A solo road trip across the winding highways along the coast of Australia and through the thick forests of America’s wild national parks sounds liberating yet daunting at the same time. Many are hesitant to venture into unknown territory alone, but a solo journey allows you to refresh your mind and gain a deeper insight into yourself, making for one of the most rewarding ways to travel. Here is why you should take a solo road trip this summer.
Experience Complete Freedom
With a few days to spare in California at the end of our road trip through the national parks of Utah, a friend and I debated between a visit to Death Valley or to a resort in Palm Springs. A disagreement ensued, fueled by two diverse interests. We were faced with a choice between two very distinct options, with no in-between choice that would satisfy both of our desires.
Experience complete freedom on a solo road trip, and develop an itinerary driven solely by your own interests. Stop and explore the Victorian homes in Astoria, Oregon, on your drive along North America’s scenic West Coast, or keep driving until you hit the golden beaches of California. There's no need to compromise when you're road tripping on your own.
Be Comfortable With Yourself
Entering a pancake restaurant in Amsterdam, I shyly signaled to the waiter that I wanted a table for one. Seated almost immediately, I scanned the room as I was presented a menu and was met by what I perceived to be sympathetic smiles from other diners. The remainder of the tables were occupied by groups and couples surrounded by chatter and laughter.
Though it may feel awkward sightseeing and dining alone for the first time, road tripping solo will teach you to be comfortable in and cherish your own company. You’ll begin to realize that participating in activities alone yields benefits. You can focus on and appreciate your meal more without having to engage in a conversation. You can slowly start to realize that others really aren't judging you. You can even take your time and enjoy your coffee, knowing you're on your own schedule and don't have to worry about anyone else.
On a two-week solo journey in Belgium, I created profiles on Couchsurfing and Tinder explaining my mission to discover favorite local hangouts, hole-in-the-wall eateries and the most refreshing pours of golden wheat beer in Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges. I was met by enthusiasm from a pool of locals and fellow backpackers who shared my mission, and created a multitude of positive connections that I would’ve otherwise missed had I traveled in a group.
Being the first to strike up a conversation can be daunting, but a solo road trip without the safety and comfort of your social circle will provide a myriad of opportunities to practice connecting with others. Without the company of friends, you’re more likely to be the one to introduce yourself first at a hostel, or to participate in activities with travelers and locals you meet on the road, enriching your friendship circle by forming connections that could potentially be missed traveling with a partner.
When my CouchSurfing host in Bruges informed me he wouldn’t be able to accommodate me less than an hour before our agreed meeting time, I was faced with the decision of what to do next. With no accommodation secured for the night and a dwindling battery on my mobile that held a map of the city, I entered local establishments asking for directions to the city center, which I believed would be my best bet to locate a hostel. Because I didn’t have a travel partner to discuss options and problem solve with, I had to trust myself and my instincts.
A solo road trip can be lonely and unsettling at times when you don’t have a travel partner to bounce ideas off of or to support a decision. But the ability to explore a new destination and problem solve alone is a testament to the strength of your resourcefulness, giving you confidence and a sense of independence. These are skills and lessons that you'll carry with you long after your trip ends.