by Jenna Orr
Last December, I was getting ready for a week long trip in Arizona with a friend who attended school in Tucson. The trip had been planned for five months; we were going to stay on campus, do a little sight-seeing, and hike Mt. Lemon.
Yet, plans changed abruptly when Delta cancelled his flight back to Tucson a few hours before my plane was going to take off.
This left me with two options: try to cancel my plane and pray I get my money back OR travel solo.
If you’re like me, you've never been on a trip by yourself before-and I’m not talking about a trip to the grocery store- I’m talking about getting on a plane, heading to a new destination and not knowing a single soul there.
Since you’re reading this, you know that I’ve lived to tell the tale, and now I’d like to share eight reasons why I believe everyone should go on at least one solo trip in their lifetime.
1. You should always do things that scare you
I am a firm believer in this. If you never do anything that scares you, are you really living? Fear is uncomfortable for everyone, so to conquer a fear is to step outside of your comfort zone. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, enriches your life and reminds you that you’re alive! So go outside, walk farther than you walked yesterday, say hello to a stranger, try that new restaurant, or heck, take a trip across the country by yourself.
2. You have to be responsible for yourself
Whenever I traveled in the past, I never had to plan out much of the trip. Reservations were usually made ahead of time by someone other than myself, whether that be a parent, coworker, or teacher. Yet this time, I found myself in the Phoenix airport with no solid plan of where I was going to lay my head that night or how I was going to get there. Figuring all of that out on my own gave me the chance to be more responsible.
3. You can spend as much or as little as you want
Traveling alone gives you the freedom to make those financial decisions. There are no feelings of obligation to spend extra money on a fancier hotel room or to spend money doing something you really didn’t want to do. Personally, I prefer to spend more on experiences and ended up eating PB&J sandwiches for several meals every single day. I haven’t had a PB&J sandwich since.
4. You talk to strangers
When in a group, you generally talk with the people you are traveling with. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great way to bond with others, whether they’re family, old friends or people you’ve just met on the Rochester College GEO trip (I highly recommend taking this class, RC students).
However, when traveling solo, you have a unique opportunity to connect with strangers. When hiking down the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon, I made friends with three students in Indiana, who happen to attend a Christian college too. We got to know one another on our way down to Plateau’s Point and to this day, I’m not sure if I would have made it back up without them.
5. You become more confident in yourself
I don’t know about you, but as a 22 year old college student, I still questioned whether I would be able to make it out in “the real world” by myself. Some days I was pretty doubtful in myself. What if something goes wrong? What if my parents can’t come save the day? Well guess what, things did go wrong. But being able to figure it out on my own (okay, so my wonderful parents were only a phone call away, but still) has given me a real confidence booster. I am now a little more sure that I will be okay and that life will be okay.
6. You have plenty of time for reflection
I spent a lot of time driving to different National Parks, and even more time wandering around by myself. I took hundreds of photographs and more importantly, I had time to really think about my life. When you’re alone, you have no walls to put up and no one to put on a show for. You become the raw version of you-which is probably the best version.
During this trip, I was also given a great opportunity to connect with God in a more personal way. There were plenty of soul searching opportunities and I was able to question past decisions, ponder future opportunities and think about the person I am and who I wanted to be; in doing so, I found myself putting my life in God’s hands more easily.
7. You call all the shots
When traveling solo, you don’t have to wait for anyone to wake up, don’t have to take into account a traveling companions’ wishes. The itinerary lies in your hands. Every welcome center or gas station I stopped at I picked up maps. Maps of local attractions, maps of national parks, maps with cool places to eat. I kept them sprawled out across my bed and circled places that I deemed to be the most interesting. Did I ask what anyone else wanted to do? Nope. I woke up at five in the morning, decided where I’d like to go, and I was gone.
8. You'll have a story to tell the grandkids
One day when I’m sitting on my front porch in a rocking chair, telling stories to my 20 grandchildren as they huddle around me, I’m going to tell them about the time I did something that scared me.
I’ll tell them how I went hitchhiking, how I walked until I thought my legs were going to fall off, how I met new people who challenged me and how I became a stronger person because of it. I get to tell them how I went to Devil’s Bridge and pushed the Devil himself off (at least half of that is true), and how I walked through ancient Wupatki ruins. But my stories won’t stop with this one trip to Arizona, because I refuse to live inside my comfort zone.
So, what will you tell your grandkids one day?