The benefits of travel – and why you need it in your life
Everyone love’s a vacation, right?
Time to get away from the 9-5, to relax and recharge. You come back refreshed and ready to take on the world. But there’s a difference between a ‘vacation’ and ‘travel’. There are loads of benefits of travel, and even more when it comes to solo travel.
I’m a firm believer that travelling solo is something that everyone should try, just once, in their lives. We spend so much of our time with other people, whether it’s work colleges, friends, family etc. that it can be easy to lose yourself. If you’re not ready to take the plunge into travelling alone, there are also benefits of travel as a couple or a group.
I remember back to my first solo trip and things like ‘what if I get lonely’, or ‘what if I get in trouble and need help’ running relentlessly through my mind. Looking back now, as a well-seasoned solo traveller, I struggle to think what all the fuss was about, and in actual fact, there are so many benefits of travel that I always kick myself thinking, why didn’t I do this sooner! It’s also been scientifically proven that travel is good for you.
Still not convinced about the benefits of travel? Or wondering what you will learn when you travel alone? Here’s a crazy-ass list of reasons why solo travel will be one of the best things you ever do.
Disclosure: Some of the links below might be affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you , if you click one of them, I may receive a small commission (for which I am deeply grateful) but it helps me create more awsome stuff like this post.
21 AWESOME BENEFITS OF TRAVEL
1) You have the freedom to do what you want, when you want.
Think about this, you have 100% control over what YOU want to do and when YOU want to do it. Travelling solo gives you the ultimate freedom of any travel style. A massive benefits of travel is the freedom you gain. You don’t have to consider what anyone else wants to do, you can spend as little or as a long doing a certain activity without worrying if the other person is bored; essentially you are your own boss. If you want to spend a day sleeping and bumming about by a pool then that’s as cool as waking up at the crack of dawn to hike up a mountain.
2) You will meet SO MANY new friends.
Yes, it can be a daunting prospect; being in a strange country, totally alone. One of the biggest benefits of travel on your own is the fact that the likelihood of meeting new friends is so much higher than If you were with other people. People generally don’t like to approach groups; one of the benefits of travel as a solo traveller is that you are more approachable.
If you are planning on staying in hotels you will find it’s much harder to meet people even in the ‘social’ areas people don’t really talk. Hostels, on the other hand, are a whole different kettle of fish as they are very much community based; they nearly all have a social area, some have communal kitchens, onsite restaurants/ bars, and at times will even have a garden and pool. Some hostels even put on activities (bar crawls, movie nights, and cultural trips) so sign up for these if you are the shy type.
3) You don’t have to accommodate anyone else
I love ancient ruins. I love doing some bat-shit crazy extreme sports. I also love taking the slow road and getting lost somewhere.
But I’m fully aware this isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea. I remember years ago going away with a small group of friends and in all honesty, being in that group was one of the most frustrating trips I’d ever done.
In a group situation, there’s always going to be a compromise, but when what they wanted do (sit around the pool nursing a hangover) versus what I wanted to do (go explore); there was no middle ground. I frequently ended up going off and doing my own thing anyway. One of the benefits of travel on your own is that you won’t have this problem. Hello Miss Independent.
4) You will realise how liberating being on your own really is.
You will never have felt freedom anything like when you are on a solo trip; being free from the usual responsibilities and expectations of life back home. With the absence of the constant stimulus, the bombardment of information, organisation and general hectic lifestyle means that you’ll find you have a lot more downtime.
It’s difficult back home to really switch off, but the liberation from all these commitments really gives you time to think, contemplate and reflect on your own life.
One of the benefits of travel you will discover when you (eventually) go back home is that you will probably prioritise things differently – is working crazy hours in a job you don’t love REALLY worth it? Do you want a better work/life balance?
5) You have the opportunity to switch off and have a screen detox.
Another biggie on the benefits of travel front is that it’s the perfect opportunity to have a screen detox. Life existed perfectly fine before the invention of smartphones and it seems bizarre that over the past decade people have become so dependent on this little gadget that they miss so much of the real world because they are looking down.
Without signal or Wi-Fi take the opportunity and try to get in the habit of leaving the phone locked up somewhere safe at your accommodation. Who knows, you might actually have to interact with people in the real world; a scary thought yeah!
6) You will become a pro-decision-maker.
When you travel solo, you and you alone are responsible for every single decision you make. So, when things go swimmingly to plan and you manage to navigate yourself and your luggage across a city using public transport in a country you don’t speak the language, then give yourself a massive high five. Likewise, if something doesn’t quite go to plan and the shit hits the fan then it’s down to you to keep your cool and to get yourself out of that predicament.
