Here’s What I Learned About Myself While Traveling Solo

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My curiosity about the many civilizations, cuisines, and customs of the world started when I was a child and would spend countless hours staring at the wall-sized world map that hung above my father’s desk. Red push pins marked the route that he took to escape the Uruguayan military dictatorship in the 70s. He’d traveled, by necessity, mostly solo and on foot, from Uruguay to Mexico. I didn’t understand the gravity of his journey at the time but loved to hear him tell the wild stories from what he’d describe as his greatest adventure.

At home, we had a rickety old globe that we’d spin in circles until our fingers grazed across random coordinates of some far off place.

Together, we’d learn about the people, animals, foods, and landscapes of these foreign lands via trips to the public library and endless hours of documentaries on the Discovery and History channels. My father’s sense of wonder imprinted on my young mind and shaped me into the traveler I am today.

I’ve been on the road full-time for nearly four years–mostly solo. I left the U.S. with no intention of returning when I was 25. I hadn’t previously traveled much on my own. I’m grateful for that I set out on this alternative life path in my mid-20s as I believe that the sweet spot for a first solo overseas trip is between 25-30. There’s nothing wrong with solo travel in your early 20s–but for me, it was a disaster.

My first solo vacation was to Spain. I’d never traveled alone stateside, so going all the way to Europe alone was daunting at 21. I made so many rookie travel fails on that first solo trip from checking out of my hostel in Barcelona to catch my train to Valencia a day early and drinking a few too many chupitos on a night where I ended up losing my camera’s memory card, but luckily, not the camera. Visiting Valencia and Barcelona was life changing for me and set in motion the desire to move to Spain, which I did exactly four years later.

I’m glad to be traveling at a time in my life when I’m a bit more mature and organized.

Solo travel is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. There is bliss in knowing that I don’t have to adhere to anyone else’s preferences when heading out for the day to explore a new place.

The many benefits of taking a solo vacation before 30 all stem from one crucial factor–freedom.

During a solo adventure, you don’t have to compromise with anyone.

This may expand your perspective on your own priorities, after all, travel has a tendency to change us in deeply meaningful ways. Solo travel is a wonderful opportunity to truly pursue whatever it is that your heart desires, and to do so unapologetically. If your dream vacation is hiking through the jungles of Costa Rica in search of wildlife, go for it! If you’d rather zone out on a beach at a resort in Tulum, Mexico with a great book and a cocktail in hand for a few days, you do you! No one is there to tell you what you should be doing with your hard earned time away from reality. There’s no right or wrong way to travel, as long as you’re not making a negative impact on others.

Solo vacations can be a bit intimidating when you head off on your first adventure.

Don’t let your fears hold you back from having an eye-opening voyage. Do some research in advance so that you’ll understand the cultural norms of the place you’re visiting. Once you arrive, be respectful of what you’ve learned. Try not to stick out as a foreigner and draw unwanted attention to yourself. Always trust your instinct, if you get a bad feeling about a place or a person, just leave.

Don’t keep postponing adventures to your dream destinations because you can’t find a companion who wants to go on an epic trip together, you can do it on your own, and you might just have a better experience traveling to your own accord. Traveling with a companion means that you’ll have to make sacrifices along the way. When you travel solo, you’ll prioritize your own needs and organize the itinerary of your dreams or just completely go with the flow and see where your heart takes you in the moment.

Figuring out your travel style may help you have a deeper understanding of yourself.

No matter if you’ve booked every flight, accommodation, and meal in advance or if you’re winging it and showing up with no plans, you’re bound to come across a few frustrating situations. Try to be flexible during these tense moments. The way you handle the stress of missing a bus or unexpected bad weather will help you get to know yourself on a more intimate level as you’ll have a newfound understanding of your limits and boundaries.

When you travel solo you’ll have more opportunities to interact with locals and other travelers. Perhaps you had plans to spend a day in a National Park but instead were invited by a new local friend to try some traditional cuisine or hear a musical performance–the decision of which to choose is yours and yours alone. If you’d been traveling with someone else you’d have to take into consideration their wants and needs and may have missed out on a unique cultural exchange.

If you’re a bit wary about heading out into the great wide world on your own consider booking a group tour that has the option to have a private room which a reputable company such as Intrepid so that you’ll be able to have company and alone time when you crave it. Solo travel doesn’t have to equal constant solitude–unless you want it to. If you’d like to meet other people while you’re on your solo vacation join group walking tours, stay in social hostels, or post in Facebook communities like Viajeras: A Travel Latina Community to see if there are any other solo Latina travelers visiting your destination.

After 30, there may be fewer times in your life where you can truly be selfish. Perhaps you’re at a point in your life where you have to constantly subvert your desires for others–your peers at work, your romantic partner, or your children. Solo travel is liberating and an excellent exercise of self-love. You’ll develop a deeper respect for yourself after overcoming a rough day or achieving something from your travel bucket list. Buen viaje!


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