I took an incredible two-week trip to Italy six years ago.
This trip marked my first time ever in a foreign country. I possessed only basic knowledge of the Italian language.
The best part of my Italian adventure – I took this trip solo.
Was I afraid? Yes.
Did I let it stop me? No.
I let that fear fuel and push me forward. I plotted, planned and changed my itinerary many times before even boarding the plane. I had a list of the sites I personally wanted to see – I wanted to visually drink in all of the ancient ruins I could, slowly and with much fervor.
Once landing at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, I encountered a major setback to my adventure – my luggage didn’t make it.
That is when reality kicked in – I was truly there alone.
I was in Rome. A foreign country. There wasn’t a Kmart or Target down the road to run and get some small things to tide me over until my luggage arrived.
Not knowing where I was going or what I was doing, once I checked in at my hotel I simply took to foot and walked down Via del Tritone. Thankfully, I found an Italian boutique shop that resembled the American store, Dots, and right down the street, tucked away in a corner from there was the Italian version of the grocery store Aldi. I was set.
Two days later my luggage safely made its way to me. Crisis averted.
The rest of my two-week trip was amazing and very memorable. I’d much rather have a head full of memories from travel than a ton of stuff and material possessions.
Experience is truly the best teacher. Experiences being overseas alone are more valuable than anything you could learn in school.
Here are four reasons everyone should take at least one solo trip overseas in their lifetime.
Meet New People
Traveling alone forces you out of your comfort zone and into the unknown.
I loved my interaction with the local shop owners, street vendors and random people I met along the way. We really got to know each other in the two short weeks I spent in Rome. I was greeted as a friend from the first moment I met each and every one of them.
Nothing can compare to feeling like you’re part of the city you’re visiting abroad.
Had I not taken my trip alone, I most likely would not have met so many new and interesting people. This is an experience you can only claim while being on your own in a foreign country.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Being on your own makes even ordering lunch a beautiful experience.
As I slowly enunciated, yet tried to sound natural and native, the lovely Italian waiter spoke to me in almost perfect English. When I said I wanted to learn to speak Italian, I was hugged and kissed as a friend – he even sat down with me to give me a quick language lesson. You almost never see this happen in a tour group because the guide takes care of speaking to the locals for you.
I learned the daily customs quickly and adapted to them with no problem. By meeting a friendly (and ruggedly handsome, I might add) local street musician, I was given a personal tour of Bella Roma during the nightly stroll, they refer to as passegiata.
My new Italian friends’ tour was also complete with learning of off-the-beaten-tourist-path ristorante’s and osteria’s – one of which was his family ristorante, where I was served a sumptuous traditional four-course Roman dinner.
I came home with a lot of great authentic recipes, some of which were long passed down through families. I doubt I would have experienced any this with a tour group.
Rely on Yourself
If you haven’t learned to be self-sufficient by the time you make your solo trip, you will definitely learn it on the go!
Instead of panicking at the airport when my luggage didn’t show up on the carousel, I breathed in deep, and realized I had to go to the airline office and make my claim. There was no time for a panic attack or crying – both of which I had experienced before in crisis situations.
I had no one to rely on or cry to, I had to suck it up. This was a very liberating experience.
Although I am very lucky and blessed I was able to get my luggage back, I was thankful I had that experience happen, as it forced me to see I was in fact there on my own.
Just like in life, no one is going to save you – the only person you can depend on is yourself.
Set Your Own Pace and Itinerary
Freedom. I think this is the absolute best part of traveling solo.
For example, there is no one telling you from 10 AM to 10:45 AM you can visit the Roman Forum – you can visit whenever and for however long you want to.
Your time is your own when you are solo. You can plan your days and nights according to your mood. If you want to sit down and collect your thoughts or just take in a bit of people watching, there is no one telling you no or limiting you to a time frame.
While I was a bit OCD with my own itinerary before I took my trip, I quickly learned to loosen up once my luggage didn’t arrive in time. I learned flexibility on the fly which helped me adjust and tweak my itinerary according to circumstances that arose.
While I didn’t get to see everything I originally wanted to, I ended up seeing so much more, and that made my trip even more interesting and fun. I learned to go with the flow and do things on the fly.
Just remember, anything you miss can be seen on subsequent trips – because I assure you, once you travel solo, it is an amazing experience you’ll want to repeat over and over again!