There is not one single recipe for how to learn more about yourself. People’s reactions to different events and insights that they gain from them are profoundly individual. For me, the experience that helped me to understand myself better was traveling solo for the first time in my life. This essay showcases how taking a trip by myself has taught me that I can be comfortable with who I am.
Statistics suggest that solo traveling is becoming more commonplace than ever. In 2020, one-quarter of all travelers were considering traveling alone (“70+ Solo Travel Statistics & Trends”). The trend is on the rise: between 2018 and 2019, there was a 42 increase in the number of people taking solo trips (Karantzavelou). 15% of solo travelers are looking for a personal challenge and a confidence boost, which was my motivation (Karantzavelou). Yet, despite how normalized and even popular going somewhere alone is becoming, I still was not aware of what would await me during my trip.
Probably, the biggest lesson that I had to learn was how to be alone without being lonely. I still remember my excitement when walking down the airstair and breathing in the hot and humid air. Everything in me was longing for adventure, and I already imagined myself surrounded by a diverse group of international friends, taking me everywhere and happily showing me around. This enthusiasm faltered in the next three days as I ran headfirst into the language barrier with the local population. As much as people were friendly to me, it never went beyond small talk. I longed for human connection and was already regretting not convincing a friend to tag along.
However, soon, I realized that I risk spending the entire trip sullen and dissatisfied if I do not reframe this situation. At a small, inviting coffee shop, hidden somewhere in an inn between historical buildings, I had an honest conversation with myself – for the first time in quite a long time. Apparently, I was waiting for someone to entertain me and make this getaway worthwhile. At the same time, I was not at ease with my own self and was rushing to hide from my thoughts in something or someone.
That day was a turning point for me and ushered plenty of positive changes in my life. Traveling solo has given me the freedom to decide when to wake up, where to go, what to eat, and how to spend my evenings. I became more attuned to my natural rhythms and discovered, much to my surprise, how much I enjoyed waking up early. Furthermore, the experience made me learn more about my natural pace and how slowing down and being in the moment could be incredibly gratifying. Yet, the strangest thing of all was that being alone for some time helped me to connect with friends and family more healthily. I felt resourceful and empowered and could share my joy for life with them.
The hectic rhythm of our everyday life does not always allow us to take a moment for self-reflection. Yet, self-knowledge is essential as a good relationship with oneself determines one’s quality of life, ability to connect with others, mental and physical health. The experience that allowed me to enrich the said self-knowledge was traveling solo. It exposed how dependent I was on other people to make me happy. By the end of the trip, I learned to feel comfortable in my skin and be my own friend.
“70+ Solo Travel Statistics & Trends.” The Wandering RV. 2020, Web.
Karantzavelou, Vicky. “Solo travel soars in popularity: 42% increase in bookings since 2015.” Travel Daily News. Web.