5 Lessons I Learned from Traveling Alone

5 Lessons I Learned from Traveling Alone

By Rachel O’Conner

My 22nd birthday was a time for reflection. I looked back on my life and made a note of the things I was happy about and those I wanted to change. Two things stood out on my list. One was to travel. The other was getting in touch with who I am as a person. Who would have guessed that a solo trip would have checked both boxes at once?

I learned some very important lessons as I traveled on my own, but there are five that stood out above all others.

We’re more alike than we think

I’m a lot more like you than you probably think. Know how I know? I realized that there are more similarities than differences among people. I always avoided striking up conversations because I was worried I’d be bothering people. So I forced myself to do it on vacation because I had no one else to talk to. And I found that most people were happy to talk… as long as they didn’t have to be the conversation starters. In this society, we all have similar concerns. It’s silly when you think about it. You could have a room full of people who want to talk to each other, but they don’t because of the same fear. I learned to overcome the silly fears I had about socializing with others because ultimately, most people just want to connect.

Preparation is crucial

When you’re in a foreign place, whether it’s Texas or China, getting lost can be scary. It’s even scarier when you’re alone. And it’s even scarier when you’re stuck.

On my first road trip by myself, I made a rookie mistake. I forgot to get an oil change before the trip. When my oil light went on, it was a particularly busy day, so I put it off. Three days later, I was on my way back from a movie and took a wrong turn. And then another. It was late, and I was lost in a relatively remote area of Nevada. Could life get any worse? Yes, it certainly could. At that moment, my car started sputtering, and that was that. I was stuck.

Lesson learned: Routine car maintenance is important. Whether you’re flying solo or traveling with a group, get your car serviced before you leave. I ended up spending a whole lot more on a tow and repairs than I would have if I had just gotten that oil change.

You need a budget

Spending money is surprisingly easy when you’re on your own. I thought I’d end up spending less on a solo excursion, but I soon realized that it was shaping up to be the opposite.

Because I spent so much time alone, I always wanted to get out and do things. I went out for breakfast, lunch and dinner hoping to meet people. Well, I met people, but I ended up spending a lot more than I should have.

If you’re planning a trip by yourself (or even with other people), create a budget and stick to it. Your budget should include things like transportation, food and entertainment. Once I created a budget, I was actually able to spend more money on fun things because I was spending less on food and miscellaneous stuff. A budget sounds like a buzz-kill kind of thing, but if you do it right, a plan can help you have more fun.

Freedom is a great thing

There’s a free feeling you get when you travel alone. It’s just you and the open road, and you can literally do whatever you want. You don’t have to consider other people’s feelings, limitations or desires. It’s all about you. This sounds incredibly selfish, but it’s a great way to get in tune with who you are and what you truly enjoy. After my experience, I believe everyone should travel on their own at least once in their lives.

Experiences are greater than things

When you travel alone, you end up looking for things to fill your time. At least, that’s what I did. So I sought out new experiences and tried different things. I think I was a lot more adventurous on my own than I would have been with someone else.

And as I look back on all my experiences, I wouldn’t trade any one of them for all the money in the world. I made great memories and even better friends along the way. This is truly what life is about. The other stuff simply doesn’t matter.

If you’re anything like I was, the thought of traveling alone is terrifying. But I can honestly tell you that it’s worth it. You may have to learn how to put yourself out there, but the reward is so much greater than the risk. I have opened up in so many areas of my life since my first solo trip, and now I’m ready to plan another.

[Image © CoolR, under license from ShutterStock]

Rachel O’Conner is freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic”. While initially being hesitant to travel, Rachel learned to face her fears and caught the travel bug. Now she can’t get enough of it! Rachel has been all across the United States and several times overseas. She enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing her experiences with the world. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, running with her dogs, or heading to the closest farmers’ market. She currently writes on behalf of Jim Ellis Buick GMC Atlanta.

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