A few months ago, I planned my first-ever solo, weeklong international trip. Ambitiously (and somewhat arbitrarily), I chose Vietnam: a place I'd never been but heard was unique and beautiful, 8,000 miles away from Los Angeles. Most of my research was conducted by surveying my friends on Facebook, polling them for travel suggestions. Ultimately I planned to split the seven days among three picturesque beaches in southern Vietnam.
I didn’t know what to expect from a trip alone, of this magnitude. Fear? Loneliness? Doubt? Regret? They were all possible; I really didn’t know.
I didn’t know how natural it would feel.
I didn’t know how much I would enjoy myself.
I didn’t know how I wouldn’t be ready for it to end.
I didn’t know how much it would change me.
Here are seven reasons why going on a solo trip might just change your life too:
1. You will learn how to rely on yourself.
In previous trips, I often found myself looking to my travel companion for answers, for directions, for inspiration. Not an option while traveling alone. If I wanted answers or directions, I had to figure them out myself. If I wanted to be inspired, it was up to me look for the inspiration. The sense of accomplishment and feeling of empowerment picked up after realizing “I can do this” while in Vietnam has followed me back to Los Angeles.
2. You will also learn how to ask for help.
Wow, did I need this lesson. When I landed in the middle of the night at a closed airport in Ho Chi Minh City, after already traveling for over 20 hours, I felt helpless. I didn’t speak the language. I couldn’t read the signs. I couldn’t figure things out by myself. I needed to learn that sometimes it's better, and necessary, to ask people for help. After asking everyone I could find in a uniform, I arrived at the safest place to wait out my five-hour layover until the airport re-opened in the morning. And the rest of the trip? It was easier to ask for help. When I got home? Easier still.
3. You will meet really interesting people.
If I'd been traveling with someone else, I may not have met Susan and Mark, a lovely Australian couple now living in Kabul, Afganistan. From them I learned about what life is like for a Westerner living in the Central Asia. From them I learned about the beauty of the Sunshine Coast, and Laos, where they had just been. From them I learned that simply by being open and commenting on the pool temperature, you can spend three hours in conversation with strangers who become friends.
4. You will be more aware.
I was naturally a little more cautious on this trip, taking my gaze away from my phone and focusing more on my surroundings to keep myself safe. The bonus discovery? Noticing more of the beautiful countryside and quaint little towns during car rides. Playing peek-a-boo with French children in the airport. Seeing entire families commuting on a single moped in the city, and smelling fresh tuberose on my way to the beach. I paid attention. Back at home? I'm still paying attention.
5. You will call ALL of the shots.
On my first day there, I started to hear that pesky FOMO (fear of missing out) calling my name, telling me all of the things I needed to be doing on this vacation. When what I really wanted to do was go to bed early, wake up to watch the sunrise, and plop down on a beach chair. It nagged me, “Did you come all the way to Vietnam to sleep and lounge?”
Then I remembered the lines from one of my favorite poems by Kaylin Haught, in which God tells the narrator that everything she wants to do is okay. “You can do just exactly what you want to… what I’m telling you is yes, yes, yes.”
Room service for dinner? Bedtime at 9:00? Entire days relaxing at the beach? Dessert for breakfast?
What I am telling you is yes, yes, yes.
6. You will be reminded of what you love.
The upside of doing exactly what you want to do? You remember why you love them so much in the first place. Heaven, for me, is a beach and a good book. It only took one day of listening to the waves crash on the shore while getting drawn into someone else’s story to remember how happy it makes me. And to remind me that it should be a bigger part of my real life and not just my vacation life. To really live the phrase “do what you love, love what you do”.
7. You will be pushed outside of your comfort zone.
Because really, when it comes down to it, isn’t that where all of the good stuff happens?