Life Lessons We Learned about Traveling in 2016: Going Solo
"It isn't always a Before Sunrise scenario."
by Tynne De Leon | December 23, 2016
It always takes courage to go solo.
While solo travel can be risky, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place, the experience beckons because of the possibilities for adventure and, more importantly, for self-discovery.
If you’re calling 2017 the year you’re finally taking the leap, read on and learn what traveling alone — near or far — has taught these explorers about themselves and of course, life in general.
You get to know another version of yourself
“Sometimes we’re so preoccupied by our work and social activities that we no longer have enough time to be alone and be introspective. When you travel alone, you get plenty of time to challenge and depend on yourself. It can help you discover your inner happiness — it might even help reveal a better version of you. Without prejudice from other people, you can let go and be in the moment — just like falling in love.” (Read: When You Go Solo, Why I Travel Alone)
– April Joy Cadavedo, strategic planning manager
You have the freedom to do the things you don’t always do
“I went back to Myanmar this year, alone. It had been more than a year since I last traveled solo. On this trip, I was further reminded of how extroverted I can be when I am on my own on the road. There is more freedom to explore, and you tend to exert more effort in striking up conversations with locals and fellow travelers. It may seem mundane, like this is something you can do everyday. But when you’re traveling, you become more a sponge, absorbing all you can about different lives and cultures.”
– Marky Ramone Go, travel writer (nomadicexperiences.com)
You enjoy new things while being more yourself
“I found traveling alone thrilling and exciting. What’s better than discovering yourself on your own, away from other people’s judgments? You can also be one with nature, discover new places, create and share experiences with people from different walks of life.”
– Jessica Pag-iwayan, writer
You learn how to rely on yourself
“My first solo trip was in Hong Kong and Macau. Since I really wanted to push through with this trip, I decided not to wait anymore for whoever else was game and just go ahead and do it by myself. I wanted to experience how it’s like to explore a place without the constraints of having company. Traveling solo teaches you to listen to your gut and stand by the decisions you make. You are free from compromise and you only have yourself to rely on, and to blame if situations don’t go as planned.
My favorite part was that I could get on a bus and alight at a random stop without worrying about getting lost and minding anybody — it was just me. You learn and experience how you are, indeed, your best company.”
– John Paul Matthew Guzman, microbiologist
You get to be someone else
“I hate traveling alone. I don’t believe in all that ‘you’ll go further when you go alone’ BS. I don’t need to travel alone to see things differently. It’s safer and more fun to have a travel buddy or group. You dare to do more when you’re in numbers. Moments are better when they are shared.
But when I had to travel alone to Cagayan de Oro this year, I realized I could do it not as my normal self. This gave me the push to do things I would’ve been scared to do alone. I circled the city and talked to the natives (with my broken Visayan). I ate at local carenderias like a local would and tasted homemade dishes only a true Cagayanon can prepare. I trekked the mountainous terrain and befriended fellow tourists (which I would not do alone) to experience whitewater rafting. I perused a few bars and met some girls without the fear of prejudice a quick search on Facebook can give. In assuming a new personality quite far from what I really am, I was liberated from the fear of traveling alone. I don’t have to bring my usual baggage — one that can’t be checked in at the airport.”
– Eldrin Veloso, writer
You open yourself up to realizations
“Traveling is therapy. Every time I travel, I try to leave everything behind; I try to forget all my problems and responsibilities. I step out of the ‘immediate reality,’ so to speak. I try to do things I don’t usually do, make decisions I don’t usually make. It renews my senses whenever I do this because I try to let everything go at its own pace, to surrender everything to the will of God and let His Hand write as He pleases.
While traveling, I try to live out the Dominican motto of “Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere” which is to contemplate and to share the fruits of my contemplation as this is easier to do when in nature. After this process of contemplation by traveling, I would then be able to face the world with its challenges and share the fruits of my contemplation with everyone willing to listen.”
– Christopher Alcantara y Tan Nadres O. P., graduate student
You get real because you get to know your limits
“Traveling alone has always had that mysterious allure. Like it was a ticket to join an exclusive club. You think that until of course you get lost, like really lost, because you don’t know how to read multi-level directions on Google Maps, and it’s getting really late, and you’re about to miss your bus. That, or you make one bad move and blow off a huge chunk of your funds on a miscalculated cab ride and you still have a couple of weeks to go.
Traveling solo isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds. It isn’t always meeting interesting people with fascinating accents at a random park/pub in an artsy/chic/bohemian part of town. It isn’t always a Before Sunrise scenario. More often than not, it’s about making sure you generally feel secure — emotionally, financially and safety-wise. Enough to be open to the experiences it promises, to strike up conversations with strangers, to explore roads less taken, and more importantly, to learn from the mistakes you’ll make, and to walk away empowered enough to call them happy accidents.”
How about you? Got lessons you want to share? Post them in the comments!