This article was written by Jessica Festa and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.
I never thought I would travel solo. It kind of just…happened. Growing up, my vacations consisted of Caribbean cruises and road trips spent searching for thrilling roller coasters and America’s best beaches. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Sydney at the age of 20 that I got the itch to begin expanding my travel horizons. Inspired by Australia’s rich Thai cuisine culture, I decided I wanted to go to Thailand to try the real thing.
I started saving immediately upon my return home to New York, planning to head to Southeast Asia the next summer. Right after Christmas I began asking friends and family if they would be interested in visiting Thailand with me that summer. Doing homestays, hiking through rice terraces, taking cooking classes, perusing night markets, and spending some time volunteering—who could resist such an adventure? Apparently, everyone I knew.
When the time came to book my ticket, I was faced with a big decision: Travel solo or stay home and give up on an experience I had been looking forward to for months. I worried I would feel awkward or that I would be lonely. I worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone because of language barriers. I worried about finding accommodation and ordering food and getting ripped off. But most of all, I worried I would miss out on an enriching opportunity. A round-trip ticket to Bangkok, please. How many passengers? One!
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried. Solo travel has changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined or anticipated, and if you take the leap, it’ll change yours too. Here’s how:
Your Self-Esteem Will Skyrocket
Since my first solo travel experience in Thailand I’ve had many others: A summer through Europe, three months through South America, an adventurous journey exploring French Polynesia, some alone time in Morocco, and numerous solo trips around the United States. You see, every time I travel solo it’s like a self-esteem boost as I’m reminded of all that I am capable of.
Traveling with others, you tend to rely on different people for different things. Maybe Joe handles the map because he’s good at navigation while Jenn smooths out any ordeals because she’s an excellent problem solver. When you’re traveling solo, you’re responsible for it all: Reading the map, navigating local transportation, communicating through language barriers to order food or a bus ticket, problem solving when you miss your train or your motorbike runs out of gas, getting un-lost in unfamiliar cities, and any travel mishap in between.
And guess what? You’ll do it! You may not think you can handle all the tasks that come with solo travel, but you’ll surprise yourself. Because when you’re looking out for yourself and a challenge comes your way you’ll accomplish anything and everything.