A step out from the ‘normal life,’
self-discovery and new perspectives:
Myths about solo travels
Julia Uryga, Lancaster University
‘Travels educate.’ It has become so overused that it may have lost its meaning. With great emphasis, travel broadens our perspectives and therefore, changes the way we look at the world. As a result, we make a revolution in the system of values - often ‘to have’ falls off the pedestal in favour of ‘to experience.’
We face new choices in a new environment accompanied by culture. All this has a substantial impact on what kind of people we then become. Often, radical changes or deliberate abandonment of a sense of security, bring the most exceptional results in terms of self-discovery, as the growth zone begins only outside the comfort zone. The most challenging step in the whole process is the decision to pack the backpack and board the plane. Alone.
Solo travel is lonely
A factor, often preventing us from taking appropriate action, is waiting for others. I also once thought that solo travelling is not for me. It seemed to be uneconomical, sad and uninteresting. However, after graduating from high school, I began to feel the need to test it for myself. At the time, I was not the type of person to be open for conversations on the bus with other tourists, nor the one who easily finds someone to split the cost of a taxi with. This, however, changed quickly as being alone often makes us rely on others and wanting it or not, we must learn how to ask for help.
Also, travelling solo eliminates any consensus. You can explore anything you like, even if it means being in Paris and crossing the Eiffel Tower off your ‘checklist.’ Besides, we learn how to cope alone in unpredicted situations, and it makes us stronger - all setbacks are only our fault, and we must face them. Accidentally bought a ticket with a 15-hour transfer or it happens to be from a different airport than you initially thought? No thought through plans on how to get out of the airport while being alone in a foreign city at night? That is fine. I can do it!
Moreover, most of the time, we do not travel alone. This is why I prefer the term 'travel solo' rather than 'alone' because it has never happened for me to be lonely on such a journey. Psychotherapist, Tony Ingham, says that voyaging by yourself is good as it provides a ‘break from monotony, builds confidence and exposes you to people and places you would otherwise never cross.’ When travelling solo, we often see, hear and feel everything more intensively and carefully. We usually come back from such travels with the conviction that the world is full of excellent and authentic people, and nobody doubts that it is needed and definitely cleansing.
Solo travel is boring
Solo travel lets you understand that everything you ever wished for is at your fingertips. Hence, it is so important to set yourself ambitious goals and consistently strive for them. When there is an awareness that we can live as we like and develop our passions without hesitation, the self-satisfaction comes on by itself. Stephanie Rosenbloom, The New York Times travel writer, describes her book for solo travellers ‘Alone Time’ as ‘a love letter to the loners.’ She states that solitude gives us ‘space to slow down and explore ourselves and the world.’
There is something magical in solo travel. We overcome our fears. During a long journey, our brain is facing continuous obstacles. After returning home, this energy and positive flow is translated into everyday life, providing us with courage in action. This is just a step away from looking for new interests that may inspire us because the mind feels a need to break new barriers. The point is not to conquer the biggest challenge on day one, but, step by step, strive for Everest of our ambitions, along the way, overcoming subsequent hills and challenges. And, when we finally get there, we realise that what seemed to be the highest peak is only a small hill. Not because it was trivial, but because we grew. Once we have built this ground (of growth), the rest will start to appear. And only when we are satisfied and accept ourselves, we can then begin to pass this on to others.
Solo travel is dangerous
I cannot count how many times in my life I heard that solo travel is dangerous. The truth is that there are many places for solo travellers that are much safer than the media makes them out to be. And, solo travel is a perfect possibility to break those stereotypes ourselves. I got a chance to visit a few areas that were perceived as dangerous, especially for female travellers. However, in most cases, it turned out that in those places, I came across the most exceptional selflessness and kindness. Naturally, there is always a need to be careful, to visit such places with trusted people that are met along the journey. However, the media should not be the primary determinant of our decision, as breaking stereotypes can be really empowering.
Solo travel is selfish
‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ seems to be adequate. Typically, we have idealised beliefs about places we know nothing about and which we would like to visit. The further away and the more unattainable something is, the more exciting and fascinating it seems. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong about it, as long as we have control over our imagination. It is easy to make theories when coming from a well-developed country like ours. And again, solo travels teach gratitude. Gratitude for being born in a place where we can learn, educate and develop if only we want to. Appreciation for the fact that the shelves in the shops are full of good quality food, we live without constant fear from drought and hurricanes or plague of mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases around us. Poland is not perfect - no place is, but it undoubtedly has many advantages that are worth learning to appreciate. Understanding what our own country has to offer and acknowledging how it is developing every day is a great chance to live better. Suddenly it turns out that there is no perfect place to be; that is why, exploring is a significant value, by which our character and strength are shaped.
During childhood, we were assured that happiness was, first, good grades and then a professional fulfilment. As a result, most of the time we may be convinced that we are too wise to dream and plan and that it is smarter to give up all desires at the beginning than to be bitterly disappointed later. Yet, between 2016-2019, there was a 131% increase in the number of Google searches for ‘solo travel.’ While single travellers make up to 11% of the overall travel market.
During my own journey, I found that happiness is the freedom to decide what’s next, which path to take that will satisfy my needs and inspire others. I cannot say that I already mastered it myself. Still, it allowed me to ascertain that only our inner satisfaction and fulfilment can build a stable foundation for everything we create. Changing the way we think is already significant progress.