If there is one item that should be on anyone’s bucket list that is traveling alone at least once.
Solo travel is empowering, liberating, self-actualising and a major boost to your confidence. It can also be a life changing experience and, as Mark Twain wisely put it in one of our favorite travel quotes, “(…) fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”
Thankfully, leaving the house on your own to go explore the world, whether you travel solo independently or as part of a group, is an increasingly growing trend.
Google trends shows the search volumes for the terms solo travel and solo female travel grew four and six fold respectively until the beginning of the pandemic and continue to gain steam after the hiatus of 2020.
Travelers set off without a travel companion more than ever before, especially women, and they do so for a variety of reasons.
Our annual Solo Female Travel Survey compiles the responses of 5,000 women on their motivations, behaviors and preferences when traveling solo. One of the questions we ask every year is why do you travel solo.
While respondents point at more than 10 different reasons with varying degrees of importance, three stand out: the flexibility of not having to depend on others to decide the itinerary; the opportunity to challenge themselves, push their boundaries and step outside of their comfort zone; and the chance to meet new people.
Underlying these motivations are several key benefits of traveling solo which we will explore in this article. If you are still deciding whether traveling on your own will be worth it, we hope that this list of advantages of traveling alone will help you decide.
There are probably an infinite amount of reasons to travel solo but we have summarised them together under 8 solo travel benefits we feel are the most relevant.
You get to decide what to do
The comment we most hear our members mention when asked why they travel solo is the fact that they can plan the entire trip according to their personal interests without having to make any adjustments for others.
Traveling solo means you are in charge and have total control over the itinerary, the starting time and end time of every day, the places you’ll eat at, the stops along the way, and everything else. You have the freedom of crafting your itinerary, making changes to the plan at any time and choosing each activity.
Deciding every part of your itinerary also means you choose how much to spend on it and what the tone of your trip will be; you might feel like making the most of your time and having a packed schedule, or taking a couple of days to sleep in, relax and wander through the streets without agenda. Take advantage of travel apps to have your itinerary handy at all times.
Janet Coleman, a health and wellness therapist founder of the ConsumerMag, agrees that “traveling alone forces you to embrace the unknown, which is liberating and exciting, and helps break away from routines and normality”.
On a solo trip, you also get to decide your budget and don’t have to limit yourself to reaching a compromise with your travel partners, instead having the option to choose from a wide range of alternative accommodations like booking a room through Airbnb, finding a lively hostel, opting for couchsurfing, or even finding a free accommodation host.
Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone
Traveling is one of the most humbling experiences one can have. It will take you out of the places, people and ways of doing things you know and drop you somewhere where your common sense may not be so common and where you are forced to face the fear of the unknown, on your own.
At home, you go through our days without much need for problem solving or thinking; inertia takes you to work, to do the groceries, to meet friends, to run chores, you know how things work where you live and don’t have to put your thinking hat on for most of the day.
Abroad, the most basic of things may require you to ask questions, find answers, make choices, and most importantly, try new things. For example, you may come from a Nordic country where small talk with strangers at shops or in lifts is not expected but visit a country where it is polite to say good morning and make small talk with others.
Even the most basic of things require you to navigate a new reality when traveling. You need to find a place for breakfast, navigate the public bus system, talk to strangers, read the menu and try new foods, learn new traditions, communicate in a language you don’t speak and generally get by in a place that is foreign.
Getting out of your comfort zone reminds you just how resourceful you are, it activates the parts of your brain you don’t normally use in your day to day and you learn to appreciate the things you have back home.
This boost in your mental agility is one of the biggest benefits of traveling somewhere new and is something that comes natural on a solo trip.
Even without the psychological explanation, you intuitively know that one of the biggest benefits of going on a solo trip is precisely this constant need to use your brain and to challenge yourself and grow without the option of relying on a travel companion for help.
You can challenge yourself in many other ways besides traveling, but a solo trip is the fastest and surest way to get out of our comfort zone and activate this personal growth potential.
When you travel, especially when you travel solo and have no one else to fall back on, you are constantly forced to try new things and that comes with its own set of benefits.
New experiences are adrenaline-inducing and provide us with a welcome variation to the constant but they also help us learn and develop new neurons and connections. Even just listening to the music of a place we are not familiar with can help our brains develop.
