Why are we always so concerned with surrounding ourselves with the familiar? As an introvert, I'm used to doing a lot of things alone and I've found that traveling is one of the most important times to take for yourself! Here are three reasons you should consider flying solo on your next adventure:
1) Hear new stories and perspectives
My vacation was to Lijiang, a small city in Southern China, and the three-hour plane ride from my home in Beijing was worth the anonymity. Being part of a nameless, faceless crowd was a welcome change from being afraid to bump into acquaintances at the neighborhood grocery store or at restaurants downtown.
Traveling alone means making friends out of strangers. Whether the strangers are locals or fellow travelers, they all have interesting stories that, chances are, they will be happy to share with you. What brought them here? Where else have they been? What's good around here? Ask questions and soak up strangers' stories -- they might be the best part of your trip!
Meeting people on the road is part of the adventure and it's much easier to do that alone. Who knows, you might find a travel companion to tag along for the next leg or meet someone you wouldn't have otherwise!
2) Trips should be tailored to you
I had been to Lijiang twice before, but never alone. When I visited with family in 2008, my parents tried to climb as many mountains and see as many sights as humanly possible in three days. Sure, we saw a lot, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted to be doing.
When you travel alone, every day is left wide open for whatever you want to do. Finding the right pace is easier when you only need to consider one person instead of trying to reach a compromise among more. If your dream trip is about relaxing, doing what you want to be doing, and taking things at your own pace, travel alone.
3) You'll remember what's important
Being away from familiar faces and places can sharpen your focus, allowing you to zero in on what matters.
The process of having to narrow down what's important to you -- to pack in your duffle bag and to fit into your short trip -- is an exercise in prioritizing. I found that hectic school and work days shuffled my priorities and taking some time off by myself was the best way to get them back in order. While maybe traveling might not be the best way to find yourself, it may be key to re-finding yourself.
Introspection takes time and that tends to be abundant on solo journeys. For example, eight-hour blocks of uninterrupted time in Lijiang made it possible to revisit my novel for the first time in two years.
The idea of traveling alone may be more foreign than where you're headed and certainly more intimidating than the airfare, but autonomy, self-discovery, and introspection are solitary journeys by nature, and travel can be too!