The Benefits of Solo Travel

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Nov. 28 2012, Published 10:41 p.m. ET

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Traveling alone for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. For me, coming from a close-knit family, we did a majority of our traveling together, so it often required long road trips. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I began traveling alone.

My first trip was to New York City to visit a friend at Columbia University. It was my first time alone on an airplane as well as my first time solo traveling. The experience was overwhelming as I struggled to find the gate for my flight, and to understand layover times and seat choices, but at the end, there was a feeling of accomplishment and independence. From finding my gate, dropping off my luggage and boarding my flight, with each task I felt more and more like a modern, independent woman.

While there are a things about domestic travel that can be overwhelming, there was no greater feeling than the anxiety of traveling solo abroad. I researched everything from seat choices, to ways to prevent missing a flight, to layovers. As the first in my family to travel so extensively abroad, it was a new adventure for us all. When it came to packing and preparing, I created a list and continued to pack and unpack for a series of days before I considered it just right.

“When packing, women should bring comfortable clothing for the flight as well as casual shoes and heels,” said freelance journalist and travel writer Alice Hlidkova. “You should research and know about the culture and place you are traveling to and be sure to be mindful of them when packing.”

There are some places where traveling alone as a woman presents obstacles. While traveling through the Middle East, I found it difficult to get adequate transportation, or to buy meals on the street without a male counterpart.

“In the Middle East it was more convenient and safe when accompanied by another individual, preferably a man,” said Hlidkova. “I had to learn many customs and try to blend in as much as I could in these areas, as well as watch my body language and clothing choices because of their customs.”

While traveling to places like Belgium, central Europe and other places of high tourist volumes, being alone was more convenient.

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There are certain things you have to keep in mind while traveling solo. Keeping track of the amount of time and money spent is important in order to make sure you’re able to do everything you planned. Set an itinerary to follow to keep you on track.

Traveling alone also has a way of making you more alert than you would be when traveling with someone or in a group. You are more aware of your surroundings. Solo travel also has the potential to make you more sociable and open to meeting new people.

And while you lose the comfort of companionship, you gain the convenience of quick movement and ability to move through different situations without the hassle of having to consult with others.

But one of the biggest benefits is that you get to know and trust yourself in a way that you could have never imagined. You’re in a brand new environment, exploring and navigating alone forced to go with your own instincts and truly make your own decisions. Now go, pack your bags, and don’t call your friends!

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By: Alicia Williams

Alicia Renee is a freelance writer and author residing in Atlanta, GA. Her debut novel Soul Kisses highlights mental health awareness in the African-American community. Her freelance work spotlights small businesses, women in business, and creative entrepreneurs.

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