I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I first started my travel adventures. I feel that time has found its way into a black hole and popped back within seconds, yet it’s been years. But when I look at all of my photos and chat with my friends around the world, I realize that time hasn’t been taken from me, I have just been busy! And all of this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take the first steps to travel abroad all those years ago.
My first big solo trip didn’t actually occur until 2011 when I bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand and took advantage of the Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I had spent plenty of days on my own on trips with friends, but this was the first trip I planned and did on my own. And it wasn’t just a few weeks; I was moving there for an entire year.
Well that year turned in to three and in just over a month, I will be going back to where it all started for another year of adventure. Of course this time it will be a completely different experience as I, too, am a completely different person. But the same principles I learned all those years ago still stand strong, and they’ve become many of the driving forces of why I continue to travel solo over traveling with others.
To all of those who haven’t taken the step out in the solo travel world just yet, I hope these insights help you realize that it’s time for you to see the world…with or without a travel partner.
Reasons I go solo:
1. I reconnect with myself.
I recently took a three-week trip to Europe by myself and I couldn’t believe how much time I wasn’t giving myself back home. Traveling allows me to reconnect and chat with myself. It allows me to practice self-love and be in tune to what I want, rather than being in an environment where I’m constantly on someone else’s schedule.
2. I have a more true, personal experience.
When I am by myself, no one can interrupt my time. I have the opportunity to open up to new cultures and people in my own way. I get to enjoy my experiences on a deeper level without having the opinion or pressure from a travel partner. I may have the best time somewhere, but a friend could dislike it. As much as it shouldn’t affect my experience, it does.
3. I grow and learn. A lot.
There’s something magical that happens when you experience something new by yourself. You expand your mind, your heart and your world. I love that feeling so much I started an entire campaign to advocate for it. Every trip I take solo, I come back feeling lighter, happier and filled with a lot more love and gratitude.
4. I get to create my own adventure.
This is one of my favorite draws to solo travel. I get to do what I want, when I want and for how long I want. I’m not on anyone’s time but my own. I also find that when I am in control of my own adventure, I meet way more people and am a lot more open and social.
5. I’m selfish.
It’s true. I am. But being selfish doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation. I think being alone is a great thing. Because it’s not about being alone with no one around, it’s about being alone with yourself. And to me, I cherish those moments. A lot of people don’t even know themselves. Traveling solo creates the room to get to know yourself, either for the first time or as if you’re reuniting with an old friend.
6. I get to slow down.
I love traveling at my own pace. I once spent an entire day in a bookstore because I could. I am also obsessed with books. But the point is that I have that choice. If I want to eat breakfast at 3pm, I can do that too. That is, if I can find it at that time!
7. I have an attitude full of gratitude.
I have a very detailed memory of myself on a bus on the South Island of New Zealand. I was looking out on the West Coast, completely amazed at its unforgiving wind and rain. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was grateful beyond belief for the life I was living. I was on my way to a new town filled with new people who would soon become my family, but I didn’t know that. I was just grateful for the opportunity. And that’s when I think life presents you with your best moments; when you’re not expecting magic. You’re just grateful to be there for the show.
About the author:
Jen Heuett is the creator of Travel + Trust & Wanderlust, an online community to educate, empower and inspire women to travel solo. Her words can also be found on Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and Travel Hooligan, her first travel company that inspires young adults to utilize the Working Holiday Visa in Australia and New Zealand. When she’s not traveling the world, she’s enjoying the Pacific Northwest and her mom’s tacos.