“As I came back to myself I realized I had been sitting there for over an hour. I was surprised, but I didn’t care. I had nowhere to be and no one to appease.”
Recently having visited Japan over my winter holidays by myself it really got me thinking about solo travel. It was my first real solo traveling trip. I could argue that moving to Korea was a solo expedition, but I did know a few people in the country previous to coming.
I’ve been comfortable going places by myself for most of my life. I don’t need an entourage to arrive to an event with, and I’m fine going out to dinner alone. Visiting a country alone though, is a different story.
There are obvious challenges. Initially you have no one to spend time with, you must rely on yourself for survival, and push yourself to make the best of your trip. Granted in some countries traveling alone carries some real risks, but most of the challenges are also some of the best parts of traveling alone. Then of course, there are the strictly beneficial aspects. Such as having no one’s schedule but your own, discovering parts of yourself you may not have realized were in you, and the freedom to express yourself as you please, without prejudice.
Ultimately it’s an entirely different experience. I’ve yammered on a few occasions of the benefits sown from traveling, and once or twice pointed to the effect of traveling by yourself. Despite it being beaten nearly to death in the travel/blog industry, I’m going to touch on a few points of the self-discovery you will find traveling with you & yourself.
Whatever you want, kid.
The quote above was from a time I spent visiting a garden near my hostel in Japan. I ended up staying there for hours. It was beautiful and since I didn’t have anyone else’s schedule or plans to consider, I was free to do as I did.
When you’re traveling with others, yes you have your team with you and it’s a blast. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of wishing to be nowhere else in the world, with no one other than the company you’re with. There has been many times even in Korea where I have dearly missed my friends back home, wishing we could be all experiencing this together.
But there is always the concern of what the group wants to do. There’s compromise and sacrifice. Neither of which are bad in of themselves, both can lead to unlikely and incredible experiences. Sometimes though, when on vacation no one knows what best for you, but you.
I’m not sure I would have spent the time I did in that garden, had I been with a group of my friends from back home. Nor am I sure I would have had the propensity to branch off and experience it all on my own. It’s so easy to get caught up in a group mentality.
Having the ability to abide by only my schedule was very rewarding. Also there’s something to be said for having all the control with no one to support you in what choices you make.
When you solo travel, it’s no schedule but your schedule.
“Hi, my name is..”
Because you’re on your own, you’ve no choice but to meet new people. The bus system on the Japanese island I visited was absolutely brutal to interpret as a foreigner. I had to ask for help from some of the other hostel guests and got to meet some interesting people because of it.
Further, when you travel in groups you’re more likely to Airbnb or stay in hotels. Depending on the group size and country it makes more sense honestly. While going alone though, nothing beats a hostel.
A hostel provides for a vastly different experience than hotels. There is always such a diverse assortment of people coming and going. Businessmen, vagabonds, college students alike, that are pass through.
If you have any social anxiety this is probably one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. You might think “what the hell will I do for a week or two traveling alone? I’ll be so bored without anyone!”
You’ll learn quickly that there are many other travelers going solo, who are just as eager to meet others as well. Each and every one of us yearns for connect, even if they aren’t always showing it.
Traveling by myself and having to get out of my comfort zone to meet many new people has taught more people are much more approachable than I had previously considered.
You may also have the chance to interact with more locals than if you were in a big group of foreigners. Trust me, get to know the locals!
Ultimately everything depends on you. While I certainly felt the effect of this since coming to Korea, it was even further pronounced in Japan.
In Korea, I’ve had the support of a recruiter, a school and a few friends whom I can all ask for help at times if I need. In Japan I was entirely on my own. Literally I have to figure out everything for myself.
You might think because you live on your own, pay your own bills and make all your own decisions at home you are self-sufficient. But in most cases you have friends, relationships, family, etc that are supporting you in different ways. All of that disappears in a foreign land.
It’s extremely empowering to survive and thrive completely on your own. It will instantly flush out your strengths and weaknesses.
Not to mention how creative you’ll find yourself getting when you trying to figure everything out in a language that is not your native tongue. I’ve written previously how I’ve developed an appreciation for the vulnerability of foreigners in Canada trying to make their way in a country they can’t speak the official language of.
Solo traveling is sure to build character.
No validation necessary.
Do you ever feel like you’re doing things at home you don’t necessary want to with your free time. Something that you believe others want to see you do. Taking part in an activity to maintain reputation, or avoiding tainting it. Whatever it is, you may find yourself doing something for validation from others. A lot of that stops when you’re off by yourself where no one knows you.
Simply because, you’ve got no one to impress. You are completely free to be whom you are in the moment without prejudice of opinion that may linger from past actions. This can be especially freeing, and exciting. You can literally be any one person you wish day to day.
At the same time, you can get a more accurate view of how people view you. This can be a very introspective experience. I know I’ve gotten a much clearer view of the kind of person I portray to others, and how they perceive me. This has allowed me to makes changes as I see fit.
I remember finalizing my booking for Japan thinking “Wow, what am I getting myself into?” And knowing full well this would be a true solo adventure. I’m extremely glad I took the chance to do it, I’m equally as happy with my decision to come to Korea.
The ability to make my own schedule, not dictated by the requirements of others. Being forced to frequently get out of my shell to meet others from all different walks of life. Learning to rely on solely myself, and my abilities. No longer being concerned with validation from my peers. These are all just some of the benefits you’ll find on the path to self-discovery delivered through solo travel.