In one week, I’ll be starting a five day trip to Portland, Oregon for the first time and, more importantly, it will be by myself. Most people I’ve told this have had a similar mixed-reaction of utter concern and remarkable interest. After the look of confusion appears over their face, next is the wafting questions.
“Are you visiting friends?”
“Can someone go with you?”
I’m all for group trips, but sometimes I want to see a new city alone.
How will you know your way around?
That’s the point.
Traveling alone, and the questions that come with it, are not something I’m unfamiliar with though. While my travel journey has only really started a few years ago, when I was old enough to start paying my own way to all the cities and countries I’d been dying to see, I have seen my fair share of the world and am only planning to embark on more adventures, both with friends and alone. I’ve taken more flights solo than with people, stayed in funky hostels in unfamiliar cities, and have turned new surroundings into a full-on exploration. It’s been wonderful and something I think everyone deserves to experience. So, here are my four reasons you should travel alone, at least once.
You really get to know what kind of traveler you are –
This was a huge one for me. I am a notorious over-packer, but when I took a solo trip to Montreal in the summer of 2017, I learned how little I really needed. At first, I naturally started to pack all of my most “important” outfits into my already over-stuffed suitcase. I quickly found I was fighting with two opposing forces – my practical, take what you need side and my “what if something comes up and I need all the denim dresses” side – and this caused me to burn at both ends. Needless to say, I rethought and repacked several times. Eventually, I decided to opt for packing the essentials only. I never even thought about the “just in case” outfits while away. I’ve also learned what I really liked to do while being in a new place. Both in Montreal and when I traveled alone to Dublin in 2016, I found myself gravitating towards museums and food. Exploring a city’s art and the architectural scene was a huge deal to me and, of course, their take on vegan cuisine. I also found myself aimlessly walking through the streets, stumbling upon uncharted (for me) areas and getting lost in culture.
You make the rules –
Want delve into every nook and cranny of that really cool art gallery? Do it. Interested in taking a sunrise hike? You can. Itching to visit every coffee shop in the neighborhood? You’re more than welcome to. See, when you travel alone, you allow yourself to make the rules. You are able to stay somewhere for as long or as short as you’d like. You can get swept up in the magic of your surroundings and not feel like you are dragging your other travel buddy down. What it really comes down to is it’s all about you…and that can be extremely refreshing. While visiting Mount Royale in Montreal, after getting to the top of the lookout, I decided to take photos and people watch for almost two hours. While this may sound extremely boring to some, to me it was an exciting and quiet moment of stillness I will always cherish. I got to make the rules on how long I wanted to stay until I felt like I had really taken in the memory for all that it was.
You meet some amazing people along the way –
When traveling alone, I recommend staying in hostels or a similar kind of communal space. That way, not only will you be surrounded by experienced travelers who can let you know the ropes, but it’s very likely you’ll make some great friends in the process. hostelworld.com is an awesome website and will help filter through the amenities, ratings, and atmosphere that’s right for you. The hostel I stayed in, in Montreal served a community breakfast where every morning I would grab a bagel with jam and a coffee, and sit to write at this long wooden cafeteria-type table. People would sift in and out, making their way through the day, but you would end up seeing and conversing with the same group of people who were vaguely in the same morning routine as you. I ended up speaking and befriending some amazing individuals from all over the world, as a result.
You have your own experience/your own story, shared with only you –
If you think about it, how many times in your life do you really get to do that? We, as human beings, have an innate instinct to stay in a pack. It’s rare you get to experience an extended amount of time, learning, growing and observing a new place without another accompanying you to experience the same thing. Sure, while traveling alone, you can take photos and videos to share with the masses on social media, but I know I have stories, even ones I have shared with groups of people, that no one else will fully understand because they weren’t there first-hand to experience them with me. And, if I’m being honest, that’s a pretty unique feeling to have. It allows you really admire the experience for what it truly means to you and, in the process, you learn a lot about yourself as an individual.
All and all, traveling alone is a humbling experience I think everyone should do at least once in their life. Ease into it and allow yourself to learn who you are as a traveler and as a human being.
Explore new landscapes, meet new people, and, above all, be open to the brilliant world around you. xx
currently listening to: ChilledCow’s lofi hip hop radio
Photos owned by me