I’m a big fan of solo travel. Especially to amplify my options. I’ve easily done more solo travel than group trips. But recently I winged my way to Barcelona and Copenhagen with friends and got to experience the upside of group travel. Side Note: one of those friends I met while traveling solo.
The upsides I experience while traveling solo are the usual meet more people, get to ebb and flow on my energy, get to do exactly what I want to do. The biggest positive for me is always feeling myself expand. Pushing myself to dust off my Spanish skills, navigating public transport in foreign countries, figuring literally everything out. From getting groceries to seeing sights, making it happen is always an exercise in backing myself. Especially in places that don’t speak English (Hola, Central America!). Solo travel is the single biggest way I’ve pushed my boundaries and expanded my comfort zone.
Before my first trip to Europe (Scotland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands), I wouldn’t have contemplated going solo to Central America. Or entertained moving to the other side of the world (literally home is a 24-hour flight away, minimum). But I’ve done both. Costa Rica, Mexico, and Cuba en route to moving to London from little old New Zealand. The greatest adventures of my life. To date, always.
Now I’m contemplating leaving Little Miss Organised behind and traveling WITHOUT A PLAN. Which is a big deal for the control freak in me. Some people go straight to winging it. Not this girl. It’s not in my nature. But as experience has given me a confidence. I’ve realised:
- everything is figure-out-able
- a plan can be limiting
So don’t be too surprised if sometime in the not too distant future I book flights and nothing else. Just to push myself a little further.
The downside of solo travel is that everything’s on me. Yes, that’s what makes you grow but it can take away the fun of it all. You have to be ‘on’ all of the time. Especially being female. I’m constantly on alert. Is that guy following me? Is the catcalling harmless or sinister? Are these people at the hostel good sorts? Can I drink in this environment? I’m a thinker! I can’t just let go and hope for the best. Aside from the safety considerations, all of the decisions are on me. Navigation, attractions, where to eat. All up to me. Which, to be frank, can be exhausting.
This is where group travel comes in. Share navigation. Your energy ebbs and flows at different times so they can motivate you to get out more. And vice versa. It can be safer to go out at night. Your photos are not solely selfies and scenery. Your friends might get you doing things you normally wouldn’t – amplifying your options. In Copenhagen recently I went cycling in a city. For the second time in my life. The country girl in me feels very vulnerable. On a bike, sharing a road with cars. Eeeek. But Copenhagen has good cycleways and we had a blast roaming the city. Being on a bike is another perspective and more mobile. Me on a bike in London became a distinct possibility as I wheeled past Rosenborg Castle. A new option!
Group travel allows for new experiences with less pressure. The downside is kind of the antithesis of solo travel – compromises. Where you go, when you go. You have to be considerate to successfully travel with other people. And ask for what you want. On my Barcelona trip, I really, really, REALLY wanted to see La Sagrada Familia. But my friends were flying over a day before and it would have made sense for them to go on the potentially quieter Friday. Things could’ve been awkward if I didn’t say anything. Ask for what you want, amplify your options. Learning how to do this and not be a dick is an essential life skill. Traveling is a relatively low-stakes environment in which to practice (your friends will be more forgiving than say a professional environment).
Solo travel provides the opportunity for more rapid growth but that doesn’t mean you don’t learn in a group. For me, I see benefits to both. Having others with me means I can go places and do things I normally wouldn’t. Going solo has given me more confidence in myself than any other experience.
You learn so much about yourself and what your true personality is. Who you revert to under pressure. Who you are at your core? Travel peels back the layers. Alone or with others, near or far, travel is single biggest opportunity to know yourself.
What options have you added to your life as a direct result of your travel experiences? Comment below!
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