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There are so many incredible benefits to solo travel: you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. You develop incredible confidence. You can change your plans on a whim. It’s easier to interact with locals and learn the local language. You can take the trip of your dreams and be whomever you want to be without catering to anyone else.
These are some of the reasons why I adore traveling solo. As much as I enjoy traveling with my friends, you can’t beat the level of freedom you get from traveling on your own.
But there are some unusual benefits of solo travel as well — the ones that nobody talks about. Ones that I enjoy greatly. Here they are.
1. Sightseeing at the Speed of Light
This is something I forget again and again — I’ll schedule three days in a city during a solo trip and find out I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in a day and a half. When I’m on my own, I fly through sightseeing because I don’t spend a second longer than I want to.
When you’re traveling on your own, you get to whittle down the activities down to only what you want to do, including skipping the popular sights if they don’t happen to appeal to you.
Traveling with someone else is a constant game of compromise, even in the most symbiotic of relationships. Even if you both want to visit the Louvre in Paris, odds are you won’t want to spend the exact same amount of time at the exact same works of art. And then there’s waiting for someone else to get ready in the morning.
Travel alone and you’ll be given the gift of time — which means you’ll be able to fit more destinations and activities into a trip without feeling like you’re making a sacrifice.
2. Eating Healthy
The truth? The vast majority of travelers don’t make an effort to eat healthy while on the road. Many people see travel as an opportunity to indulge; foodies often prioritize the pleasure of food over health benefits. In short, the only people I’ve known to eat healthy consistently on the road are those who have long-established health and fitness habits.
I’ve tried to eat healthy while traveling with one or more companions, and it’s not easy. Discipline is one thing; discipline in the face of a group of friends chowing down on pizza is something else altogether. Especially if you’re trying to limit alcohol, as drinking’s such a social activity.
But if you’re determined to eat healthy, it’s so much easier to make decisions and stick to them when you’re traveling on your own. Whether you trade cappuccinos for sparkling water, go vegan or paleo for a week, or eat a big salad for a meal every day, it’s a million times easier to do so when you don’t have friends distracting you with their indulgences.
For what it’s worth, it’s easiest eating healthy somewhere like Japan, which has a more healthy food culture, or somewhere like the West Coast USA, with lots of healthy options. Good luck avoiding temptation in Italy!
3. Surprise VIP Treatment
What happens if you’re the only one to sign up for a group tour or activity? You might inadvertently end up on a private tour despite paying a group tour price!
Sure, some companies might have minimum quotas to meet before running a tour, and some will charge you a bit more if you’re the only one, but occasionally you’ll get to enjoy a group tour as the sole customer.
That means that if it’s a surfing or rock-climbing lesson, you’ll have 100% of the instructor’s attention — you’ll learn so much faster. On a history- or art-oriented tour, you’ll be able to have an in-depth conversation with your guide instead of getting a group lecture. And if it’s a one-person-at-a-time activity like zip-lining, you’ll be able to hop from line to line without for everyone else to go!
4. Reading Voraciously
If you don’t read as much as you used to but wish you could pick up the habit again, solo travel is the perfect opportunity! In my early solo travel days, I relied on used bookstores along the backpacker trail (and thus read quite a bit of Jodi Picoult); these days, I read whatever I want on my beloved Kindle Paperwhite.
When you travel with a companion, you’ll always be talking. When you’re on your own, you’ll have a lot of time to fill. And while you could spend it engrossed in your phone, scrolling through photos on Facebook, you could just as easily spend it reading a book.
When I travel solo, my Kindle is always by my side. Whenever I go out to eat, I try to stay away from my phone and spend the entire meal reading instead. Whenever I’m on (non-nauseating) transportation, I read for the entire journey. I love having a daily afternoon coffee break, and unless I’m wifi-deprived, I spend it reading.
When I’m traveling solo I often devour four, five, even six books in a month.
5. Sex. Crazy sex. And lots of it.
We live in an incredibly sex-negative society — much more for women than for men. And while in a perfect world we wouldn’t care what people thought of our private sex lives, most of us do care, at least a little bit.
It holds a lot of women back, lest she be labeled a slut for enjoying herself sexually. And because of that, some women end up having mediocre sex for the rest of their lives.
However, traveling alone gives you the ultimate freedom to explore sexually. If you’d be worried about how people will react, you don’t need to — nobody here knows you! Between anonymity and being in a new destination, there’s no chance the guy you picked up at that bar happens to works with your cousin.
And if you use it as an opportunity to do something different — whether it’s hooking up with someone completely against your type or trying something you’ve always fantasized about but were too shy to do at home — you could end up laying the groundwork for a lifetime of amazing sex that you never would have discovered if you hadn’t traveled solo.
Take steps to protect yourself, both physically and emotionally, never be with anyone you don’t trust, and remember that no sex is ever 100% safe. Beyond that? Go have fun.
Best of all, you only have to tell people about it if you feel like it. If it sucks and you never want to think about it again, nobody will know! (AND if it’s amazing and you want to share it with the world or keep it a deliciously dirty secret, you go ahead and do that!)
Just don’t do it in a dorm. Everyone’s got a phone with video these days.