I’m naturally an indecisive person so for me, travelling solo really made me hone in on my decision-making skills, I had to work really hard at being much more assertive and decisive and not being so reliant on other people being around. If I’ve made a dodgy decision, then I’ve only got myself to blame.
7) You can embrace your alter ego and no-one’s going to question it!
One of the pros of being thousands of miles away from anyone you know is that you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to fit into an accepted social norm here. One of the benefits of travel by yourself is that if you’ve always wanted to embrace that inner hippy with no one judging you then this is the time to do it.
I’ve met some really whacky characters in my years of travel, some brilliantly quirky and some just plain weird. No one will have any expectations of you if you’ve only just met them, just a word of warning – don’t go so over the top that people talking a wide berth around you and avoiding you altogether.
8) You will have oodles of new-found self-confidence.
Back in the UK, I get asked so many times ‘who do you go with’ as if it’s beyond anyone’s ability to do something solo. I tell them that I travel on my own. This usually leads on to the response of ‘wow, you’re brave!’.
More often than not it’s your own self-doubt that is holding you back. Going solo can be scary once you’ve crossed that hurdle and conquered the daemons in your own head it’s much easier than people make out.
Think back to the first time you do ANYTHING new; starting a new job, moving to a new city or joining a club where you know no-one. It’s a little unnerving, right? It’s exactly the same as travelling alone.
9) You will learn to be more compassionate, humble, respectful and grateful.
One of the benefits of travel, especially to a developing nation, is that it’s really humbling.
Comparatively, they live a much more modest life – basic accommodation often shared with a large family, minimal possessions and limited technology. Yet they come across as generous, welcoming and grateful – more so than lots of people from ‘rich’ westernised nations.
Wherever you can, try and support the local communities (home-stays/local hostels rather than chain hotels), buy food and souvenirs from the markets and not the supermarkets.
Take small gifts as a sign of your gratitude. Items to us which seem trivial and inexpensive are often unavailable or unaffordable to them. Things such as small notebooks and pens to help the school children, or toiletries and little household items. I remember in Cuba, the ladies who I stayed with all asked if I had any spare makeup, nail polish or cosmetics, as it was difficult for them to get hold and expensive to buy – I kicked myself as I had boxes of stuff back at home in the UK that they wish I could have given them.
10) Your regular 9-5 in an office will never quite cut it again.
This is something I’m not sure I will ever get used to again…like ever! True, some people love their job but unless you are in the fortunate position then it’s difficult after experiencing so much awesome stuff to go back into the monotony of the 9-5.
One of the benefits of travel is that it makes you revaluate what you spend your time doing. For me, I grin and bear the tedium from work back in the UK when I have to recoup funds. Essentially it’s a means to an end that I tolerate. Every hour worked is a step closer to my next trip.
11) You’ll quickly learn that life back home is far too materialistic.
Until you live out of a backpack for a few weeks (ahem..months….years) you won’t realise how little you actually need to be comfortable and to survive.
Westernised life has programmed us to think that we need STUFF and lots of it. I’ll hold both my hands up; I was guilty of this too.
So, I was that idiot on my first solo trip – I took a massive backpack, a huge 70L thing! As well as a 30L ‘day bag’ and packed for every eventuality, plus spares! Told you I was a dork. I ended up using only small fraction of the stuff I had brought with me and regretted having to lug this absolute lump about with me for 2 months. #liveandlearn.
12) You learn that the World really isn’t as scary as the media makes out.
This is 100% because of the media, giving us a warped view of the world. Sure, there are dodgy areas everywhere. Heck, I wouldn’t walk around parts of my home town of Bristol in the UK on my own late at night, shit happens on my own doorstep.
Before I visited Mexico and Colombia so many people said to me that it was dangerous and to be careful. The strange thing was that the people giving me this ‘insight’ and ‘advice’ had never actually visited these countries before; their opinions being based purely on what they had seen on TV, read in the papers etc. Yes, for sure there are plenty of no-go areas in both Colombia and Mexico but in all honesty, it was fine.
Just be sensible, follow the advice given by locals who will know the area better than anyone and listen to local Government warnings.
13) You will become more impulsive and spontaneous
So picture this; you’ve just landed in a new destination after a long haul flight, your body hasn’t got a clue what time zone it’s in, you’re exhausted from lack of sleep and if you were back home you’d probably jump at the opportunity to have a quiet one in and just chill. But ‘Hello’ new destination, ‘Hello’ roomies and suddenly before your backpack has even hit the floor you’re off with your new best friends exploring the local area.
