Traveling Alone: 5 Stress-Relieving Benefits Of Solo Journeys

04/17/2013 08:22 am ET
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John Steinbeck once said, “People don’t take trips -– trips take people.” A solo trip, in particular, can have lasting benefits. Generations of adventurers and seekers have set off on journeys of self-discovery, traveling alone to some of the world's most breathtaking destinations, and some of the best travel memoirs ever penned tell stories of travelers finding themselves while getting lost on their own.

Aside from excitement, adventure and discovery, solo travel has another major advantage that you may not have considered: Stress relief. By affording the traveler the necessary time and solitude for reflection, relaxation and introspection, solo travel can go a long way in reducing stress levels. Scroll through the list below for five stress-relieving benefits of traveling alone.

1. It's An Opportunity To Cultivate Mindfulness.

Purposeful solitude can be one of the best ways to cultivate mindfulness, the targeted awareness of the present moment (and a scientifically-proven antidote to stress). Traveling alone is the perfect time to be mindful. Free from the distractions of daily life, you can focus your full attention on absorbing the present moment with all your senses. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Even if you're not actively meditating, you can still practice mindfulness in your travels just by taking care to be present and notice new things.

2. It Could Alleviate Depression.

Taking vacations and enjoying intentional solitude both have the potential to alleviate mild depression. A Dutch study found that the anticipation of an upcoming vacation boosted feelings of happiness and well-being for up to eight weeks before the trip. Research on adolescents has found that time spent in solitude can ward off depression in young people.

3. You Can Foster New Social Connections.

When traveling solo, you can choose when the you want to have alone time and when you'd rather be with others. This allows you to maximize the stress-relieving benefits of both solitude and friendship. Although it can be often be more enjoyable to make memories with friends and family, taking off alone is a great way to foster new connections with people you otherwise may not have met. As most solo travelers know, voyaging as a party of one certainly doesn't mean being alone. It can actually be easier to meet locals and connect with other travelers when your attention isn't focused on the person you came with. Research has found that social interaction can improve cognitive function, and physical interaction can decrease stress hormones, according to WebMD -- so get out there and make some new friends on your travels!

4. You Can Relax As Much As You Want.

Not having to coordinate with a companion and devote time for another person's needs can eliminate a lot of potential travel stress. One of the greatest luxuries of traveling alone is not having to adhere to anyone else's schedule. This means you can rest and unwind as much as you need, even if that means taking it slow for your whole trip. Indulge in full days spent reading on the beach, take a leisurely hike, or sit on a bench admiring a favorite work of art -- all on your own schedule.

5. There's Plenty Of Time For Reflection & Introspection.

"There is a soul-searching power in doing an odyssey on your own," writes blogger Sasha Cagen on HuffPost Travel.

And it's true: Getting to really know yourself is a wonderful and empowering byproduct of a solo journey. Like writing in a journal -- another great form of stress-relief -- traveling alone allows you to witness how you react to different situations. Those reflections can help you gain a deeper understanding of who you are and what matters to you. Having a stronger sense of self and feeling more self-assured will only contribute to a calmer, more centered state. Bon voyage!

Tell us: What are your favorite reasons to travel alone? Do you find it more relaxing than traveling with other people? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @HuffPostTravel.

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