By: Casey Tsou
You’ll meet tons of new people!
Traveling doesn’t last forever, but friendships certainly can. Yes, this is something you can do no matter how many people you travel with, but it comes more easily when it’s just you! When you’re mingling alone, you don’t have to worry about how the person or people you traveled with are getting along with whoever you are talking to.
One of my favourite days in London was when I took a day trip to Bournemouth with a Meetup volleyball group. Playing the sport I love while meeting new people was one of the best things I could have hoped for in my study abroad experience. I was extremely nervous about going alone and feeling left out or too awkward the whole day, but this wasn’t the case at all. At the end of the day, we all felt like a community. A bus that was first filled with complete strangers came home filled with a group of friends.
You Get to Go at Your Own Pace
Traveling solo can be much less stressful because you only have yourself to worry about. Have you ever been annoyed that your friend was taking so long to get ready that they made you late? Have you ever been that person and felt bad about it? When it’s just you, this all disappears. Everyone is different in what they enjoy or prefer and being the only person to consider can make things much easier.
Personally, I really like to take my time in museums, but I worry about slowing others down or feeling like I need to rush myself in order to not feel like a burden. The first week of class, we took a field trip to the British Museum. At one point, I split apart from my group and stayed until closing so I could see everything. Traveling to museums by myself allows me to enjoy them the most because I am not paranoid about inconveniencing others. Having no one to please but yourself takes away a lot of stress from traveling.
It Allows for Spontaneity
One of the most fun parts of travel is being spontaneous. Although I do love to have an organized schedule, my fondest memories tend to be ones that came from last second plans. The more people you travel with, the harder it is to get everyone on board.
When I visited my friend studying abroad in Venice, we had absolutely no plans. One of the days she was in class for the majority of the day and I had no clue what to do. I ended up walking almost the entirety of Venice in just one day and it was one of the scariest and most exhilarating experiences during my stay. It was nice to meet all of her friends and spend time with her, but it was the second city I got to know in the span of two months almost completely on my own and it felt amazing. I only looked up a few landmarks and stumbled upon a couple as I walked to the only one I was set on going to. The best part about not having a plan is that you don’t need to stick to it, so I could see whatever caught my eye. I stumbled upon a huge candy shop with a hundred different types of gummies and a small boutique with really inexpensive and beautiful clothing. Just walking around and doing whatever I felt like doing and walking along the canals, trying cool drinks, and hopping on and off the water taxis on my own was one of the most fun times I had there
You Gain a Greater Sense of Independence
One of the most rewarding things about studying abroad that shines through the most if you travel alone is developing confidence in your ability to successfully survive on your own. This doesn’t mean that you can’t receive help from others for this feeling to be strong.
In London, I was the only person that chose to only purchase a bus and tram pass instead of a tube and rail pass to save money. (10/10 highly recommend: less $$, cell service, and a view!) At first, I was really worried because I was the only one and this meant I couldn’t travel with other people when we went somewhere, and I would have to leave earlier to account for the bus taking longer due to having more stops. However, on days where our Tube line was under construction, I was the only one that didn’t feel lost or worried about using the bus because I had been taking it every day. This seemingly small independent aspect of my time abroad in London actually became one of the biggest personal areas of confidence for me because I was then able to help out other people from learning how to navigate London’s bus system on my own.
Sooooo…What Are You Waiting For?!
Hopefully you don’t think traveling by yourself is as scary or lonely as it sounds and you’re ready to go out and do the darn thing! Again, travelling by no means doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.