The image of the solo traveler – the youthful, nomadic wanderer on the search for meaning – is one that has been romanticized, depicted and sought after to the point of cliche.
But as is so often the case with cliches, there is also a grain of truth in that well worn image. A solo travel venture can be one of the richest life experiences a person can have, one that molds who they become as they move into the next chapter of their existence and put the lessons gleaned through travel into practice.
On the practical side, traveling as a single person offers the freedom to make plans on a whim and travel to whichever far-flung destination suits at the moment. Once on the road, there’s no negotiating to be done about what comes next, where to eat, which sights to see or not see, which buses or trains to take. You simply go, when you want to.
But solo travel also opens the door to rich emotional development, if you let it. Wandering the world on your own gives you a chance to explore interests and sides of your personality that have been forgotten as you developed your role in your family and friend group. You rediscover long-forgotten passions and, out of necessity, come out of your shell to meet people across different culture lines. You also gain perspective on what you want to *do*, whether that means going home and returning to an established career or setting down a new path of international travel and entrepreneurship.
Not every day is full of sunshine and new friendships, however. Traveling on your own can also be lonely and difficult, and not having a partner with whom to rehash your stories or strategize your way out of a bad situation can take its toll.
Solo travelers also need to take more care with their safety, spending more time researching potential risks and making decisions about whether to stay in as budget a hostel as they can find versus a guest house with a little more security. Sometimes traveling alone means shelling out more money in order to protect yourself in ways that might not be necessary if you had companions along for the journey.
However, these situations are also opportunities for growth, as you learn to become ever more independent, self-reliant and in touch with your true personality. In fact, time spent walking the world on your own has the potential to make you a more aware and empathetic friend, lover, sibling, co-worker, or whatever role you have in your relationships.
Solo travel is a worthwhile experience to have at least once in your life, to allow yourself to change and be changed along the way. By giving yourself the freedom to undertake such a journey while also staying in contact with loved ones and making an effort to develop new connections on the road, you create lasting bonds and memories that will shape your character in deep and lasting ways.