Five Reasons Why You Should Go On A Solo Trip
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As I sat in the train to Jeonju, I felt a little silly for making the decision to travel over 200 kilometres south of Seoul all by myself. I was not only worried about my safety as a solo female traveller, but also conscious of how conspicuous I was as a hijabi in South Korea's ethnically homogenous society.
Still, there was a part of me that buzzed with longing for adventure and romanticized the idea of solo tripping in my 20s — and perhaps, these feelings are familiar to you too. Deciding to go on that first solo trip can be daunting for anyone, no matter how different your struggles are from mine. But having tried and tested it and gone on my own little adventure myself, here are five reasons why I think solo tripping is definitely worth giving a go.
1. Unexpected meetings and friendships
For some reason, the lone traveller attracts more attention from the curious stranger than a group travelling together would. I found that people were more inclined to strike up a conversation with me when I was travelling alone, than when I was out and about with my friends. Looking back, I realized it was probably because people felt like they could interact with me without worrying about preventing me from enjoying familiar company.
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While I was always noticed for my distinct appearance (regardless of whether I was alone or not), travelling solo allowed me to share about myself and my culture with intrigued strangers who paused to ask. I still occasionally think about the old man who stopped in the street to smile and peer at me with kind eyes before asking, “안 더워요?” (“Are you not warm?”), wondering if I was comfortable in my hijab that summer day. Even if your culture is vastly different from that of the city you’re solo tripping to, that in itself could spark insightful conversations even with people you just met.
“Won't I have to ask random people to help take my pictures? And isn’t it no fun visiting attractions yourself?” These too are common concerns for those who are still hesitant about solo tripping. But these are actually great opportunities to connect with strangers. As someone who once completely hated small talk, solo tripping taught me that the littlest conversations can have the biggest impacts. When I visited the May 18th National Cemetery, I thought I would only get to walk the grounds and immerse myself in its history all alone. But after a few nods here and there and taking some chances, I found myself having a coffee with two men who had lived through the Gwangju Democratic Movement, in their office, at the end of the day. Today, I can say for sure that I would give up anything to have those important conversations again.
2. Your schedule, your rules
Most people have probably felt frustrated while trying to coordinate a successful group outing, but consider how that feeling can multiply tenfold when planning an overseas trip with friends. Travelling with friends is fun in its own ways, but sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth – and that’s where solo tripping has the upper hand.
Going on a trip by myself allowed me to bask in the freedom and liberty of not having to schedule around other people. I could fill my plans with whatever I wanted to do, and make impromptu day-to-day decisions without worrying how it would affect others. I was especially relieved that I didn’t have friends around who needed to accommodate to my dietary requirements, or preferred to be out late at night, which I wasn’t keen on doing as a female traveller.
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As an introvert, I relished in spending all that time by myself as well. Having lived with a few housemates back in Seoul, it was refreshing and healing to have complete alone time. Even if you aren’t already someone who enjoys spending time by themselves, solo tripping can help you to enjoy your own company. Learning to make the best out of your “me time” is important after all, especially with how we constantly feel pressured to stay online and keep up with others’ lives.
3. Being able to soak it all up for yourself
On the topic of being alone for vast amounts of time, solo travelling certainly pushed me to immerse myself in the present moment. Without someone around me that I could constantly engage with or talk to, I was left with a lot of time to take in my surroundings and observe all the little things in my environment.
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Even the most mundane of moments and the simplest of pleasures became precious to me. Passing by endless fields in buses and trains, watching rain fall lightly onto hanok roofs on a sunny afternoon, sinking my teeth into a chocolate pie while sitting underneath a traditional blanket and watching “Our Blues” – these became memories that I'll treasure for a long time. If you tend to get all sentimental and romantic like me, collecting such personal and intimate memories like these should definitely be a consideration for going on that solo trip.
4. Overcoming yourself and uncovering your strength
Solo travelling and planning for it can undoubtedly involve a lot of worry, and even fear. But when you’re actually travelling, and even during the planning process itself, you become much more aware of your own strength and confidence.
I never expected to take myself on a solo trip for the fact that I was never very good at going with the flow and tended towards anxiousness. I wasn't sure if I was capable or spontaneous enough to deal with unexpected and even risky situations that could come with solo tripping. I still vividly remember sitting in a café and staring at my laptop screen in disbelief after I had booked tickets to Jeonju, Gwangju and back to Seoul. But in hindsight, I realized that taking those little steps was the push I needed to let myself know that I was capable of overcoming my limits.
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You will definitely face unexpected difficulties while travelling on your own – you could fall ill, the weather could ruin your plans, you could get lost; the list goes on. No matter how much you plan, it’s impossible to account for every single probable situation. But when you overcome these challenges and look back on them, you’ll be amazed at how you were able to be so flexible and adaptable even in such unfamiliar situations alone.
5. Discovering your own limits
As much as solo travelling is about challenging your limits and rising above them, it’s also a lot about realizing what your own personal limits are. Spending that much time with yourself helps you to become more aware of how you’re feeling and how you react in different and unexpected circumstances.
These limits don’t just include emotional boundaries, or things you realize you aren’t willing to do. They encompass practical matters as well, like how you felt you managed your time and money on the trip. Thoughts like, “Given my budget, I think I managed my finances according to plan” or “I could’ve managed my time on this trip better to take care of other work/academic/family responsibilities” are examples of how solo trips can help us consider our limits in different situations.
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I’ve found that solo tripping pushes one towards introspection, particularly because everything becomes your responsibility on a solo trip. When you evaluate your experience in hindsight, it’s a lot about what you alone did well, and what you alone could’ve done better.
Hopefully, these five reasons can push you towards going on that first solo trip. For sure, no one is or can ever be 100% prepared for any solo trip. But with all the good that solo trips can bring, perhaps it’s time to book that single ticket to your dream destination.