Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel without any friends or family? What are the things that are holding you back from booking a flight to Amsterdam tomorrow? Do you fear being alone in an unfamiliar environment? You might be saying to yourself “Surely I’ll be taken advantage of because I’m a solo traveller, right?”, “I don’t even speak their language” or “I’m too shy to meet others”.
I remember being in this state of paralysis, thinking through the worst-case scenarios. I hadn’t really been in situations on my own before. I was a shy child. Throughout my childhood, I was dragged along, kicking and screaming, to workshops and camps that might have involved me meeting other children. I liked what I was used to, and I feared the unknown.
During university, I began to hear great things about travelling. I read countless numbers of travel blogs, watched numerous YouTube videos and, attended various talks where people were discussing solo travelling. The stories were unbelievable, the concept seemed perfect, yet I still couldn’t bring myself to take the leap of faith. Eventually, a Ryanair sale in 2016 spurred me on to book a series of cheap flights around Europe and commit myself to my first solo adventure.
I didn’t know what to expect, so I left Dublin anxious but very open-minded. I wanted to put my trust in strangers and get out of my comfort zone. After the month travelling around Europe, experiencing the unthinkable, I fell in love with travelling alone.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve found from travelling solo these past 2 years.
1 Easy to meet others
It’s so much easier to meet others when you travel solo than if you’re with others. If you’re travelling with others you’re spending most of your time with them and not really thinking about meeting other people. When you are alone the fear of being alone can spark you into life. You can find yourself starting conversations with the person sitting beside you on the plane, bus or train. You can improve the chances of meeting people by staying in communal environments like hostels. Couchsurfing is another platform that is geared towards connecting people. There are weekly Couchsurfing events in most major cities in Europe which bring locals and tourists together. Free walking tours are another great place to meet other travellers. You’ll find out how easy it is to meet people when you travel solo.
2 Cheaper than you think
There seems to be this misconception that travelling must be expensive. Travelling can cost as much as you want it to cost. There are 3 main expenses when travelling – transport, food & drink and, accommodation. There are multiple ways to get each of these for much less than you might expect, and there even ways to get each of them for free!
Thanks to Ryanair, we have flights to Europe for less than a taxi fare. A quick search on Skyscanner shows that a flight to the UK will cost as low as €20 and €30 can get you to the continent. Buses are getting cheaper, ridesharing services, like Blablacar, make travelling between cities more comfortable, social and affordable, and there are price comparison sites, like Rome2Rio, where you can compare multiple modes of transport between destinations. If you are 18 years old you can apply for a free DiscoverEU travel pass. Another free form of transport is hitchhiking.
Hostels start from €5 per night in Ukraine to €20 in Western Europe. Some hostels include some meals in the price of a bed, like Greg & Tom Hostel in Krakow. €12 for a bed with breakfast, dinner, snacks throughout the day and one hour of free alcohol, all included. Couchsurfing works very well and is free, with no strings attached. You could even try your luck on Tinder.
Travelling solo can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.
3 Realise that most people are good people
Travelling alone forces you to open yourself to others. You will end up putting a lot of trust in others and most of the time it will work out very well. Meeting up with the guy you met on the plane for a coffee, getting into a stranger’s car, leaving your phone charging in your hostel dorm, having a drink with the girl you met on the free walking tour, sleeping in a stranger’s apartment or, getting drunk with the owner of the hostel. What you’ll grow to realise is that people, for the most part, are kind-hearted and willing to help you.
4 Learn how to adjust when things don’t go to plan
Things will inevitably not go to plan. You might fall in love with one place and decide to stay longer there, your transport might be delayed or cancelled, your Couchsurfing host might cancel on you, you might be the only person in your hostel, you might lose something, you might get lost or, you might catch the wrong train. Whatever it is, you will find a way to fix it. This ability to quickly adapt to a situation is an important skill to develop as not many things in life go exactly as we might expect.
5 Arms you with a catalogue of unbelievable stories
You will more than likely have some unbelievable stories from your experiences. These stories can be hard for friends and family, who haven’t travelled solo, to fully appreciate. These stories oftentimes come about during those times when things don’t go to plan and you must find a solution quickly.
6 Gives you a freedom you can’t otherwise get
You are totally in control of where you go, who you hang out with, what you do, which restaurant you go to, what time you want to start exploring or whether you want to just have a chill day instead. There is minimal pressure on you to act in a way that you think your travel partner(s) would like you to. You do everything on your terms.
7 You can be whoever you want to be
No one knows you from before. Everyone you meet is a blank canvas. You can be whatever version of yourself that you’d like to be. No one will know otherwise. This can lead you to unlock different aspects of your personality you hadn’t realise you were suppressing up until then. The biggest one for me was discovering my comfort at being social with people of all ages. This is something I wasn’t comfortable with showing prior to my solo travels.
8 Makes you more decisive and confident
As you are totally responsible for what you are doing, you force yourself to become more decisive. There is less time to ponder decisions and action is taken more swiftly. As a result, when things work out, you gain great confidence in knowing that those things happened because you made certain decisions to allow them to happen. When you build this confidence in your decision making this also boosts your self-confidence.
9 Become more open to spontaneity
You will find yourself more open to spontaneity. The necessity for spontaneity is one of the key lessons I have learned on my travels. Have a plan but be ready to change plans at any stage. You’ll hear about unmissable destinations from people you meet, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you haven’t left some wiggle room for those spontaneous trips.
10 Become more comfortable with yourself
As ironic as it sounds, this is something that can be hard to find at times on a solo adventure – time alone. When you do find it though, it allows you to reflect on your new experiences and your pre-travel experiences. Alone time is also great for realising that you don’t constantly need to be surrounded by others. You start to view the time alone not as loneliness, but as a time for connecting with yourself. How often do you stop and reflect on what you’re doing? Travelling solo is a great time to allow this to happen.
So, there are 10 of my reasons why you should consider taking a solo adventure sometime soon. I highly recommend experiencing it. It’s inexpensive, easy and full of benefits for yourself.
What’s holding you back from travelling solo?