Why Everyone Needs to Travel Solo At Least Once in Their Lives

 (Image:  Unsplash )

(Image: Unsplash)

One backpack. Seven weeks. Five countries. Two thousand photos — and a whole bunch of new friends.

Before we get into any of that, though, let me begin by saying everyone — and I mean everyone — should pack a bag and take a solo trip at some point in their lives. Do you need to take seven weeks off work and backpack through Europe? No, not at all. It could be a simple weekend trip. The point is just to go and get out there on your own.

As I’ve discovered, there is something about traveling on your own that’s difficult to put your finger on. It’s empowering, it makes you test your limits and step outside of your comfort zone. And, well, just trust me: it’s a must.

I thoroughly enjoyed navigating Europe by myself. Every time I arrived at a new destination, whether I was navigating the train system or the narrow cobblestone streets, a sense of accomplishment washed over me. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and strike up conversations with fellow travelers or locals and I met so many beautiful souls along the way. Meeting new people always made seeing the sites that much more interesting — because even though I’d set out on my own, it was still nice to share the experience with someone else, no matter if that person was a perfect stranger only minutes before.

Preparation for my seven weeks in Europe consisted of a lot of research, mostly to narrow down which countries I wanted to squeeze in. With all of the destinations contained on my European bucket list, this was no small task. After consultations with Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, Rick Steve’s Europe, and various travel blogs, as well as family and friends, I began researching plane tickets, train tickets, hotels and other accommodations (hello, Airbnb) and putting together a budget, which could not have been more helpful.

 (Photo: Melissa Smith)

(Photo: Melissa Smith)

Once the list narrowed to Germany, Switzerland, France, Greece, and Italy, I began looking for individual events, such as festivals, and for popular tourist attractions to help me decide which cities I would stop in along the way. As is key with planning for any trip, I left room for flexibility in my schedule.

The flights and hotels booked and the (light) packing taken care of with some help from packing lists I found on Pinterest, I was ready to take off. Once overseas, I discovered that one of the trickiest things to navigate is the language barrier, at least sometimes. More often than not, I was humbled by the amount of locals who tried their best to speak with me in my native language when I didn’t know the first thing about theirs.

After visiting those five countries and meeting all those new people, I can say without a doubt that my decision to travel solo in Europe was well worth it. The experience changed me for the better, giving me new confidence and a sense of excitement for this life. They say you have to love yourself before you can learn to love someone else. I say the same goes for traveling: go out and discover what it is you love about travel before you bring someone along. While it may seem intimidating at first, I guarantee you will find a deeper appreciation for travel once you’ve experienced it on your own.

And if it doesn’t change your perspective, you can at least up your selfie game.

-Mel