After having traveled on my own many times and for months at a time, I can tell you: There aren’t many things that will change you and teach you more than traveling.
Especially traveling by yourself may seem scary and many people won’t get it (Frequently asked questions are: “What? All by yourself? Why? Won’t you get bored? Isn’t that dangerous?”).
But let me tell you, traveling on your own is one of the most intense experiences you will have in your life. If you have already traveled alone, I’m sure you know what I mean.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever travel with friends, though! I love taking trips with my friends, especially if it’s a quick get-away to a new place. And you will learn a few things that way aswell, but still, if you really want to travel, especially for longer periods of time, I highly recommend you go by yourself.
Things you should know about the way I travel:
Most of the time I try to avoid mass tourism as much as possible and take the roads less traveled. It’s the only way to really experience the culture and meet the locals of the country you’re in. And in my mind, that is the essence of traveling. You just need to keep an open mind and let go of all prejudice.
I always travel with a backpack and as light as possible (usually just with hand luggage). It’s an amazing feeling to be able to carry just the things you need on your back with you!
Read more on what I pack here.
In the following, I will tell you what I’ve learned over time and give you some pointers, that I hope will encourage you to take the leap and go on your first big trip!
So, here we go!
#1 It is way easier to meet new people than you think!
“I don’t want to go on a trip alone, because I’m afraid of being lonely..”
This is literally what I thought before my first trip. How would I go about meeting new people? What if I’m all alone and no one wants to talk to me?
I can tell you right now: It just doesn’t happen that way and you do not need to worry!
Especially if you are staying in hostels, there will always be people to talk to, new people to meet and other travelers to do stuff with. And this is what I would recommend to any first-time travelers: stay in hostels if you want a lot of human contact. Get out of your room and meet your fellow travelers! And even if you want to go do your own thing, you can always do that aswell. You are totally free in deciding what you want to do!
#2 No matter where a person is from, we are all pretty damn similar!
Think about the images we see on the news most of the time. Pictures of violence in parts of South America, catastrophes in Asia, war in the middle east, poverty and disease in most parts of Africa..
In these cases the people we see on TV seem like they are miles away or as if they’re from an entirely different world than “us”. We might think: How could we relate to these people that are so far away?
But as soon as you actually meet the people from these countries and get to know them, you realize:
No matter which nationality, race, skin colour, social background or religion: We all have similar thoughts, a lot of the same problems and very often even the same philophies on life, even if on the outside you’d never suspect it.
You then realize: There is no “them” and “us”, because we’re all part of the same family.
#3 Our planet is so overwhelmingly beautiful!
I always felt that growing up in a city, I never really “got” how beautiful our planet is.
Once I started traveling I started noticing all the incredible beauty our world has to offer.
Starting with the most glorious spectacles of nature to the very simple things around us.
Then, with time, you will realize that everything around us contains some unique type of beauty, no matter where you are!
#4 You get a deeper understanding of different cultures and become more tolerant!
Often we are afraid of the things and the people that are different from us.
Once you start discovering new countries and new cultures though, the fear gradually fades, because you get a deeper understanding of the cultures that used to be foreign to you.
Your horizone broadens. You suddenly understand the people of that culture and as a result, you become more tolerant and begin to appreciate the differentness of that culture.
#5 You become more independent, stronger and more courageous!
Planning a long-term trip, researching places to go, where to stay and how to get there and then actually going out and going through with it? Heck, doing that for the first time all on my own was the greatest thing ever!
In our society I feel like we are dependent on so many people and instances- school, our parents, our friends, our job.. Traveling is a way for you to really do your own thing and make your very own experiences, many of them good, some of them bad. But I promise you, it will change you and make you stronger and more independent than ever!
#6 You don’t always need to follow the rules!
This does not mean that you should go on a rampage or a crazy rave, but while traveling you will learn that some of the things you learned growing up are not what you need to stick to all of your life.
Never take a ride with a stranger? Yeah, makes sense. But had I followed that rule all my life I’d never have made the amazing experience of hitch-hiking for the first time.
You shouldn’t jump off a 20-foot cliff into the ocean? Yeah, probably.. but fuck, was that awesome!
Of course, you should always use common sense and think about what you do, but sometimes you just have to break the rules, or you will miss out on a lot in life!
#7 This world is filled with love!
Believe it or not, in the most countries you travel to, people will welcome you with open arms! Usually they are very glad to help you and even show you around, because in lots of cases, they are happy to show off their home countries!
And more often than not, I’ve come to find that it’s actually the poorer nations you travel to that will show you how kind-hearted people can actually be. (I always feel like the less people have, the more they are willing to give..)
Just remember to always give back and treat the locals and their home countries with love and respect, too!
#8 You become more open in every way!
Have you ever thought to yourself: “I wish I was a bit more open and could just walk up to anyone and talk to them.”?
Traveling will definitely bring you a step closer to that!
With time you learn, that there really isn’t much to lose in being open and straight-forward.
And believe me, the people you meet from all over the world will be worth it, because the friendships that evolve are one-of-a-kind!
#9 There are sides to yourself, you never knew about!
In my opinion, traveling solo is the best way to really get to know yourself!
You spend lots of time thinking and reflecting life. You meet people that let you see different sides to the world and to yourself. And you experience things you never thought you would.
Be open to finding out who you are!
#10 You can adapt to new situations and places way quicker.
Traveling from place to place, I realized that home can be, where ever you lay your head. “Home” becomes a very relative term. Of course I love being where my family and most of my friends are, but “home” for me isn’t really defined by an actual place, but by a feeling. So I might feel more “at home” in my favourite hostel in Portugal than in my own home town.
Therefore it is easier to adapt to new places and situations. Because it’s not about the outer circumstances, it’s about your inner feeling and your own conception of the term “home”.
#11 The feeling of freedom is not just a myth!
Do you ever feel trapped? In day-to-day routines, at work, by endless bills, emotional troubles..? Sometimes, in all of these things we lose ourselves and forget what it’s like to feel free.
Traveling is one of the things that can generate the feeling of being free. Being free in deciding what you want to do, where to go, who to spend your time with- every day.
(Another option is to get out of the rat race and find a longer-lasting freedom by getting out of the 9-to-5-craze.. But more on that another time 😉 )
#12 The world is a way safer and better place than you think.
And last but not least, and in my mind, the most important thing to remember when you travel: The world is not nearly as dangerous as most people think!
As long as you use common sense, you will be fine. You can check out, which areas should be avoided and what to watch out for before you travel to a country: but don’t let it freak you out! Best thing is to ask a local or other travelers that have been to the country before.
But most importantly: When in doubt, just trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, that’s probably because it isn’t! But don’t let your fear keep you from doing what you want to do.
Think to yourself: Will I regret doing this or NOT having done it? That will often give you the answer to the question of what you should or shouldn’t do!
Have you traveled by yourself and/or long-term before? Would you like to? Are there any other things you have learned on your past trips?