Solo travel serves us in so many ways. As all travelers, we learn about the world. As solo travelers we also learn more about ourselves. A solo trip is a journey of self-discovery.
Let's face it, your longest relationship in life won't be with your parents, a sister or brother, partner or friend. It will be with yourself.
From birth to death, you are with you. You will keep your many confidences, your dreams of the night, and your dreams of daylight. Perhaps your missteps (you alone can really complete any forgiveness needed) and your victories (the ones that are huge to you but too small to share) will be held as well.
Your relationship with yourself is crucial to your happiness. It is fundamental to successful relationships with others. You need you as your best friend. You need to be good at being you.
This is what takes me to solo travel as a journey of self-discovery.
What Is Self-Discovery?
10 Best this, Top 100 that: we live in a world driven by comparisons.
We tend to do the same in our personal lives. Caroline McHugh, in her 2013 TED Talk, The Art of Being You, refers to the tendency to draw personal comparisons in real life and on social media as an addiction to approval. This addiction is distracting and uses energy that could be applied in more satisfying ways.
The journey of self-discovery is the process of understanding yourself without drawing comparisons to others. It's about knowing your values, interests, needs, wants, skills, and dreams. It's about knowing your personal characteristics, including your strengths and weaknesses.
Armed with heightened awareness through self-discovery, we are more conscious of our authentic selves and better able to make choices for more meaningful, happy lives.
This is where solo travel comes in. Extracting yourself from a world of comparisons by traveling solo, that internal dialogue that draws such conclusions falls silent. In the silence, the process of self-discovery has space to take place.
Solo Travel: A Journey to Self-Discovery
Traveling solo, one has time to gain perspective.
As you travel solo, you can see how you operate when no one is looking. You have more time to look at the intentions behind your thoughts, words, and actions. Because you are outside of your normal life, you can see these intentions, assess them, and tweak them to create the life that you want. It helps you be better at being you.
5 Steps to Self-Discovery As You Travel Solo
- Choose a destination that feels physically and emotionally safe. If you want to focus on self-discovery, it's important to go to a place where you feel safe and secure. You can learn things when you are in challenging destinations but it won't be the type of discoveries we're talking about here.
- Go to places of solitude. Parks, libraries, art galleries, and other places that invite you to be quiet and keep to yourself will give you time and space for contemplation on your journey of self-discovery. Seeing where your mind wanders when not engaged in anything in particular is fascinating to observe and revealing in itself. Your mind will naturally drift to topics of interest about which you may be unaware. You may even reconnect with the dreams of your younger self. Consider whether they continue to inspire you or may already have been realized.
- Leave lots of unscheduled time on your itinerary. As you explore your destination, you will naturally find or learn about things that you want to explore that you hadn't previously known about. Leaving unscheduled time on your itinerary gives you the freedom to respond to opportunities as they arise.
- Look for inspiration in new places. Are you a musician? Explore the local sports scene. Are you an artist? Go to a science center. As you travel solo, explore areas of interest that are not natural to you. Drawing inspiration from new places can take your thoughts and ideas into new directions.
- Spend time reflecting. Whether you're a note-taker, doodler, or audio person, spend some time reflecting on and documenting your thoughts, strengths, interests, and discoveries.
There are a number of paths to self-discovery. This post on Self-Coaching will provide some insight for you on methods and questions to ask in your self-discovery process.
I encourage you to use solo travel as part of your self-discovery journey. Take the time to learn who you are now because you are not the person you were in your teens, a decade ago, or even last year. Solo travel also offers an opportunity to explore and practice who you want to be.