By Sara Nicastro

“Have you seen the movie Taken?” is the first response from family and friends when I tell them I bought my next plane ticket for a new trip, and I bought it alone. While I do enjoy a little Liam Nelson kicking some ass across the big screen, my first reaction is usually a long eye roll. If you know me at all, then you would know that nothing would stop me from traveling, not even a blockbuster movie, nor should it stop you.

Traveling alone may seem scary at first but I promise you it can offer you some lasting experiences that you simply won’t get when traveling in pairs or a group. As human beings we are social by nature always wanting to share, learn and explore in our communities. While it is great to have a network of people around to support you, plan activities with, and laugh together, it is equally important to learn and enjoy doing these things alone. Here are my reasons why I think everyone should travel alone at least once in their life:

Confidence

Learning to make your own decisions and being happy with them can be difficult for some people, and rightly so. When you are used to doing everything with another person you overlook how to make decisions alone. My first solo trip was at 18 years old and it took some time to adapt to that. Learning directions of a new city, asking a stranger for information, planning my day in the city, deciding what was dangerous or safe, and learning to not feel so self conscious having a meal alone are all steps you go through when traveling alone. But, every time you eat alone and enjoy your food, or make the right turn to find that museum your confidence goes up and you learn how much strength you have.

On top of that, the decisions that go wrong you learn very fast from. You will be astonished at how much you can learn from the road and all the new skills you can take back home with you.

Do what you want when you want

When on a trip alone, you have no one to answer to. And rightfully so, you have worked hard and given up a lot to take this trip so why should you not enjoy every second of it. If you want a lazy day in bed, take it. If you want to take a hike, go for it. Traveling alone ensures you see everything you want to see at exactly the time you want to.

Forces you to make friends with strangers

I find traveling alone pushes you to step outside your comfort zone and talk to strangers a little more. Weather it be asking a server for directions, talking to your seat mate on the plane or getting to know your fellow travelers in a hostel. With that same logic it makes you more approachable as well. Meeting new friends on the road is one of the best things you can get out of traveling.

Alone not lonely

People constantly ask me if I get lonely when I travel alone and the answer is simply no. There is a big difference from feeling lonely to being alone. First, I enjoy a little quiet time to think, reflect and be with my own thoughts. I don’t think we get enough of this luxury in our busy lives back at home. Second, there are so many other travelers on the road and amazing local people to meet. I have never gone a day traveling alone where I didn’t have some sort of positive human interaction.

Freedom

There is something about waking up in a new city, with not one person knowing your name and an entire day ahead of you exploring the unknown, exactly how you want to do it. The only way to truly understand this feeling is to get out and experience it. Our daily lives don’t feel very freeing and spontaneous as we have school, debt, work, family, partners, friends, pets, etc. There is always some responsibility we feel obliged to take care of. When you travel alone there is no one or nothing to take care of other than yourself, and to me that is freeing.

I truly believe anyone who has the guts and privilege to go travel alone should do it. It is not as scary as it seems and one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Oh, and if you happen to bump into Liam Nelson tell him I say Hi!

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