Jared Joshua James
Solo Travel - An Enriching Experience
A 20 year old Jared never thought he would have seen as much of the world as he has to date. As my first international experience began back in 2015, I have since visited 15 countries, eight of which were solo. And for the record, a layover does not count unless you get out to the city!
During my recent excursion to the Far East (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Philippines) l had a few epiphanies relating to solo traveling. To summarize, they were Heightened levels of self, Varying Perspective, and Personal Comfort.
Self - (n) a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action,
Perspective - (n) a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view, and;
Comfort - (n) the easing or alleviation of a person's feelings of grief or distress.
As a thrill seeking adventure junkie who's mastered planning trips and country hopping- I've always viewed myself as a soloist, so to me, traveling alone has never presented a question of safety, companionship or boredom. It's funny when I tell coworkers or friends that I'm traveling alone and their facial expressions change to one of confusion and curiosity followed by statements such as: "I could not imagine doing that alone", or, "Oh my goodness! Just be safe and let someone know where you are", or, my all-time favorite, "Just make it back". I never let these sentiments discourage me or raise doubt. I try to always use this time to provide reassurance of two things: 1 - something could happen anywhere and 2 - everything will be just fine.
For me, solo travel is a time for:
- Self-laughter (as you are going through your roller-deck of comedy you find yourself in the memories of your laughter and begin to relive those moments and hear those funny jokes once more)
- Self-reflection (thinking back on decisions, lefts vs rights in your life and the what should have, could have, and would have been)
- Self-evaluation (from relationships, family/friends, to career and even additional destinations of interest)
Solo travel allows you to find more of yourself in an uncommon place and experience life through a foreign lens... one I wish to temporarily adopt through my 3-5 year international sabbatical.
Here are a few of my self-realizations from solo travel. From them, I hope you are inspired to take a solo trip and contribute to your experience by having the following impact:
Heightened Levels of Self:
- Self-awareness. There is no one to influence your decisions or actions. You become more cognizant of your actions and thoughts. Even your words (if your language is not their native), as you're dealing with communication barriers and want to express yourself as clearly and respectfully as possible.
- Self-discovery. On any trip by yourself, you learn more about you than any other time. You begin to realize interest in things and have conversations with yourself that would surpass any with another individual. For me, I always strive to obtain or reach a higher level of self through experience. As we all have our personal challenges and psychological battles, this area allows me to pinpoint how previous experiences have shaped my life and decisions.
- Self-security. There's no other way to test your sense of security than to venture thousands of miles across the ocean to a location where you barely understand a language and take the city head on (riding the public transportation, engaging with the locals, etc.) all alone!
- Solo travel will definitely change your perspective in all aspects of life. From the inspirational piece viewed at the museum, random conversation with a stranger, observance of a religious practice, or bearing witness to living conditions in some countries (here in the USA too) - it's relatively difficult not to find yourself questioning or hosting a higher level of appreciation, thriving with new motivation, or furthering your religious understanding and ideals after fully immersing yourself in another culture.
- For me, this perspective has ignited a lifestyle of minimalism and sustainability. Witnessing the litter and accumulation of trash in countries abroad has led me to take action personally and professionally by championing recycling and sustainability initiatives.
- The trip is what you make it and you have to be willing to get out on your own and experience it. As a self-starter, it is relatively easy for me to set an agenda and stick to it while abroad (through rain or shine). This also takes an extreme amount of courage and self-discipline. Without, I'm sure the view would be nice from the window of your Airbnb or hotel. Make yourself uncomfortable and find that new level of comfort. Try on the new experience and if it does not work, try on another until you find the right fit.
In conclusion, solo travel is such an enriching experience that will promote your personal development through heightening your levels of self (awareness, discovery, security), allowing you to adopt a varying perspective that will contribute to your outlook on life and increase your personal level of comfort. I challenge you to take your first solo international excursion, explore the globe and find more of who you are, challenge norms, and most importantly - have fun while doing it.