I took my first solo trip to Santiago, Chile in March 2019, and like most people would say before their first solo adventure, I was terrified. Before meeting up with a few friends to hike in Patagonia, I decided I'd fly to Santiago and explore the city by myself for a few days, and I'll just list a few highlights that made it much easier.
I searched for a free walking tour in the city and found one! I attended one and discovered a massive group of other solo travelers, and by the end of the walk, I went to lunch with a few of the travelers and found friends to hang out with later in the day!
I didn't put pressure on myself. One day, I woke up at the crack of dawn and walked the entire city, and another day, I decided to honor how exhausted I was feeling and just spent the day at the pool at my hotel.
I stayed at a hotel known to be filled with solo travelers and tourists and immediately went to the front desk and asked for a walking map of the city and for any tips in terms of keeping myself safe - just to help with my mental health!
The trip was a wild success, and I left Santiago with so much confidence. I was so impressed with my ability to work through any difficulties (they're bound to happen) and I focused less on taking photos with friends and sharing my trip and more on taking quality photos of historical locations and then putting the camera away, just fully immersing in the city. I'd love for everyone else to try at least one solo trip in their lifetime, and I'm sharing the top ten reasons why I think you should:
1. You'll make new friends.
Traveling alone does not equal loneliness! The most effective way to meet locals and new friends on a trip is to travel solo - as it encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and interact with others that you typically wouldn't interact with if you were traveling with friends. And if you're particularly worried about feeling lonely on a solo trip, stay in a hostel! It's a great way to save money (something I'll touch on in a bit) and people who choose hostel accommodations are often looking to make new connections.
2. You get to control the itinerary.
Planning a trip with a friend or group is all about compromise and finding middle ground, and at times, that can mean sacrificing what you want to do for the happiness of others. But traveling on your own is the ultimate freedom. Want to eat pancakes for every meal? Go for it! You can wake up and decide you'd rather leave the city for the day, you'd rather take the train to a nearby town for a hike - that's fine! You could stay up later than normal if you meet friends at a restaurant, or wake up at sunrise, sleep a little or a lot, plan a day full of activities or plan absolutely nothing and stay at your accommodation - the freedom is yours. You do what you want when you want.
3. It will boost your confidence and independence.
Traveling solo is not easy, but the reward that comes out of it is immeasurable and far greater than any negatives you might run into. You'll feel excitement when you try local foods, you'll make memories with new friends from all over, you'll feel proud of yourself when you navigate a city all by yourself, and then you'll look back on the trip and think wow, I did that. Not only do you become a more confident version of yourself, but you've learned to be independent, and you can apply every lesson you learned to all aspects of your life by standing on your own two feet. you become a stronger citizen of the world.
4. It's easier to stay within your budget.
When traveling in a group, money can aways be a doozy - everyone has different financial comfort levels and therefore different opinions in terms of accommodation, food, transport, and activities. For example, you travel with a girlfriend who wants to take a taxi everywhere, which is much more expensive, and you would rather save and take public transportation. With solo travel, it’s easier to set a budget and stay within it. It’s easier to create your own budget and stick to it rather than overspending because you travel with someone with expensive taste.
5. You'll get better at putting yourself out there.
Traveling alone forces you to be much more outgoing than normal, and it also makes you more approachable! As a solo travel experience goes on, you'll feel more confident talking to strangers, asking folks where they're from or where they're going. When you aren't surrounded by friends or family on a trip, you're pushed out of your comfort bubble and challenged in a variety of ways. By putting yourself out there, you will be able to explore with confidence, and you'll feel a boost in your ability to handle future solo trips with ease. As you test your limits, challenge yourself, and overcome obstacles all by yourself, you become a more confident and interesting human being (with lots of good stories to share).
6. You're more likely to detox from social media.
I see group travel photos all the time on Instagram, people in beautiful locations who are clearly taking quite a bit of time out of their trip to take photos for Instagram, edit them with presets, or just pull out a phone and take tons of photos and videos of something like the Eiffel Tower, put their phone back in their purse and walk away. But in those moments, those travelers aren't immersing themselves in what travel is supposed to be about. When you don't have anyone asking to help take a photo, or when you're not trying to to post your whole trip to social media and check your phone for likes and comments, you can really be present for no one but yourself.
7. It's good for your mental health.
Yes, traveling in groups is good for your mental health, but it's important to note that traveling solo is, too! Being alone is good for the soul, and it can help you manage depression, anxiety, and stress. It's great to take some time away from work or from life, and it's even better as a solo traveler in terms of getting some "me time." On one hand, it helps to feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and recharged, and on the other hand, you'll feel enthusiastic, creative, and adventurous - not to mention more confident, assertive, and strong. Traveling helps people to take their minds off of stress, making you feel more calm and content.
8. You'll learn how to be a problem solver.
No matter how much planning you put into a trip, something will go wrong - whether it's getting lost, struggling to communicate, or losing an item. With solo travel, it's up to you to confront the issue head on and rise to the challenge, and you'll quickly see that you are capable of anything. As a solo traveler, you have you and your mind (and a smartphone, likely), and that's it - so when things go awry, like getting lost on the subway, you'll learn to navigate the system and read the map, or you'll learn currency conversion - and while it might not be easy, you're actively sharpening your problem solving skills in those moments and I feel confident in saying you'll be impressed by how you can dig yourself out of anything when a "misadventure" happens.
9. You'll learn to appreciate more minimal travel.
We've all been the traveler who drags way more luggage than necessary through the airport, and when you're with a group, you have someone to help you get your luggage into the elevator, or someone to watch your bags when you want to run to the store to grab a coffee - and with that, traveling solo teaches you so much about minimalism. When you know you're responsible for everything, you'll reach for the carry on when you pack for the trip, and I can guarantee you'll use everything you pack, rather than pack pounds of items that, by the end of a trip, you've never touched. An overload of luggage makes any traveler an easy target for thieves and unwanted attention. Plus, giant bags will kill your back, energy level, and mood.
10. You'll change your life forever.
Does anything truly need to be said for number 10 after reading all of the above? Probably not. So I'll just speak from experience and say that solo adventures are absolutely life changing, and I cannot wait for the next opportunity to hop on a plane and explore a destination all by myself.
And if you're looking at traveling to Santiago, whether it's in a group or for a solo excursion, watch the below video to get your bearings about the city - what you must see and do!
For you solo travelers out there, did I miss any great reasons to travel alone that I should add to the list? Comment below, and share your stories - where you traveled, when, and some activities you got into that made it all easier.