Traveling alone doesn't have to be lonely. In fact, it can be a wonderful, freeing experience, and a journey toward self-discovery. So, if you are alone this season, perhaps the best thing you can do is go on a solo adventure. I believe that solo travel can be better than therapy because it forces us to be present in our environment. Eckhart Tolle writes in his book The Power of Now that we spend so much time regretting our past and fearing our future, that we are rarely living in the present. So, take this time alone to savor the delicious present moment -- and enjoy the power of now. Here are the seven keys to making your journey amazing and powerful.
1.Be Brave: Make the commitment to go alone
The first step is the hardest. First, you need to commit to go out and do something alone. It can be as simple as going to the movies or as intense as a year-long world tour. Know that with your departure from the norm, you will create space to see your life in a new light. As Debussy said, "It is the space between the notes that makes the music." Whatever you decide, the first step is to be brave and then make your own music.
2. Be Faithful: Be faithful to your wants and needs
To truly have a rewarding life, you need to honestly ask yourself what you want. And because this trip is all about you and your needs, you have a chance to be self-centered. With travel, there are two things that often get overlooked. The first is what your expectations are for this trip -- what do you really want to get out this adventure? Failing to define your expectations is akin to going to dinner and letting your waiter order his favorite meal for you, then disliking his choice. The second overlooked element is what destinations are able to fulfill your expectations. Once you have a clearer idea about what type of experience will satisfy your needs, you can focus on finding a location or activity that is well-suited to you. Four areas you might want to think about are: culture, activity, weather, and social expectations.
3. Be Wise: Research your trip before you go
The truth is that there are places in the world that don't want visitors. There are places filled with crime, and even areas of beautiful cities that are not safe. So, before you go -- do your research. Check the CIA website, ask friends, read reviews, and research online before going or booking. Yes, San Francisco is a charming destination, but if you end up booking a hotel in the "Theater District" aka "The Tenderloin," your experience of that fine city will not be fine. Also, research what type of trip you want. Do you want to go solo or semi-solo? Perhaps a stay at an adults-only resort, or specialized tour, a volunteer vacation, or maybe a yoga or surf camp will be perfect for you.
4. Be Light: You have to leave some baggage at home
We all have baggage. Sometimes in our closets; other times, in our hearts or minds. All this baggage does is weigh us down -- and when we travel alone, we need to travel light. Of all the baggage I carry (and I have plenty!) the three pieces that affect me the most are fear, laziness, and pride. Fear is the emotion that leaves us helpless: We can lose our confidence and imagine only worst-case scenarios. When we get lazy, our level of fear increases, because we haven't taken the time to prepare well. Pride is a tough one. It can be problematic when traveling alone because nobody wants to help a prideful person.
5. Be Beautiful: Beauty comes in many forms
A New York minute is not a Hawaiian minute. So, when you travel, enjoy the magic of time travel and be patient. Don't be the ugly tourist who bitches at the airline employee because the plane is late. The plane is late. That's that. Getting upset about it is not going to get the plane there any quicker. Another part of being beautiful is being understanding. We all need a break sometime, so be that kind person who understands -- we never know what's happening in another person's life. Also, when traveling solo, take time to put on a bit of blush, do your hair, dress up and be that fabulous person you have always wanted to be. Smile! Flirt! Dream!
6. Be Generous: Give of your talents, strengths, and wisdom
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, author of FLOW, shares that to be truly happy we need to have purpose. Why not make your purpose to be generous on this adventure? Generosity comes in many forms. Yes, I applaud you for leaving a huge tip. But generosity also comes in the form of giving a compliment, offering help, or sharing information. This too is part of the universal art of giving. So, when traveling, give others you meet compliments and kindness. Smile at your taxi driver and thank him. Help that woman who's struggling with her luggage. Chances are that it will bring you more joy that you could expect.
7. Be Soulful: Open up and come home with a new perspective
Could there be a direct correlation between the amount of passports issued per state and the level of racism in that given state? Maybe, the states that don't issue many passports have a higher level of racism? I'll let you look at the numbers and decide for yourself. What I truly believe is if you visit another culture, enter a new time zone, or change your frame of mind, your perspective increases and you have a better ability to celebrate diversity, other religions, different cultures, and appreciate our collective beauty as human beings.
So, perhaps this solo trip is not just a trip to a new place, but an adventure into your heart and soul. And, once you return, you have the opportunity to share your wonderful experiences with others. Doing so, you can change the canvas of society from one of fear and hatred to one of love and understand. Yes, I believe this is all possible, one solo trip at a time.
For the unabridged version of this post, you can find it in my book: Body, Mind, and Solo: 7 Keys to Conquering the World Alone