10 Things to Learn About Yourself When Traveling Alone

by Cameron Karsten Apr 17, 2008
To travel alone is to find the answers you’ve been seeking and discover the questions to all your unfounded thoughts.

FIND YOURSELF IN SOLITUDE. Everybody hears this time and time again.

From the punishment of youth when sent on “timeout” to the isolation every individual needs in order to hibernate with one’s emotions. Even through days of work, locking the mind and body behind concealed doors in order to cram a semester’s final paper or spurn a creative project.

Isolation, solitude, being alone-these words derive a connotation of growth and progress. They emphasize a deeper understanding not only of one’s surroundings, but also of the most significant and empowering quality-finding oneself within the present moment.

Who are you, I dare ask? Where are you? What are you doing, exactly? Why?

To find out I’ve a suggestion: quit work, take a leave of absence from work or school, and buy that one-way ticket to nowhere.

To travel alone is to find the answers you’ve been seeking and discover the questions to all your unfounded thoughts. It is your world. It is your adventure.

1. Responsibility
To take one’s life within one’s hands and have the freedom and maturity to mold it to one’s desires is to embrace this basic knowledge.

The one thing carrying the most weight, the quality of personality that enabled you-the solo traveler-to get here in the first place, is responsibility.

To take one’s life within one’s hands and have the freedom and maturity to mold it into shapes, forms and experiences of one’s desires is to embrace this basic knowledge. On the actual day we take responsibility for ourselves, our lives begin to change.

We witness how we are responsible for everything we do-each thought, word, action and emotion. This acceptance of our own responsibility for the life we lead provides us with the power to change. We become the artists of our lives.

In the words of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, “Why should I deem myself to be a chisel when I could be the artist?”

2. Self-reliance

After the hurdle of self-responsibility there evolves a new respect and a new dimension toward living. Self-reliance is the response.

See it as the art of flotation after leaping into the air and clearing the hurdle of responsibility. It’s the sense of lightness and contentment. It’s a joy of accomplishment surpassing those worldly possessions left behind. “I am Lion! This is my Life! Hear me roar!”

3. Independence

Welcome to independence as you come down after the initial high and hit the ground running. You are now shaved of everything but your Self.

You are living your independence. No longer do you require anything other than yourself for happiness. No longer do you search for those outside fulfillments.

From the start, you were already alone. You were most likely in mother’s womb alone. And now you’re traveling, embracing this solitude, allowing you and only you to make all your decisions; what to eat, where to sleep, which train to catch and at what bus stop to depart.

You are the captain in your very own captain’s chair. Want to sleep in the middle of the day, read on a bench the rest of the afternoon, take long midnight strolls out under the stars? Fine. Do it, because no one is stopping you except your hesitation.

4. Likes & Dislikes
Traveling alone affords the individual solitude in order to step out of society’s role-playing games.

Now through these various layers of your evolution of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth-the solo-wanderer comes to terms with likes and dislikes.

Traveling alone affords the individual solitude in order to step out of society’s role-playing games. It absolves all expectations of you. You don’t have to listen to anyone. You don’t have to meet anyone’s needs. You have no schedules, appointments, meetings or deadlines with projects, papers, exams, etc.

It’s just you. And through the sifter of the mind you begin to remember who you are, remember which elements and ingredients in life you enjoyed the most and those you enjoyed the least. Then, without hesitation (you must drop this), you leap upon the likes and forever discard the dislikes.

5. Emotions

Emotions are a combination of mind and body sending you messages. They tell you where you are on a physical and emotional level. They inform you where you need to be-again, physically and mentally-in order to be healthy and whole.

With a continued awareness of what turns you on and off, emotions arise. They are not your friend’s emotions, your roommate’s, or your lover’s no matter how you might wish otherwise. Those persons aren’t here. You’re alone.

Emotions are the parts to your totality-the inner psyche-and in seclusion may one best decipher their keys sounded from the past.

The solo-artist may come to terms with the depth of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

6. Patterns & Reactions

Photo by Cam Karsten

Stepping out of our routines and daily lives clears the traveler’s vision. So often we live in the past or future. We do not stop to see and be the present moment-our present moment.

Indeed, it’s a gift, and to let this gift slide away over and over again is to miss the beauty of the day, the hour, of the minute and its seconds. They will never come again.

Patterns and our reactions to these patterns are what prevent us from living and taking part in the beauty we are gifted. By frolicking in the unknown we’re able to witness these patterns from afar and see how we react to them.

With a continued awareness we can prevent ourselves from falling into old habits and bygone ways. Each new day is our rebirth and each new breath can be as if we are inhaling for the very first time.

7. Past Analyzation

You’re soaking in the Andaman Sea off Thailand’s western shore. You see a woman walking the beach who reminds you of an old lover, a past friend, someone against whom you’ve carried a grudge for too long.

You’re alone. You have that isolation to observe your thoughts. Therefore, you reach deep into the past and sift through the relationship’s components.

These moments of past analyzation allow one to heal sore spots, to lick old wounds and overcome the pain still carrying into today, whether exhibited upon themselves or others.

Through this process of self-healing, the solo-sojourner may reunite with another and develop a more mature relationship; one more natural and unconditionally loving for the benefit of both parties, which includes the surrounding environs.

Past analyzation while traveling alone affords the adventurer a journey into the past to reclaim forgotten lessons and repressed emotions.

8. Future Dreams
The future is your dreams’ playground. It is imagination free of any construct built by the past and not portrayed by the present.

Next we leap out of the past, through the flicker of the present and into the vastness of the future. Here, unfettered possibility rests. The future is boundless. It is borderless.

It is imagination free of any construct built by the past and not portrayed by the present. The future is your dreams’ playground.

During travel, see the future as everything and nothing. It’s your empty canvas, and there’s no better time to wallow in hopes, dreams and possibilities. So extract your journal and write, draw, scribble and dabble the imaginary creating anything the heart desires, no matter how selfish or selfless.

It’s the Law of Attraction – all that is necessary in life is asking, believing and then receiving with gratitude.

9. Care for Oneself

The above eight steps are not concrete. They are not rules or dictations. They are mere ideas thrown out into a world of utter possibility and endless variety.

In essence however, they are the steps of an evolutionary journey, which can be taken at anytime, anywhere, by anyone. Yet a personal journey is best undergone in the silence of one’s own presence, and traveling alone promotes this introspection with ease.

Solo travel teaches the pilgrim to care for their own self – because it’s only when one masters self-care that the individual will be able to advance. Only when peace is established at home will one be able to spread peace throughout the world.

10. How to Love

The finale is love itself. Love is the master. When living with love, all thought, word, action and emotion radiate from this core of our being-that being love.

Through solo-travel, and through the varying evolutionary processes of the pilgrim’s own psyche, he/she rides the expressway into the heart and splashes in an indescribable feeling of love and peace.

And from the words of one final sage upon the doorsteps of this last stage of personal growth spoken by Joseph Campbell, “You are that mystery which you are seeking to know.”

You are the love you first sought, whether conscious of it or not. Your personal journey, either in this lifetime or another in the future, will bring you to this center within yourself. Traveling alone upon a solo-quest is the perfect catalyst for this grand voyage given to the human being as a birthright.

So go find yourself in solitude where the inner landscapes of personality become most audible within a world of possibility.

What have you learned about yourself from solo travel? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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