I’ve lived alone now for over 12 years and, while I still do many things with friends and family, most of the things I do are done solo. I still ask people I know if they want to do something with me, but if they don’t, it doesn’t stop me from doing it. I don’t remember ever feeling like I couldn’t do something alone, even when I was married; however, the thought of traveling alone was a little scary for me.
But in 2008, I decided to take the plunge and went on a solo road trip up Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, CA to Lincoln City, OR before heading Northeast to Portland. It was an amazing trip and I loved every moment of it! I also learned quite a bit about myself and life in general. Below are 7 things I learned on my solo travel trip that you could discover if you travel alone, too:
1. I both love and hate being alone
I love sharing experiences with people I care about and often wished one of my children or friends was with me to share in my adventure. But, at the same time, I was able to go where I wanted to go and stay as long as I wanted to without having to worry about what someone else wanted to do. It was a very freeing experience!
2. I gained self-confidence
Self-confidence is something I have struggled with on and off my entire life. While I can usually project self-confidence, that doesn’t mean I’m actually feeling that way. But, on this solo journey, I learned that I can accomplish pretty much anything I set my mind to, and my self-confidence was boosted through the roof!
3. I came out of my shell
As a child, I was painfully shy to the point I would hide behind the closest adult when someone talked to me. By high school I started to grow out of it, but even as an adult, I had a hard time starting up a conversation with someone I didn’t know and avoided doing so as much as I could. Traveling solo helped me come out of my shell even more and I learned to enjoy talking to strangers about their life and experiences.
4. I learned to go with the flow
Even though I booked hotels in advance and mapped my trip out very carefully, things still went wrong. Some things happened that I couldn’t have expected, so I had to deal with it and keep going. I learned to not let unexpected events stop me or get me down. If it’s not a major issue, then don’t sweat it. Just roll with it, keep going, and enjoy the trip! After all, you learn from every new experience…not just the good ones!
5. I learned to not be embarrassed
While I enjoy being alone and doing most things alone, going to a restaurant and eating alone made me feel self-conscious and embarrassed. I felt like everyone in the restaurant was staring at me and/or feeling sorry for this poor woman who was all alone in the world. Then, after dinner one night, I left the table and sat at the bar to listen to some live music. I struck up a conversation with the bartender who had noticed me dining alone. The people sitting around me heard the conversation and joined in. One woman told me how brave she thought I was to be traveling alone and the others agreed. It made me realize that, while people were forming judgements about me, it wasn’t the kind of judgement I thought it was! Being told I was brave made me feel empowered and…well…brave! Wonder Woman has nothing on me!
6. I learned to trust my intuition
Traveling alone can be a scary thing to do, but couple that with being a woman traveling alone and things can feel even scarier. The story I told above could have ended badly had I told the wrong person that I was traveling alone and they took advantage of that. But, my gut told me that I was in a safe place with good people and I didn’t feel in danger at any time. When traveling alone, it’s important to trust your gut and stay aware of your surroundings. If your gut is telling you something is amiss, it probably is. One of the hotels I booked in advance looked great online, but when I got there, I didn’t feel safe. I listened to my gut and found another hotel close by that felt safer to me. I wound up having to pay twice for lodging that night, but the peace of mind it gave me was worth it.
7. I learned a lot about myself
Spending so much time completely alone afforded me the chance to think about my life, my goals, my dreams, and the direction I wanted my life to go. I thought about changes I wanted to make and how to go about making those changes. I thought about me…the inner me…and how I could be the person I wanted to be. When you have nothing but your thoughts to keep you company, it’s important to use that time wisely and not pass up the chance to really delve deep into your heart to find your truth.