For nearly four months of last year, I was lucky enough to be traipsing around the world.
Of those 106 days, 18 were spent with 10 women, 14 were spent with three women, 44 with my boyfriend – and 30 days were spent all by myself.
And one of the best parts of my whole trip was one that even surprised me.
It wasn’t playing drinking games with my best friends on a yacht in Croatia, although that was amazing.
It wasn’t inhaling Italian wine and cheese with my university friends overlooking the Cinque-Terre, but that was also a life-highlight.
And it wasn’t taking loved-up couple selfies on top of 30 Rock, so let’s hope my significant other is not reading this.
Despite how much I loved all of those experiences, I can say, hands down, my month travelling alone was one of the best.
When telling others of my plans before I left I was met with plenty of ‘are you scared?’s and ‘are you sure?’s and a couple of ‘it’ll be the best thing you ever do’s.
The latter weren’t wrong.
This isn’t to say that you should travel solo all the time because there is something truly excellent about sharing travel experiences with the people you love.
But going solo overseas or even just down the coast, is something that most people won’t do, but really should.
And these are some very good reasons why.
You can do whatever you want.
Maybe I am an inherently selfish, soul-less person for wanting to do things my way sometimes. But that’s just it – sometimes.
Sometimes you need to be able to choose the restaurant you want, without a United Nations-level negotiation over cuisine. Sometimes you don’t have to sign up to a parasailing death trap just because everyone else is in your group is.
The best part about travelling solo is that you can do what you want, eat what you want and sleep when you want. You don’t have to compromise. And it’s probably one of the only times in your life when this is actually possible.
You learn about yourself.
While you’re figuring out when you’re going to do all that doing, eating and sleeping, and in what prioritised order, you end up figuring out a lot about yourself. For me it involved it involved long hikes and even longer spells of beach-reading, incorporating cheese into every meal of the day and napping whenever I bloody felt like it.
Being alone and free of any judgements or expectations means that your ‘identity’ won’t get in the way of doing whatever you want to do. Distancing yourself from other people can give you a lot of insight into the kind of person you are. When you’re hanging out with yourself you’ll soon discover the bits about you that you love, and the bits you’re ready to let go of.
You see the world in a whole new way.
When you’re travelling with others, every experience you have is filtered through your relationship with that other person. As well as their mood, interests and personality. But by yourself, your encounters with the people, culture and history of your destination are… I don’t want to use such a terribly pretentious word, but it rhymes with shmau-shmentic.
You learn self-reliance.
When you’re up shit creek and your paddle exploded in flames a few kilometres back, you find out what you are truly capable of handling. The self-reliance you learn while ridin’ solo will stick with you for the rest of your life. Travelling alone means you can only rely on yourself to fix the stuff ups (sometimes after a quick teary call to mum).
You meet new people, on your own terms.
This justification is trotted out all the time, but it’s true. When you’re travelling alone you meet so many more, and so many different kinds, of people. You’ll be so much more open to interacting with strangers and locals without the barrier of a big group. But also, you don’t have to. You have the freedom to choose who you want to spend time with and on what terms.
And finally I’ll wheel out this old creaky, cliche — absence makes the heart grow fonder. So when you do finally, somewhat reluctantly pack your bags to come home, you’ll appreciate what’s waiting for so much more.
MM’s dream travel destinations for 2016, where do you want to go?