The virtues of solo travelling have long been extolled in books, YouTube videos, and inspirational instagram adverts, but in this early dawn of post-COVID history, a solo trip may be more important to mental health than ever.
Breaking out of Routine:
We all know that feeling — to deal with the monotony of COVID or our less than stellar work from home situation, we have created micro-routines to stop us going crazy. But what if those routines have now become a trap and are limiting out thinking? Just as therapists have long recommended taking a different route to work to break up routine and shift perspectives, how about using remote working to working from a different place? How about waking up at a different time, or in a different house?
Changing routines, even those laid down to help our mental health, may prompt us to change perspectives, and in this post-COVID era, this may be exactly what the doctor ordered. But changing your perspectives while travelling may add an even greater benefit — whether it’s seeing the problems that a rural community faces, or having time and space away to approach your life in a different way — the perspective from off-the-beaten track travel may help you see life in a more grateful way and bring a fresh appreciation to your life back at home.
2. Having time alone to yourself:
Going to areas where you can’t immediately go on wifi, or not having access to your phone or your social networks, gives you a chance to really look at yourself, be with yourself, and figure out what you want from life. What needs to be re-prioritised? How do you want to show up in the world? And what are your core values and beliefs? After a pandemic, where we have encountered intense collective grief and trauma, our lives might need reshuffling and reprioritising — and being held in the same circles and situations may not be conducive to us allowing ourselves the permission to invite change. Take advantage of the mental and physical space of solo travel to allow you to do this.
3. Remembering that you need very little to survive:
The pandemic threw a lot of our mental health off and put us into a fear state. People started hoarding, having a scarcity mindset, and imagining the worst — which kept us frightened, in an elevated level of stress and stuck. What you need is a reset, and to rebuild good traits like self reliance, discipline, resilience and self-trust. Imagine this — you are alone in a foreign country, your transport has broken down and you don’t know the local language and you haven’t got a map — how do you get to where you are going?
These situations show that you are more resilient, efficient and able to problem solve than you give yourself credit for. If you travel the right way — you know that things never go to plan, and if you have to, you can survive in a makeshift shelter for the night, or with no luggage. In other words — the worst happens then you’re ok — you survived it. Sometimes we need to remember this, especially in the aftermath of a global disaster — and where we have lost loved ones. It’s harsh but — the worst happened — and life goes on. Moreover, I believe a part of your brain stores brownie points towards how well you can trust yourself — and if you can get yourself out of any situation, then you will never have to stay anywhere where you are unhappy again.
4. (Re)find your passions:
During the pandemic, many formerly creative people were forced to find less than ideal jobs to survive — and many of us in industries such as hospitality needed to change careers. As a result, many of us have lost or forgotten our original intentions with our career, and as a result, have masked our natural gifts. When you are solo travelling, you may discover (or re-discover) them.
But furthermore — when you solo travel — you aren’t tied to how much you make, what clothes you wear, what your friends do or where you always hang out. You get a chance to explore who you are — which may be bringing out different parts of your personality than you do at home or with your current friendship group — AND have the chance to explore different activities. Doing that cooking class could lead you down the road of being a chef, journalling or keeping a blog could help you end up as a writer, or taking pictures as a photographer. The list of activities you can explore while travelling is endless. Then, you can turn your passions into a business if that’s what you want to do — but that’s a different story.
5. Giving Back:
While some people spent COVID volunteering at a pharmacy or hospital, others weren’t able to. While travelling, you could formally join a volunteering scheme, or end up working at a hostel or diving centre to extend your travels, or simply help the old lady cross the road. Whichever way or reason you find yourself giving back, it’s selfishly great to feel valuable, like you’ve helped someone or something bigger than you. But this also puts you in the state of giving. When you’re in this state, you’re also in a state of gratitude and a state of being ready to receive, which is so helpful for moving through traumatic phases in your life or getting you moving again when you’ve been stuck in a challenging or undesirable situation for a while — all things that I am sure many of us have felt during the pandemic.
6. Helps with Depression and Anxiety:
Now, I don’t want to make this a therapy blog — but I’ve experienced severe episodes of depression before (definitely exacerbated by the pandemic), and for all the reasons listed above: having the ability to get out of your comfort zone, going solo, moving, breaking routine, making new friends and shifting perspective — solo trips have helped me with depression. Something about solo travel really helps me sort through, exercise and lift the weight on my shoulders that causes me to feel depressed, and maybe it will help you too. It’s worth a try.
7. Making new friends:
During isolation, many of us had to stay in less than ideal social situations. Whether we were forced to stay at our parents home with a family that may not see eye to eye with who we are, or with an ex or in a relationship that split over the pandemic — the state of the world put a strain on us all. This is on top of friends, friendships and relationships themselves being complicated. Sometimes we change, sometimes our friendships can hold us back in life, sometimes we get caught up being someone that our friendship circle wants us to be. But deeply we feel that’s not who we really are. When you solo travel — you are very rarely alone unless you force yourself to isolate. The nature of the road is that sometimes you meet friends for a leg of your trip, but many times you may make friends for life. From my trips, I’ve made many of the latter: friendships that have lasted but also reflect who I truly am, and what my authentic beliefs and values are. I’ve even had people stay on my sofa in London, and in return I’ve been invited to sleep in their spare room around the world. The travel connection is a real, and tight one — and may be just what we need to connect to our authentic selves.