We can’t grow by continuing to do the same over and over, even if we know that to work and bring us success. Growth comes from failure, from taking risks and what bigger risk is there than that of going to another country we know nobody in on our own?
One of the reasons why many travelers will confess they are “addicted” to solo travel is ultimately because of the dopamine and adrenaline that gets released when we try something new, succeed, and have a great time. We want more of that and we want to feel the same way again, so we book another trip.
Even the most routine-loving individuals will enjoy the occasional spur of the moment change of pace and recognise that it is good for you and your brain to deviate from what you know.
While you could argue that this is one of the benefits of travel that could also be enjoyed while trying new things at home, the learning process is exponential when you are away from home without any of the expectations or opinions of those around you.
Have you ever noticed how much more likely you are to do something that your friends would not expect of you when you are abroad? Without the risk of judgement from those around you, you are more likely to let yourself be without the fear of making a fool of yourself.
Trying new things is one of the greatest benefits of solo travel but beware, it can become addictive.
Many studies prove that traveling is one of the best sources of creativity. Those who live abroad or have spent time in a multicultural environment are more likely to come up with innovative ideas or have creative suggestions.
It is because you are exposed to new ways of thinking and seeing life and have more tools and ideas than when you see the same ways of approaching a problem or situation every day.
Multicultural learning is more conducive to the creative process, but if you can’t live abroad, solo travel is the closest you’ll get to reaping the benefits of a diverse environment because it will help us see the world through different eyes.
Learn to love yourself
There is no doubt that one of the most important and obvious benefits of traveling alone is the unavoidable chance to get to know yourself better.
You have plenty of time to be with yourself and enjoy your own company and as difficult, boring or lonely as that may sound to those who have never traveled solo before or are not yet comfortable with themselves, learning to enjoy your own company is one of the greatest gifts that comes with traveling alone.
We can get away from the company of others we don’t like or enjoy, but we cannot get away from ourselves. Being comfortable in your own skin is the basis for gaining more confidence in yourself, learning to love yourself and attracting the right people around you.
Pausing and recharging
For women with careers, spouses, kids and all sorts of other responsibilities, finding time for themselves is complicated, even on vacation.
They still have to fix breakfast for the children, make sure the husband has everything he needs and plan the entire trip end to end. It may seem like they are on holiday when they are in fact ensuring everyone else enjoys theirs.
Vacations are great for your mental and physical well being. But for many, it is not enough to just go on holidays if that comes with the same responsibilities they have at home. In order to truly enjoy a break and reap the benefits of travel, they need to get away from the daily expectations and routine on their own.
No more demands on their personal time, no more dependents who rely on them for their day to day, no more time spent caring for others, the best part of a solo vacation is that it is all about you and no one else.
Travel, and vacations in general, have the purifying effect of cleansing and helping us reboot so we can return home refreshed and energized to take on any challenges. Enjoy quality time away from the day to day routine and have some healthy and necessary time exclusively for you.
It contributes to your health
Research shows that as one travels, one will be healthier, which brings benefits individually as well as to society. Activities like sightseeing, going to museums, starting a conversation with strangers improve physical and mental activities.
Experiencing a different culture and food has a long lasting impact and contributes to a wider perspective and a more empathic understanding of society.
But the most important health benefit of leisure travel is stress reduction. Travel has the power to make you feel relaxed, out of the daily routine and enjoy new surroundings and experiences, which can be liberating and have healing effects for the body and brain.
A solo trip is a great opportunity to pause and recharge, as explained in my previous paragraph, but it is also a great chance to recalibrate our lives and rethink our priorities.
It was precisely on a longish solo trip through the Pacific that I decided to leave the world of strategy consulting, i simply had not time to do that before I took that break because the day to day responsibilities and demands on my time meant that I did not have the mental space to reflect and rethink where I wanted to take my career.
Heal from trauma or loss
We see many members of our community embark on their first solo trip after a great loss.
They may have just become widowed, lost their jobs, broken a long term relationship or recovered from a major surgery or illness and are setting off on their own as a means to heal in what is often referred to as grief travel.
Vacations are proven to improve your mental health; add all the other solo travel benefits explained in this article and you could easily explain why solo travel is one of the best healers.
You could go on a solo trip to heal from heartache and find your love for yourself again, or perhaps find love again a la Eat, Pray, Love; or you could travel solo after your loved one passed away as a way to honor their wishes or to find who you are again. You could travel solo to fulfill a lifelong dream after an illness showed you just how short and precious life is.
