As a millennial, I’m often fueling myself with social media – checking in on my friends on Snapchat, posting my latest adventure on Instagram, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I’m never satisfied though. My mind remains restless and I am no more connected than I was before I picked up my phone.
True fulfillment comes from new and real experiences. As you read this, I’m on my way to Budapest and Vienna. Alone. Unafraid. Wandering. If you’ve never traveled alone, make some time to give it a try. Traveling alone (whether to the coffee shop in your town or to Eastern Europe for fun) forces you to experience your surroundings. Traveling alone without your phone in your hand is better yet.
Sitting in a café in a foreign country, eating lunch and observing the world around you, provides for a captivating experience. You (likely) don’t speak the language so you can’t join in on the conversations. You’ve been pushed outside your comfort zone and the opportunities at your feet are bountiful. Challenge yourself to look at life differently and explore these opportunities – don’t just hole up in your hotel room. Take some time to sit silently, without a book or cell phone, and just observe the area around you. Challenge yourself to smile at people or offer up the other half of your table if the café is crowded. These experiences will nourish your soul.
"Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here." - Eve EnslerTweet It!
For example, exploring places like the Parthenon, the Pantheon, or Petra without a tour guide or a friend provides for a rewarding experience. How many times have you visited a place you truly wanted to explore and felt pulled in another direction because your guide was done talking or your friend was done taking pictures? Exploring alone allows you to take the time to see what you want to see and skip what you don’t. You’ll feel more satisfied and you’ll have gotten more out of your experience.
Traveling alone also opens you up to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise get. In my experience, when you’re traveling alone, you’re much more likely to get invited along with other people or asked to join a table or group. I’ve befriended other people that are traveling and been asked along on adventures or experiences (often at no additional expense to me). I’ve been out to dinner and asked to join someone else’s table, which leads to engaging conversation and an opportunity to expand my perspective. These adventures have taken me Yiddish square dancing, on an adventure through historic Boston, on a bateaux mouche down the Seine, and even to a crazy craft beer place in Barcelona. Bonus: traveling alone also means I get through customs more quickly on my way home and I often end up flying business or first class (because it’s much easier to upgrade a solo flyer than a pair of friends traveling together).
Traveling alone is an excellent way to revive the soul and it has some pretty great perks, too. Give it a try next time you go on an adventure!
Dannie Fountain-Jagodzinski is an entrepreneur and marketing professional. She loves tennis and photography and on the weekends you’ll find her catching up on my favorite Netflix show – Orange is the New Black.
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