“The Zen of Solo Travel” by Rey HS

“When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak.”― Paulo CoelhoThe Pilgrimage

The more I travel solo the more I like it. I really enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being by myself in a foreign place. When I’m by myself there is no agenda, no negotiations, just experiencing the moment. My favorite part of traveling solo is that anything can happen, you just have to follow your intuition. There’s no one else to take into account for making decisions. You can get lost in any direction and see what happens. In this blog post I will discuss the value of taking solo trips and how it can help you reach heightened states of mindfulness.

Before going into more detail lets clarify that by traveling solo I do not mean a solitary retreat. I mean traveling by yourself. It doesnt mean that I am alone all the time, it’s quite the opposite. You will probably meet more people than by traveling with a friend or a group. You can be as social as you feel like, but you are not attached to others.

There is a common denominator in every solo trip I’ve done: amazing random things happen. Then I thought, why is it that all these amazing things happen? Why do I enjoy these trips so much? After going back to those experiences, I realized that when I travel by myself I reach a higher degree of mindfulness. Exploring a foreign place by yourself gives you an enhanced awareness of yourself and surroundings.

Let’s start with the definition of mindfulness:

Most of us live in a daily routine, we visit the same places, eat the same food and hang out with the same people. This familiarity makes us take things for granted. We do not pay attention when we walk, we don’t listen to what others have to say, everything is the same. Life just becomes boring. When we travel we see the world with fresh eyes, everything is new, the sceneries, the streets, the people, the food, everything is worth our attention.  Being mindful is about paying attention to what’s going on in your surroundings and inside. I have noticed that being by myself in a foreign place enables a state of mindfulness that is hard to replicate.

But why do I need to be by myself? Can’t you enjoy all these things with other people? In my case the answer is no, at least not in the same degree. By being by yourself you do not have to think of how your travel partner(s) will think about X or Y decisions. Such as what to eat, when to eat, when to take a break, etc. . The point is that traveling solo eliminates these distractions, enabling you to connect with your feelings and surroundings. If you are lucky, your mind will become silent for a while and you will experience a momentary state of flow. Any sound will be pleasant, colors will become more vivid, and you will observe other people without any judgement.

So traveling solo helps you be more mindful. But how does this will make your trip any better?  It’s hard to explain how traveling solo and being mindful enhances your experience, but these are the three main benefits of traveling solo according to my experience:

Increased awareness

It’s only you, there’s no need to comment on everything you see or listen. At some point you just start contemplating everything. When you reach this state of flow everything is amazing. You forget your plans and let your curiosity guide you. If you like something you can stay as long as you want, if you want to keep going you can do it as well. You just lose yourself by paying attention to stuff you don’t in your daily life.

Flexibility

When you are by yourself anything can happen, and that’s what is so great about it. Nobody will reproach you for being late, getting lost or changing plans. If you meet people you like you can join them, if a random opportunity arises you can take it. You are in charge of making things happen. Before you know it a bold and adventurous version of you will take over.

Serendipity

Incredible things will happen. Movie-like romance, adventure, unexpected acts of kindness. You will star scenes that not even the best writers could have imagined. Why? I don’t know. My best guess is that by being in state of mindfulness (noticing what’s going on around you and connected to your intuition) places you in a position to experience good luck. Being flexible allows you to make the most of it.

I wrote this blog post not because I am against traveling in groups, but because many people are unaware of the benefits of traveling solo. I like both types of traveling, but right now I am more keen on the latter. I’m convinced that many could benefit from the insights and the joy of experiencing a foreign place in their own company.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.”
― Rolf PottsVagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.

We do not need to go far away to be mindful, but sometimes we need to change our surroundings to achieve it. Once you start traveling you are always thinking of the next place we will visit. What we really crave after traveling is that feeling of awe and amazement that we get from getting out of our routines. This feeling can be replicated on demand by seeing the world with those fresh eyes that we get in our adventures. Embrace mindfulness and life will always be an adventure.

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