The (a)lone traveler?

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Traveling is one of the most eye-opening, breathtaking and inspiring experiences you can have in your life. When abroad, you’re able to see the world, learn history, meet new people, participate in distinct customs and eat mouth-watering food. Although we may not realize it when we’re doing these things, we are absorbing the wonders of humanity — past and present. Nothing is better than getting such experiences during a stress-free break abroad with your family and friends.

But, while that’s all well and good, a lot of people fail to comprehend the possibility having such an experience when traveling alone. In fact, doing anything alone these days seems to be tabooed. Why?

Because, in a world where instantaneous social media constantly floods to the masses and seeps into our lives, FOMO controls our actions. And in such a world, doing anything alone gives off the impression that you must be lonely — and that’s the last thing anyone would want anyone to think. After all, why would you possibly do something by yourself when you can do it with others, right?

Wrong. Here’s why.

Sure, traveling is eye-opening, but traveling alone is enlightening. You begin to learn and understand a lot more about yourself when you’re forced to spend time alone. You don’t have to worry about taking care of another person — making sure they get to go to the places they want to see or stopping to eat whenever they’re hungry. Simply put, you don’t have to make compromises. I don’t mean this selfishly, but rather individually. Looking out for yourself is very important, and being out there in the world, comfortable in your own skin, will teach you maturity and independence beyond any other life experience.

There is a wondrous sense of freedom in getting to do whatever you want as well, whenever you want to do it. If something catches your eye you want to see want to see instead of stopping for lunch, then by all means, go do it! There is absolutely nothing stopping you. There’s promise within your capabilities when you figure out how things work in a foreign place and a true feeling of liberation when you do it yourself.

I know a lot of people who fear ever having to eat a meal alone. I can find no greater pleasure, but I do understand where their anxiety is coming from. They see someone sitting alone, hiding their face in a book or distracting themselves with music because they didn’t have another person to join them. To me, though, I see the opportunity to eat a delicious meal at any time of the day when I’m feeling hungry (or not), to get lost in a book, to tune out the world with music for 20 minutes or to simply sift through my thoughts. I guess the difference, really, is in how much you care about what others think of you. And while everyone likes to say they don’t care, it sometimes couldn’t be further from the truth.

So how do you learn to be comfortable alone? Make plans with yourself. Have dinner at a fancy restaurant, get lost in a museum that interests you, laugh out loud at a comedy show, jump up and down in a concert or watch a movie (you can’t see anyone anyways!). Physically write your plans down too, if it helps you follow through with them.

Throughout your life, people will come, and people will definitely go. With luck, though, you’ll meet a few great ones that will stick around entirely. But, no matter what, you’ll always have yourself. Being alone couldn’t be further from being lonely. After all, you’re the one person who’s around during the ups and the downs, so it’s probably a good idea if you do yourself this favor: Sit back, relax and get comfortable with exactly who you are.

Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].

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