1. Learn how to make decisions.
For me, traveling alone was one crash course in making decisions–just keep on rolling the dice and see what comes up. Stop the research. Stop the analysis paralysis. Just keep choosing and living. In travel, everything is as it is, and there’s always another day to change course and choose again. A lot more happens in life when you stop worrying about what to do and just go.
2. Openness to the world.
The sense of risk and heightened reward is what draws me to traveling alone. Traveling with a friend can be an adventure too, but the adventure quotient is usually higher when you are alone. You’re more vulnerable in the sense that you have to seek out company and help. Hey, just because I’m traveling alone doesn’t mean I can’t ask a hunky Carioca volleyball player to put sunscreen on the hard-to-reach places. That’s the advantage of traveling alone, isn’t it? Openness to adventure.
3. The grace of trusting in strangers.
Traveling alone also teaches you to trust your fellow men and women. They are the ones who help you out when you are in need. I will never forget the man who stopped a long-distance bus for me in Colombia so he could go buy me Coke and toilet paper (I confessed to him that I had “digestive” issues right before we got on the bus). Then he invited me to his family’s home for lunch, and I still get emails from the family saying they will never forget me.
4. Star in your own movie.
When you travel alone, the trip is completely yours. You are the star of your own movie. All the mistakes are yours to make, the serendipitous discoveries to enjoy, and the insights to savor. The recollection of the trip is entirely personal and private.
5. A new best friend (or love).
In a whole year of travel, I made a new best friend who I know will be a friend for life. We will be at each other’s weddings if we get married, we coach each other through our post-(or newly)-travel lives, and we hope to meet up for other adventures in Africa, Asia, and to dance tango in Buenos Aires. Our friendship is pure gold and we have both helped each other grow in innumerable ways. That openness to a new friend might not have been there if I had already been traveling with someone else. And who knows? You might meet the love of your life.