Your twenties are your exploration years. It’s your decade to have new experiences, make mistakes and learn about yourself and your place in the world. What better way to expose yourself to the world than to see it with your own eyes? In a world where many people are reluctant to even eat lunch alone in a restaurant for fear of being judged, traveling solo can seem almost unbearable. But traveling alone can be a lot of fun and teaches you many skills you don’t get when you travel with a partner or in a group. Here are eight reasons to travel solo in your twenties.
1. Meet locals
You’ve probably noticed that when you go to a party with a friend where you don’t know anyone else, you have a different experience than if you go alone. If you go solo, you probably end up talking to more people simply because you have no choice.
It’s the same with travel. Without a friend or lover as a buffer, you’re going to be forced to deal with and even want to talk to more strangers. This is a great way to find out where the best eating places are and other local secrets. You might even make friends you’ll keep well beyond your formative twenties.
Make sure, of course, not to give out too many details to complete strangers on where you’re staying and what your plans are. Be friendly, but be safe.
2. Do what you want
When you travel with family or friends, you can be forced to compromise on what you want to do. This isn’t a problem when you’re traveling alone. You set the schedule. You get to wake up with no obligation to anyone except yourself.
In adult life, there are very few times this is possible, and solo travel is one of them. When you travel solo in your twenties you might be surprised to discover what your true desires are.
3. Develop self-reliance
When you travel with a buddy, one of you might tend to take the lead. This isn’t the case with solo travel. You’re the one and only leader, all the time. There’s nobody else to advocate for you or fix your problems. So if you’re terrible at reading maps or navigating your way on a road trip, you’ll have to overcome that weakness really quickly or you’ll be out of luck.
This will help you develop confidence and deepen your self-reliance. When you return to regular life, problems that may have bugged you in the past won’t, because you know they’re blips and you’ll overcome them.
4. Become more creative
Because you’re by yourself, you’ll have to call on your own creativity and inner resources. If one plan doesn’t work out, it’s up to you to come up with a new one. This kind of thinking and having plans A, B and C becomes second nature. You’ll be able to apply this to any job you do when you come back—and you can even cite what you did during your solo trip to prove it.
5. Control your emotions
With solo travel, you’ll face frustration after frustration. If travel with anyone you may be tempted to take out your frustrations on them (see the reality show The Amazing Race, where traveling couples frequently argue).
If you’re alone, however, you won’t have any relationship drama. You’ll have to learn how to control your emotions. You can either be mad at yourself—which does no good—or deal with the situation and put whatever happened behind you. It’s a good practice for future relationships, too.
6. Become adaptable
When you travel, you have to deal with all kinds of new information and changes coming at you. What you had planned or expected is not often the reality of the situation. You could run into a flat tire or any number of travel mishaps. Solo travel forces you to deal with the world as it is, not as you want it to be.
This experience makes you more adaptive and resilient, which again are great qualities to take to a job.
7. Develop your sense of self
Often in life people try to adapt themselves to please others. Whether you’re playing the role of perfect student, perfect employee or perfect offspring, it can be hard to keep in touch with who you really are and how you feel about things.
Going around the world by yourself and having these experiences make you develop a sense of self you may have lacked or needed to rediscover. Seeing different cultures can even change how you view your world.
8. No more fear of the unknown
One of the things humans tend to fear the most is change and the vulnerability of putting yourself out there in new situations. Once you’ve traveled alone, you won’t. Locals may reject you when you speak to them. Trains may be canceled. Hotels may be horrible. You’ll have so much practice in putting yourself out there that no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be able to handle it.
Traveling alone offers valuable life lessons at any age, but can be especially profound to travel solo in your twenties. You’ll never be afraid to eat alone in a restaurant—or do anything alone again. You’ll be able to go into strange new situations with confidence, knowing from your travel experience that you can solve any problem or adapt to a new situation. Do your future self a solid and hit the road to enjoy the world through your own lens.