Traveling Solo Is Nourishment For The Soul
It often feels like lately everyone is trying to find nourishment for their soul. Be it meditation, yoga, hiking, blogging, reading, traveling… if you can name it, people are trying it. We as humans are constantly seeking that which will fill us with happiness and a sense of purpose. It has always been a quest of human nature to do so, but in a world filled with so much outside distraction, it can be hard to pause and find that happy place. Too often we can even get in a routine that completely throws us off course, and before we know it- we feel lost and adrift in our own lives.
At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, before social media was the pinnacle of interaction, I remember still feeling like I couldn’t quite find that spark that made my life something I wanted to write about. I had just finished my first year of college, and it was nothing like the early 2000’s movies made it seem like it would be. The frat parties had just been overwhelming and slightly alarming, the classes were long and tedious, and my roommate and I fought more than we bonded. I was terrified my future would just be an endless cycle of confusion, fear of the unknown and a never-ending feeling of being lost in my own world.
When I was packing up my dorm after freshman year, I came across a study abroad poster. I knew I would never have the guts to apply- much less travel to a foreign country completely alone. I was a pack animal, a person who never did anything without the comfort of another human with me. But something deep within stirred, and I took down the information. I won’t bore you with the process, but the next thing I knew I had been accepted and was packing my bags for a trip I had no intention of actually taking. The airport experience was surreal, the whole time my brain telling me I wasn’t actually flying across the ocean to England for a semester abroad. I had never left the US, and the thought of taking a plane for over ten hours to a completely foreign country where I had zero connections seemed ludicrous. I don’t think it was until I boarded the plane that I realized I was about to make either the most incredible or horrible decision of my entire life.
It turns out- traveling completely alone with no one else to guide me or stop me from making life-changing decisions was the best thing that I ever did. After that, I jumped at the chance to travel to unknown destinations alone, hoping to relive that first experience that changed my life forever. That first semester abroad opened possibilities and doors I had never thought possible. Where I was once shy, self-conscious and nervous about my future, I was now confident and excited to see where the world led me. I was forced out of my shell and had to make new friends, and because of this, I found out things about myself I didn’t even know existed. How did I not realize I was funny and fearless and could strike up a conversation with just about anyone and leave knowing their life story?
So why is traveling alone such an incredible way to nourish your soul? Why does it fill you with a glorious sense of accomplishment, while also leaving you completely exposed in the best possible way? Perhaps it is because with the constant desire to be accepted in the world of media law- traveling alone with no one to judge or distract you opens your mind. You can truly dig out who you are without trying to fit a certain mold that others have created for you. We are different in every interaction we make on a daily basis, especially with people we see regularly. To some, you’re the shy quiet type and that is how they have always seen you. To others, you may be the natural-born leader when really you prefer to go with the flow. Because of this, we often lose our sense of self to what others perceive it as, so it is normal that we have a jumbled personality or muddled idea of who we are.
Are we funny? Goofy? Stoic and serious? Pensive? Do we like to sing off-key at karaoke but would never do so in our normal confines? When you set off for a destination on your own, you lose the inhibitions that usually shackle you. Traveling alone is a time to reflect as well. National Geographic said about solo traveling: “Traveling alone forces us outside of our comfort zones, which makes us receptive to new people and experiences.” -From National Geographic’s article,” Six Things Solo Travel Teaches You.”
I believe traveling alone is necessary, if only to really stake out what makes you tick. Just because your Instagram or Facebook says you’re one thing, does not mean that is strictly who you are. When all your high school friends still think of you as the wallflower, or the ‘nice one,’ shouldn’t you strive to break that perception and find out once and for all who you are? By pushing yourself to travel alone, you are creating a safe space in which to cocoon and emerge as the person you have always wanted to be- or even the one you never knew was inside.
Being lonely is less of a daunting reality and more of a genuine gift once you actually try it. I used to feel the need to be constantly surrounded by people. The thought of being alone terrified me, and I would slowly succumb to anxiety about wanting to fit in. After that first solo trip, as well as the numerous ones that followed, I realized I did my best creative thinking alone. I had no fear of taking chances and introducing myself to attractive strangers. My life became fuller, richer and more enticing with every solo trip. I amassed a friendship group spanning the entire globe, so that I regularly get messages from friends in Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe any given time of day. I have couches and beds I can stay on whenever I want, in any country I want, all because I took a leap into the unknown and let myself be scared. Scared, but brave.
I also found that you don’t always have to feel brave at first. In taking that step, you’re already proving to yourself you are stronger than you ever accounted for. So, I encourage each of you to book a solo trip. Be it big or small- a car ride away or a flight across the ocean- it doesn’t matter the destination. Pack a bag and plan a trip that is for yourself and yourself alone. Don’t worry about the destination too much, or what you will do when you get there. Believe that you will find whatever you are looking for- even if what you are looking for is nothing at all.
Share your stories of traveling alone with us- we want to hear about your wondrous adventures!