Four Big Advantages to Solo Travel
For a long time, I was hesistant to travel alone. I thought solo trips would be lonely and meaningless, as I wouldn't have anyone to share my stories and experiences. One summer though, I felt as though everything I had valued had dwindled away. So, what did I do? Well, I packed essentials: a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, a tent, a burner, a pocket knife, a metal skillet, one fork, one cup, gallons of water, and rock climbing gear into my single cab Toyota Pickup and took off. I had no idea where I would go, but I knew I wanted to get out of there. So I drove north for a long while, then I pulled out a map and pointed to a location that I always wanted to visit, Moab Utah!
My trip to Moab taught me a lot about the advantages of solo travel. Here are four important ways it impacted me - I hope they may push you off your seat to explore the world by yourself.
1. You're forced out of your comfort zone.
Are you shy? Scared to talk to other individuals? Do you feel as though you are a burden to those you ask questions of? Solo travel forces you outside of your comfort zone – you start learning to overcome your fears. If you're able to overcome these insecurities, you'll begin to gain confidence. You're forced to meet people if you feel lonely, need to ask for directions, or simply want company!
On the road. My most memorable experience in Moab was really the road trip to get there. I stopped by a small gas station right outside Shiprock, New Mexico. There stood another lonely traveler, a hitchhiker standing outside the building with a bag of Cheetos and a Mountain Dew. I fiddled around the back of my pickup to pull out dinner, a small cup of ramen noodles, and went inside to fill it with hot water. When I stepped outside late at night, he started a conversation with me.
At first, I was wary about the situation; however, after I sensed that he was genuine, I offered him my dinner. He accepted, took a handful of his Cheetos and crushed them into the noodles, making the liquid turn a funky shade of red. The store clerk shouted, “Stop bothering our customers!” which I felt was pretty rude. We decided to continue our conversation on the road – I drove him to Cortez, Colorado. He told me stories about his life and his times traveling on the open road while working as a silversmith. I’m not telling you all to pick up random hitchhikers along the way. But, if I was traveling with someone, I surely would not have had this conversation with my new friend. It takes a lot to be pushed out of your comfort zone; but the stories and experience you gain are unforgettable.
2. You can begin to distinguish between wanting and needing someone.
We're social beings, finding a sense of belonging is a natural human tendency. Humans satisfy this need by attending church, being with our families, joining clubs or organizations of common interest, or being with a significant other. Just like food, water, and shelter, belonging is an essential need for happiness. Time alone provides reflection on the difference between wanting and needing someone to be there with you. After a solo vacation, it's even possible that you may have a greater appreciation for your loved ones or perhaps have learned ways to be more independent of them.
Hal Canyon Campground, Moab. I found an area to pitch a tent on the moist ground. I began to feel lonely and to wonder where I belonged. I started to have a greater appreciation for my relationships and my family, now that they were absent. The campground was tranquil; that helped me to relax and reflect. The stars were all visible and I was lucky enough to spot a band of light across the sky: the Milky Way.
The campground was great for small mobile homes or tent campers like me. It was right next to the Colorado River. There were access points that allowed campers to submerge themselves in the cold water after a hot summer day in Moab. The large canyon walls around Hal Canyon also protect campers from the strong winds that pass through Moab as well as providing a spectacular view of the rising sun.
3. You can choose to do what you want, when you want.
This may seem obvious, but when you go on a solo adventure, there's no one telling you when to stop or where to go. You're able to make decisions without pressure from others. Whether you want to spend several days on the beach doing absolutely nothing or visit several museums in a single day, the choice is yours. There's no one standing in the way with their own itinerary. I now find solo adventures more relaxing as I can be completely autonomous.
Moab! When I had arrived in Moab, I could do exactly what I wanted. I visited Arches National Park for part of the day, left to take an off-road adventure through the scenic landscape, then continued around to Potash Road, to the Wall Street of Climbing. It was wonderful to make my own choices without anyone telling me otherwise. Arches National Park had so many mind-blowing views and landscapes that my senses were overwhelmed.
Potash Road is a must see destination for anyone who loves rock climbing, scenic driving, or biking. There are gorgeous slabs of red sandstone that rock climbers from around the world love to interact with. If you’re not a climber yourself, there are also petroglyph panels to see - they're visible on cliffs on the right side of the highway. In the summer time, this area gets lively in the evening. People gather on the side of the road to climb on the sandstone slabs. Watching people climb these walls is inspirational and exciting as they follow routes up the rock.
4. You gain a better understanding of yourself.
If it's rare for you to spend a significant amount of time by yourself, solo travel is a great opportunity for you to gain a better understanding of yourself. You may find a solo trip to be a powerful and life-changing experience. You begin to understand both your limitations and capabilities. Also, listening to only your own thoughts may provide you with new insights on what makes you happy.
Arches National Park.
If you ever feel like wandering the desert, Arches National Park should be on your bucket list. It's known for the 2,000 natural arches, balancing rocks, and sandstone fins that grace the landscape. There's a paved road that travels throughout, providing easy access to all the main attractions for families and lone travelers of all ages.
Whenever I visited previously with other companions, we had tried to see the entire park in one day. We quickly hiked (and sometimes jogged) up and down a variety of trails. So I'd had a lot of exposure to the park, but I never got to “take it all in”. This time, I spent a significant time at Delicate Arch, one of the most popular formations to visit. The arch sits on the edge of a canyon overlooking the valley. It changes in hue when the sun sets, and makes you realize how much of the Earth you haven't seen. That time contemplating the arch, and the earth, and myself, helped me realize what brings me happiness... simplicity in life, travel, and love.
By Thomas Pham
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