Traveling alone can be difficult to do. An open afternoon all to yourself with no set plans can be daunting. Restaurants full of social people can seem intimidating, other things might seem dangerous alone, and some moments seem too perfect not to share.
However, once you experience it, traveling alone brings such an ecstasy of freedom and independence that it becomes an addiction. With a little common sense and precaution, you have the freedom to go wherever you want, speak with anyone you cross paths with, and change plans at a moments notice. There are definitely some specific tips to traveling solo successfully, but here is why you'll want to do it in the first place:
1. Meeting New People
You are easier to approach alone and, you're more likely to talk to strangers when solo as well. Even without realizing it, you may be less aware of people around you when you have a friend sitting across from you. Staying at hostels, working at non-profits, or just wandering into a cafe is a great way to strike up conversations with locals and travelers alike, enriching your experience of that place in an intimate and authentic way.
2. Trying New Things
Maybe you never thought of it, or heard about, or wouldn't ever dream of doing it. Suddenly, a new friend is begging you to give it a try. Why not? Maybe you'll love it, and you would have never tried it without some outside help. Taking risks and finding adventure is what made you travel in the first place, right?
3. Budgeting for What's Important
I am a pretty easy going person when traveling, so if a friends want to eat at a restaurant, or go to a specific museum, or stay at one place over another I tend not to mind the few extra dollars. However, my friends don't have to budget for SCUBA, or photography, or other various things that I would like to save money for. Traveling alone lets you budget how you like--sometimes I might have a simple snack for lunch and stay at a cheaper place so I can go on that special boat trip. While there are sure to be disagreements in a group, alone you can be content with exactly what you spend your money on.
4. Keeping Secrets
This one is easy. That amazing, isolated island you found in the Philippines? Not everyone has to know. That time you danced in a fire show and caught someone's dinner on fire? That can be your secret as well.
It's hard enough to balance friends and relationships back home, so wouldn't it be nice to take a break from it all? When on the road you'll be meeting lots of interesting people. Sometimes they convince you to go to a town that you hadn't planned on going to, and other times you may want to spend the whole night with him/her walking on the beach. While traveling on my birthday last year, I found I had a party of twenty going out to celebrate in Siem Reap just because we could. Traveling solo gives you the flexibility to spend your time with anyone interesting that you might meet--just make sure to be safe at all times (they are strangers).
6. Smart Thinking
I find that even if you are naturally a pro-active thinker, there is a certain passivity you adopt when in groups. Alone, you are responsible for yourself. That means checking visas, taking care of your body, being aware of where you are, getting directions, and planning your day to day. Rather than it be considered work, this can be viewed as a special responsibility. It is empowering, exciting, and freeing. There are more safety precautions women have to take when traveling alone, but the knowledge and confidence that comes with handling that responsibility will affect every aspect of your life for the better.
7. Being Truly in the Moment
There is no, "what do you want for dinner later" or "I wish I could have taken a nap earlier". When you are doing what you want when you want to, you can enjoy that moment to the fullest. Don't want to watch the sunset anymore? Leave. Are you tired after lunch? Find a hammock. Naturally, traveling alone will result in some less talkative days than others, as well as more spare time. I find that this combination of becomes a form of meditation, allowing me to let my mind wander in silence as I observe all the small details of a new place I would have normally never noticed otherwise. For me, that is ultimate freedom and a very good reason why every now and then, traveling alone can be the best thing for you.