If you are reading this, chances are that you have probably heard about the immeasurable value of solo travel at least once in your life. It’s one of those things that is seemingly frightening, but endearing, attractive and mysterious all at the same time. It’s the ultimate strain of independence and the romanticized version of the unknown.
Well, this past year, timid and intrepid Daina flung herself into a whirlwind of the unknown. I did what I thought was impossible for myself – I embarked on a solo travel adventure with only Google maps and my directionally challenged brain to rely on. Disclaimer: these things actually can get you quite far. Exhausted from jet-lag and with some looming traveler’s anxiety, I feared that I would become terribly lonesome on my trip. But wow, was I ever wrong.
During the first evening of my solo travel journey, I lurched quietly and awkwardly in the hostel common area looking to meet potential companions. Within ten minutes of wall flowering, I was approached by an exuberant and friendly Canadian girl who I became close with for the balance of my time in the city of Amsterdam.
After I befriended one person, the rest was easy. I realized that most travelers that I met in hostels were more than open to meeting new people and making new friends. While I had chosen to explore the depths of Europe solo, I was hardly ever alone.
I was flung like a canon straight out of my comfort zone, and given the opportunity to push my own boundaries like I never had before. I emerged from my solo travel experience as an individual who possesses a heightened sense of awareness, understanding and acceptance.
This is something that I largely credit not only to my enriching experience, but also to the independent circumstances that encapsulated my journey. As a first-time solo traveler, being forced to solely rely on myself was extremely intimidating. I argue, however, that staying in youth hostels that focus on community-living largely contributed to the positively powerful experience that I had.
You have the opportunity to meet so many people
Here’s the thing about staying in the same place your entire life: you hardly get to meet any new people. Sure, we meet new people all the time, but the amount of diversity that you will encounter while you travel is incredible. Staying in hostels will give you the opportunity to meet individuals from all corners of the Earth, who all possess varying beliefs and values. Remember, you can learn something new from everyone you meet that can help you grow and flourish as a human being. Take that opportunity and run with it. Not only do you now have the option of exploring the depths of the Catacombs or trekking through the notorious Park Guell with a companion, but you now have the chance to form a lifelong connection with someone who lives half way across the world. Added bonus: you also have somewhere to stay if you ever choose to visit their home country.
You are completely anonymous
Traveling solo and staying in hostels allows you the unique opportunity of being anybody you want to be. A solo traveler that I met in Belfast once said to me, “I love traveling solo because you are able to experiment with different sides of your character.” Forget the person you are at home, work, or even with your family and friends. The anonymity of single travel allows you to act out your best traits, which further enables you to discover more about yourself and foster self-compassion. Staying in hostels while alone permits you to have all the alone time you desire to learn and grow, but it also gives you the opportunity to mould your character through interactions with complete strangers.
Hostels provide an unlimited list of resources
One amazing thing about staying in hostels is the amount of resources that are at your disposal. If you stay somewhere reputable, generally there a number of services that the hostel will offer to make your stay that much more comfortable. Nearly every hostel that I stayed at in Europe had partnerships with a number of different tourism companies that provided its guests with discounts and promotions. The staff were also able to offer many helpful suggestions and tips for exploring the city. Some hostels even organize communal gatherings and evenings out to further cultivate a well-connected atmosphere.
You will learn so much
I genuinely believe that when you travel, your mind is like a sponge. It absorbs all of this new and enlightening information and stores it in the depths of your brain. When you become inspired, your mind squeezes itself, and all of those enriching experiences pour out to further build your character. Meeting people independently and fostering relationships gives you the unique chance to notice life from a variety of diverse perspectives. Not only will you gain more knowledge about other cultures, but you will also acquire wisdom regarding the pressing subjects of history, art and politics. There’s an old saying that goes “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, and it truly does.