Traveling is inherently a transformative experience. Seeing new sights, eating new foods, fumbling to communicate in a language other than your own — these are all aspects of travel that can and will make you uncomfortable, but ultimately have the potential to change the way you see the world.
Many people travel with family or friends because it makes them feel safer and sharing new adventures with others you know can be very meaningful. There's nothing like creating awesome memories with people whom you already know well and reminiscing over them for years to come. Creating those same memories just for yourself, though? That'll teach you things about yourself you'd never expect.
Here's what you can only get by taking that giant solo leap:
1. This is who you really are.
When you're with friends, family, co-workers, anyone who knows you even a little, it skews the way you present yourself to the world. Traveling alone means offering yourself up to what's out there without any prior adjustment.
2. Making the uncomfortable comfortable is how you grow.
Is it hard to sit down with that group laughing together at the hostel? Sure. Is it hard to say hi to the cute fellow solo traveler sitting across from you on the train? Yep. Is it easier to just live inside your own head? Yes.
Until it isn't. When you push yourself outside your comfort zone on your own, you'll be amazed at what you can do.
3. Getting lost and then found is the best.
Getting lost in a foreign country is completely terrifying. Finding your way back alone is beyond gratifying.
4. People have massive respect for your courage.
"You're going alone? I could never do that."
5. You can do literally anything you want.
No compromises with tired, cranky friends or family. Sick of the people you're with? Split off and do your own thing.
6. There are countless ways to live a fulfilling, happy life.
It's easy to get bogged down by the chase for more, more, more back home. Keeping up with your peers on a track you think you're supposed to be on toward success and happiness can be blinding. Traveling alone will show you how people from all over the world find happiness in much "simpler" ways.
7. You're creative.
All those changing perspectives? You'll find it's easy to turn them into something tangible. Write, paint, create.
8. Making decisions is easy.
We're plagued by an excess of options in our daily lives. Being halfway around the world by yourself will make you realize that spending time evaluating every single possibility is a waste of time. Pick one and see what happens. If it doesn't work, move on quickly to the next.
9. You should have learned another language growing up.
You'll meet people from all over who have learned English as their second, or third, or fourth language and feel stupid.
10. Being alone isn't sad. It's empowering.
Sure, you'll get lonely. And when you're OK with that, you're almost invincible.
11. Locals know best.
The first inclination is to follow the beaten path and only what's recommended by books or word of mouth. Throw yourself out there a bit and take some risks. See what the locals have to say — they show you what's really authentic.
12. The "travel bug" never gets cured.
Do this right and your only regrets at the end will be that you didn't do it for longer.
13. Self-awareness is a rare, valuable skill.
When you're alone you see your strengths and your weaknesses clearly. Knowing how those affect other people will be invaluable when you come back home.
14. It's only money.
So spend it on something that matters.