I love solo travel. When to wake up and go to bed? Up to me. What to see and where to go? My choice. How fast or slow to move and move on? I’m groovin’ to the beat of my own drum. No debates, no compromises, no “I dunno, what do you want to do?”
Ok, maybe it sounds a bit selfish. It’s all about me: my moods and my interests. But you know how else solo travel sucks me in? The inevitable personal growth that comes with being totally, completely on your own.
Solo travel fortifies me mentally
Think about your daily routine. You wake up and make breakfast. You get in the car and drive to work. I’m going to venture a guess and say you probably didn’t think too hard about any of that. You know what you like to eat, you know which roads to take. It’s muscle memory, it’s habit, and it requires little concentration.
When I travel solo, I have to pay attention to everything. I’m weighing the best meal on the best route. I’m calculating currency exchange rates in my mind to make sure the price is fair. I’m deciphering signs and translating. I’m navigating maps, computing distances, and juggling public transportation timetables. I’m constantly trying to make the most of my time and money… it’s a lot of mental cartwheels. And not only that; I’m looking over my shoulder, always aware of my surroundings.
I’m not leaning on a tour guide, groupthink, or safety in numbers. Experiencing a new place is all my responsibility.
Solo travel pushes me out of my introverted comfort zone
I’m an introvert — doing my own thing suits me, so I only travel solo. But, I don’t often end up alone, and I certainly don’t get lonely. I gravitate towards friendly faces. I strike up conversations with strangers. I’m usually bubbling with the excitement of being in a new and curious place, and can’t wait to hear others’ observations and share my own…
When I travel, I turn into a social butterfly. I start out alone, but I end up meeting and making a slew of friends. It’s exhilarating.
Experiencing this feeling of exhilaration has always seemed in curious dichotomy to my self-assessed introversion. Aren’t introverts exhausted by an excess of social activity? How was it that I was so energized by people in a foreign setting? (But in my own habitat, still tired out by a lot of social exposure?)
This is how I explain the phenomenon:
Introverts tend to have a small inner circle; a few, close friendships rather than many. For introverts, lasting friendships take a concerted effort. When I travel, I can come in like a wrecking ball, making brief, intense connections all over the world. But in 99% of cases, I lack the people energy to sustain them very long.
And this works for me. I work my “extrovert” muscle and stretch out of my comfort zone. My new connections and I have one of the best nights of our lives, and then we part ways with a happy memory. (Case in point: November 2018, private karaoke at Berlin’s Noka Korea… Best. Night. Ever.)
My next destination is Cartagena, Colombia. Mental acrobatics, here I come, and comfort zone, hasta la vista, baby.