Sounds crazy but this has happened to me so many times! My body quickly decides it doesn’t want to sleep now and the prospect of exploring a new destination with newfound friends is far too enticing and exciting to ignore. It’s also easier to pick up some bargain last-minute deals.
Embrace the spontaneity!
14) You stop living by the time on your watch.
Of course, you don’t want to miss those all-important flights or pick-up times but apart from that stop living by the time on your watch. Back home, life is governed by the clock; meetings, deadlines, appointments and so on; it’s stressful. The more solo travel you do the more you will learn to live in the moment; why rush away from a beautiful view or pass on stopping to chat with locals at a bar.
As ironic as it sounds, take the time to stop, you don’t need to cram everything into a day – leave that for your life back home.
15) You’ll become obsessed with travel
Is this a benefit to travel? Heck yeah! Guaranteed you will have the post-travel-come-down, it’s horrible and happens after every trip. But hopefully, you will have been well and truly bitten by the travel bug. You’ll feel the constant desire to reminisce, and quite rightly so, you’ve just had the most awesome time of your life! And you’ll wonder why you didn’t bump solo travelling to the top of your life-goals sooner. Spending money on life experience and memories has far more worth than any material object will ever have.
Common symptoms of travel obsession are:
- Travel comes up as a topic of conversation at least once a day.
- The map of the World is your favourite thing to look at.
- You have a bucket list of places to go
- The next trip has already been booked within a few weeks of your return.
- Gadgets that you can take travelling are on top of your wish-list
- Saving money for the next trip, in any way shape or form has become your number 1 pastime.
16) You’ll learn that most people in the world are actually nice people.
I wrote earlier about the media making the world seem a scary place, but it’s also fair to say that the majority of people in the World are actually decent people. True, there are vile people in every country but don’t believe everything CNN tells you.
Thankfully, most of the population of planet Earth, don’t wish ill on others. They essentially just want to make a living and provide for their families. So don’t feel worried about interacting and talking to the locals, most of them are genuinely interested in why you are visiting their country and some just want the opportunity to practice their English.
17) You’ll become more tolerant and your social skills will improve
Sure, you won’t be best buddies with everyone and you shouldn’t aim for this. However, living in close confines with strangers can really push your boundaries of tolerance. You’re going to come across ignorant, rude and selfish people. Rather than letting this get you riled up, smile and move on all whilst thinking ‘you’re an utter douche bag’.
It’s not worth the agro. Besides, there’s going to be a constant flow of awesome people checking in to the hostel any time soon.
18) You’ll grow as a person.
I don’t mean physically here either (unless you are eating your body weight in delicious street food). But some of the benefits of travel are that;
- You’re a lot braver and more capable than you initially thought
- You are more open and accepting to the way the other people think
- You’ll know how to prioritize what’s actually important in your life.
19) You’ll learn not to sweat the small stuff
So one thing you’ll notice about a lot of the rest of the world is that small stuff doesn’t matter. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Maybe something didn’t go quite as planned BUT you got to hang out with the locals instead. Perhaps something went missing BUT you felt the warmth and hospitality from someone who really wanted to help you out. Every cloud has a silver lining so try to look at it from a different perspective and think what you can learn from it. At the least, it will make a decent story to look back on.
I know sometimes our initial reaction is to freak out or get stressed but a lot of the time, think to yourself, ‘is it really worth getting worked up about this’.
20) Your CV will stand out from everyone else’s
Imagine you’re an employer faced with dozens of mediocre CVs and applications, and then they come across yours and all the skills and experiences you’ve gained while travelling. A huge benefit to travel, whether its solo or as a couple or part of a group is that it shows you are capable of a whole range of transferable skills.
Imagine telling a prospective employer about some of the amazing stuff you’ve seen, what you’ve learnt about yourself and some of the mind-blowing stuff you’ve experienced while travelling. It’s certainly going to outshine the ordinary and make you more memorable.
21) You’ll become an epic storyteller.
So while your friends spent their vacation lounging about on the beach, in shopping malls or being shipped about as part of a package tour. *yawn*
You’ll be able to recount what crazy shit you’ve been up to. About how you went on an epic Indiana Jones adventure into a subterranean cave to find an ancient burial site…. or how you swam with sharks in the world largest sinkhole.
I know which conversation I’d rather be listening to.
Solo, Couple, Group Benefits of Travel - Final thoughts
There are countless more reasons to make travel part of your life and I’m a strong believer that everyone should try getting out of their comfort zone and try real travel at least once (and by that, not an all-inclusive package tour).
The world is a pretty awesome place, but don’t just take my word for it, go see it for yourself!
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So, there are tons more benefits to travelling I’ve not included in this list, what else do you think I should add? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below.