographies – that I realized I could improve for the better. However, life happens, and I haphazardly threw away time I could have been using to read by just scrolling on my phone instead.
Traveling, at least in my experience, includes plenty of downtime. And I don’t mean sitting in my Airbnb all day, but when I’m resting in a park or on a long train ride. I took up the habit of spending more time reading, whether it was an article I found on the New York Times or a novel I picked up from the fiction section of Barnes and Noble. (That being said, I actually never read on public transportation. Oh, the life of a traveler that easily contracts motion sickness.)
Reading more helped better my own writing, boosting my confidence in my work. I added new vocabulary to my collection and new worldly knowledge. I regained my love for storytelling, plus it was the perfect way to spend my time whether I was staying in for the night, at a cafe drinking coffee, or relaxing in a park. It also gave me something to do and calmed my brain, knowing there wasn’t anyone around to chat to.
I did things I normally wouldn’t do.
By “things I normally wouldn’t do,” you’d might assume it to be adventures like skydiving or mountain climbing. However, it’s quite the opposite. Traveling alone lets me do little things that I always doubted my friends would want to do. For example, when I stayed in Dublin by myself, I found myself spending lengthy amounts of time listening to musicians on Grafton Street. It was March, and cold, but I genuinely enjoyed standing among the crowd of other people gathered to hear these Irish locals play cover after cover.
I always opt for what others want to do, and don’t make much of a fuss what I want. I don’t mind doing that and I’d rather do what others enjoy as well, but it is nice to be on my own and spend endless time in the rain listening to a musician playing his guitar behind his head of I want to.
I found out that I was more shy than I thought, and that’s okay.
I always wanted to be the type of person that could make easy conversation with the strangers around them. For example, if I’m out eating by myself or I’m relaxing with a pint at a pub. I thought that traveling alone would bring out a new side of me, and I would dare myself to strike up a chat with another friendly traveler and compare stories. One time, at a bar in Galway, I met this girl that had up and left her home country of Canada, without telling anyone, to travel alone. The stranger, 19 years old at the time, was introducing me to all the people she had met along her journey. She met them all just being conversational. I remember admiring how outgoing she was, and wished I could be like that.
However, I learned that I’m just not the same kind of person. I admire her, but it’s okay that I’m a bit more shy. If someone came up to me, I’d be happy to chat for a bit, but the thought of trying to start a conversation intimidates me. It’s not something I feel like I need to learn to do anymore, I’m fine and happy with keeping to myself.
In conclusion, I highly recommend traveling alone at least once.
To be honest, I’d travel with people if I had the option. However, I’m so glad I’ve went abroad by myself. After all, I’ve learned all these things I never would have otherwise! I plan on doing more solo trips in the future, but also won’t say no to anyone that wants to tag along. I’m proud that I’m comfortable traveling either way, and encourage everyone to try it!
Kerianne Vianden is a website content writer at Hotels4Teams. A travel buff and self-proclaimed foodie, her bucket list includes visiting a bunch of countries and trying cuisine from all over the world. Kerianne graduated with a degree in journalism from Montclair State University.
Image courtesy of Element5Digital.