No matter the trauma you have suffered, travel is a transformative experience that can help you heal and one of the most important benefits of solo travel is precisely the role it can play in the grieving process, from helping you find yourself in your new reality to literally getting away from the environment that constantly reminds you of your loss.
Gain self confidence
We have touched briefly on this as one of the most important and obvious benefits of traveling alone, but we will expand a bit more on this here.
Solo travel’s main super power is its ability to build up anyone’s confidence through the proven track record to resolve issues and overcome any challenge.
Most solo travelers come back from their first trip full of pride in their achievement and trust in themselves and their abilities. This only improves with every solo trip, because there are always new situations to be faced.
Traveling on your own requires lots of research and planning, and doing this “forces you to educate yourself”, which in turn helps you grow. “You exercise skills you didn’t know you had and you learn to trust your instincts; to build up that instinct inside you that tells you when you’re at risk or when something is dangerous”, shares travel writer Julia Hubbel.
Along with traveling comes problem solving and decision making. You will have many situations and choices to make, but you will reinforce your criteria and choose the best.
Help you confront your fears
Anxiety and fear around traveling solo is common and affects almost every solo traveler at some point, even to those who are experienced.
It can manifest as a fear about your personal safety, about feeling lonely, about not being able to meet anyone, about being bored, about getting lost or not being able to communicate with others, the list goes on.
It is only natural to be worried about the unknown. But it is precisely this uncertainty which forces us to face our fears and confront our deepest phobias and through that, learn to better cope with them.
Jenn Lloyd, writer of Sick Girl Travels, told us: “As someone who’s struggled with terrible social anxiety, travel has helped me confront my fears and realize I’m more self reliant than I ever imagined.”
To learn to live with your deepest fears and anxieties don’t hide from them but rather, dive right into them. Traveling solo puts you in a position where you can’t escape them and this is why it is such an empowering process for those with severe social anxieties or fear of the unknown. And bonus points, studies prove that stress and anxiety reduce after a trip.
Learn to be more tolerant
As we discussed earlier, Mark Twain put it best in Innocents Abroad when he said that travel is a great antidote to narrow-mindedness. Almost all experienced travelers will agree that one of the biggest benefits of traveling solo is the open mindedness it provides.
Seeing the world will give you varying interpretations to what you previously thought could only be understood in one way and will expose you to lots of different perspectives.
In the extreme, what is rude in one country could be seen as polite in another, what is promoted in one country could be considered illegal in another.
Traveling to a place that is completely different from the place you live in will confront you with realities you vehemently oppose or find unacceptable in your own culture, forcing you to hear a different point of view to something you had never questioned before and develop empathy for a point of view that may be insulting to your set of beliefs and values.
Getting close to the realities that you may only hear about in the news will also help you develop more empathy and a better understanding of the issues. For example, if you travel to the small islands of Tuvalu or Kiribati, the issue of rising seas and global warming will become apparent in a way no article online can explain.
Meet interesting people
Setting off on an independent adventure forces you (in a good way!) to interact and talk to strangers.
In our online community we sometimes hear members confess that when they travel they feel like they are a different person and are ready and able to open up to strangers, strike up conversations and meet new people in a more confident way. After all, according to our survey, meeting new people is one of the main reasons why women travel solo.
When you’re on your own, it’s easier to meet new people and locals. Traveling solo makes you more approachable and it’s likely for solo travelers to engage in conversations with strangers.
Generally, when traveling in a group you only talk to fellow group members, but when traveling alone you are not limited by interacting just with a close circle. One of the perks of traveling solo is you have a great chance to develop genuine connections and friendships with people you’ve never met. We’ve seen it in our community where solo female travelers meet up around the globe and stay friends.
“Traveling alone opens you up to meeting new people that you might not otherwise if you were focused on your travel companions. Sit at the bar, take walks, engage with shopkeepers, linger and explore. Ask questions and be curious”, said Eileen Scully, solo traveler and Founder of The Rising Tides.
Traveling alone may look like an insurmountable challenge at first but once you take the first step, board that plane and start your trip you will realise just how capable you are and start to feel the main benefits of solo travel, its power to build your confidence, learn, get out of your comfort zone and grow.
Few activities will allow you to garner so much personal growth, self confidence and joy as a trip on your own.
Let us help you plan that first solo trip with all the resources available on our website.