During my month away in Europe, I spent a week exploring the beautiful country of Portugal on my own. It was not a long time, but it was enough for me to discover the beauty of traveling solo and the effects it has on self-awareness and perspective. Today I am sharing seven reasons to travel alone in hopes of convincing you to do the same one day. I promise you, despite the challenges, you will never regret it.
1. Your itinerary is completely up to you.
I'm the kind of traveler who makes pre-planned Excel sheets for the group, but for the first time I didn't feel the need to do so. Solo travel gives you the freedom to be completely spontaneous. You can plan as you go or not at all, but either way you don't need to worry about satisfying others. The trip solely depends on what you make of it.
2. You learn to appreciate solo dining.
We are wired to dine with company. From the start we are told that eating alone in the school cafeteria means being an outcast. I think it means independence. Living in New York has trained me to appreciate the peacefulness of eating alone, and it only gets better when you travel. Think about it. You control when, where, and what you eat without needing to compromise with others' tastes. I walked about half an hour alone for the best pizza in Lisbon accompanied by seaside views, and I have no regrets. I'm not sure that I could convince anyone else to do the same with me.
3. You will also meet some great people to dine with.
The best part about traveling solo is having the opportunity to meet people whom you would not otherwise. I was fortunate to stay at a hostel where the staff organized trips and meals to bring everyone together. As I've said on Instagram, meal conversations take on another level when you're dining with people from all over the world. You will hear stories unlike anything back home and make friends to join in on your adventures along the way. Pictured above is a shot of my wine tasting with a friend who ended up visiting three of the same consecutive cities as me -- it's a small world, isn't it?
4. You will learn to navigate new environments on your own.
This is a skill that can't be taught. Traveling solo means facing challenges on a completely new terrain all by yourself. As daunting as it sounds, it is one of the best ways to improve your street smarts even once you return home. You will discover the ins and outs of different cultures and learn to enjoy all the obstacles along the way. If you can conquer that, you can conquer anything.
5. You will gain new perspectives -- on yourself, on others, on life.
Most of your time will be spent in your thoughts, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As you discover more about the world, you will simultaneously discover more about yourself. We tend to get comfortable with routines at home and become wrapped up with the everyday monotony. A solo trip gives you the chance to step back and gain new perspectives on things you may have overlooked. You will return home with a refreshed and open mind.
6. You will step out of your comfort zone.
Traveling solo takes courage in itself, and it only goes up from there. Being free from judgment and meeting others who are doing just the same serves as motivation to try things you hadn't considered before. I like to think that if I never get to return to a place, what would I regret not having done?
7. You will carry the memories with you forever.
I've been asked several times which of the European cities was my favorite, and I always say Lisbon. Other than being a fantastic city in itself, Lisbon gave me the opportunity to explore and discover on another level -- because I did it alone. I'm not saying that other trips are not notable, but your solo travels will be remembered in different ways. You are the only one who will hold those memories. For that reason you will cherish them forever and pride yourself in conquering new places on your own. And you will want to do it all again.