Last week, my best friend did one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. She watched her boyfriend board a plane and fly to the other side of the world without her for work. She grabbed her bags and headed back from their home on the West Coast to her family in Maryland. This is the second time she’s had to completely uproot her life in two years. And when I knew she’d be coming back to my neck of the woods on the East Coast I knew she’d need me and there was nothing I desired more than to try and help her deal with this transition.
She’s an incredibly strong woman, having not only survived but even thrived through a number of unthinkable hardships. Now she will be maintaining her relationship across thousands of miles, and she does it all with a smile.
So I drove down alone to spend some girl time with her and to just be there with hugs (and copious amounts of beer and retail therapy).
As the miles ticked down to seeing her I reflected on how much my perspective has changed on traveling alone. As a young woman alone I was often told that travelling alone was dangerous, and more hassle than anything else.
But now, after having made a number of long distance trips (even one where I drove overnight) on my own I firmly believe the opposite. There are a number of benefits to road-tripping alone, but probably the most important of them is the increased sense of independence. Here are some of the ways I think it accomplishes this:
1.) It forces you to think on your feet
When you’re road-tripping alone you can count on the unexpected. Whether it’s traffic, detours, strange animals running out into the road, or just crazy drivers there are plenty of opportunities for us to rely on our own self and situational awareness. All it takes is a little common sense and a little bit of decisive action. Both of those feed independence which is a great thing.
2.)There’s time for quiet reflection
Let’s face it, how often do we get the time to really look inwards? Do a gut check and see if we’re really on track with our plans and goals. Our normal schedule is often one of fulfilling responsibilities to others which is great, but often your own dedication to your external responsibilities can leave you without time to take care of your own needs. BUT when you’re stuck in the car for four hours and have nothing but yourself and the road to entertain your mind it’s a great opportunity for some self-evaluation without the opinions or distractions of your normal routine.
3.) You become more open
When travelling alone it’s much easier to say “yes” to new and unusual experiences when it’s you alone making the final decision on where you go and what you do. That freedom to allow adventure to come to you can make for some incredibly unique and deeply personal experiences.
4.) Socialize with new people
One of the major benefits to travelling alone is that it forces you to be social with other people. In an age of smartphones, texting and instant messaging connecting face-to-face with another human being has largely been replaced with our electronic babysitters. But when you travel alone it’s nearly impossible to go somewhere new and not physically interact with others. Not only does this dust off those good old fashioned conversational skills, it also will help make you feel more comfortable learning new people and handling yourself in social situations when you are your own wingman.
5.)Get lost along the way
Nothing makes you feel more independent than the joy of discovering something surprising that seems meant for just you. When you road trip on your own you’re nearly guaranteed to get a little lost along the way. In my case, they shut down a whole section of the highway on my way home so instead of seeing miles and miles of farmland (which I do love but have seen before) I got to see this:
I had always wanted to see the Susquehanna River and quite by accident I was able to drive alongside it for a good long while which was so beautiful and amazing.
6.) Share your story with others
Being independent is all about crafting your own story and travelling alone gives you the opportunity to not only craft stories but also share them with others once you get home. Each new experience makes you unique and no two road trips are every the same.
So embrace road-tripping alone. Plan one for yourself to get away even if it’s just for a few days. You don’t have to go far, just get a change of scenery.
What other ways does traveling alone foster independence? Comment below!