Individuals are often reluctant to go travelling on their own due to fears of being alone, not meeting people, safety, getting lost and the list can go on. It is not until you face these fears do you begin to really reap the benefits of solo travel and grow as a human being. Here are a number of things I have learnt travelling alone which opened my eyes to a new way of seeing myself and the world:
Number one and most importantly I believe that it teaches you to love yourself. I never understood what it meant to love oneself or if I was honest how I would go about loving myself and what that would encapsulate. However when I was trekking in the Himalayas in minus 20 degree weather conditions, there was no one there to reinforce, “you are doing an incredible job” and slowly but surely I began to appreciate myself, for better or worse, I am who I am and I now love me!
It teaches you confidence and self-esteem. If you don’t get out there and talk to people, interact and say “Hi” you are going to spend your travels looking within the four walls of the hostel you are in. Hell yes it is daunting at first putting yourself out there and at times a little exhausting constantly trying to make small talk and find someone you can connect with, however it is something that you have to do. Very quickly your confidence increases and you begin to be brave and trust the amazing individual you are.
It teaches you to have your own back. You don’t have a partner, friends or parents there reminding you where your passport is, what time your flight is, or to always go to the toilet in pairs – there is only you! So you become smarter, you remember things and you begin to trust that gut instinct of yours!
Appreciation for others.
You begin to appreciate people. I can admit it, I am an individual who loves my own space and I enjoy adventuring and not having the responsibility of accommodating to another individual’s needs. However there is no denying that you begin to crave for another human being there to experience what you are experiencing, to talk about that adventure or just be in that moment.
Your problems won’t disappear.
The problems you are leaving behind whilst travelling are still there – yep I said it! Despite attempting to escape from things back home (work, relationships, commitments) those issues are all still going to be there when you return – unfortunately! I guess I learnt that the hard way, although that is a lesson in itself. What I can take away from the experience is that travelling allows you the space to reflect on the issue and time to process without being reactive, which is very beneficial.
It teaches you to be who you truly are, your authentic self! If you are yourself and you meet someone whilst travelling and they don’t like you, does it really matter? Are they going to see you again? No – so who cares! As you begin to embrace your inner self and live authentically it will then begin to simmer through to all aspects of your life. When you return home those barriers you used to put up, thinking that people would be judging you or may not like you, you won’t actually care anymore because you have learnt to be happy just being you!
It is only when you go travelling for an extended period of time that you begin to realise who your true friends are. Those individuals are the ones who take the time out to contact you, ask you how your trip is going, organise a skype chat or a phone call and are interested in your travels along with updating you about their life. Also by this I don’t mean writing a comment on the latest Facebook photo you uploaded, I mean taking the time out to send you a message and then also reply to that message because they care!
It teaches you to be grateful and appreciative of the small things in life. Yes I took hot showers for granted and it was only whilst I was travelling in minus weather conditions where I felt chilled to the bone and could only access cold showers on a temporary occasion that I realised how that heavily impacted on my mood. I have now come to accept that if the shower is cold and I am cold I will go without!
It gives you a new found outlook on the world! You begin to see things from different perspectives and question why things may be happening. When I travel I feel like I find that inner child, I become five years old where I am almost ignorant of anything and instead of accepting situations for what they are, I ask the question why! I begin to understand, learn and create new ways of seeing things.
And do you know what is great about all of this? There is actually scientific evidence to say that extended travel positively impacts our mental health. When I begin ‘that’ conversation – that I am thinking of packing my bags again and I get the standard “Oh you are travelling again, what about work, responsibilities, and money?” response, I now have scientific evidence to back my dreams!
I can simply respond with: “In 2012, research conducted on a large sample of German college students demonstrated that those who travelled, as opposed to those who stayed within their home country were more open to experience, emotionally stable and friendly. Travelling helped the students to gain perspective on life, making them less emotionally reactive to day-to-day changes. Furthermore the experience of meeting new people helped with increasing the personality trait of agreeableness, which reflects the ability to get along with other people.”
At the end of the day, travelling is only going to allow me to grow as a human being and that’s what I value. Self-growth, enlightenment, experiences and living my dream!
Image credit : Kirrilee Phillips