Traveling Alone Is Self Care. Here's Why.
Have you heard? May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Part of the idea behind this month is to spread the word about mental wellness strategies—so let's talk self care! 💆🏻♀️
What activities does the phrase "self care" bring to your mind? A bubble bath, a spa day, a scenic jog, a nap? Saying "no" to activities you don't have time for, taking a social media break, meditating?
All of the above are methods of self care, yes. But it has a very broad definition. Psychology Today defines self care as:
"the mindful taking time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you."
That means self care is completely customizable! It's an action or set of actions that works for you, regardless of the opinions or preferences of anyone else. There are no rules on what it should look like.
And it's not just a buzzword or a trend. You exercise and eat your veggies to keep your body healthy, right? 🥦 So think of self care as the regular morning jog or spinach smoothie for your mind. Your mental health deserves your attention just as much as your physical health.
Today, I'm making the case for why solo travel is a form of self care you should consider—whether it's a staycation, a day hike, a weekend trip, or an international adventure alone. Here are my top six reasons!
#1. It's fully customizable.
Five seconds ago, we agreed that this is embedded in the very nature of self care. It has to be personalized to work! Something you find relaxing or recharging may not be the same for someone else. That's the first reason solo travel is the perfect self-care activity! You get to cherry pick every aspect of your trip, down to the details. For example:
If your idea of fun, enjoyable "me time" involves going skydiving, meeting ten new people, having ice cream for lunch, and then singing karaoke, you can do every single one of those things on a solo trip—and without complaints or protests from anyone. 🤸🏻♀️
If you prefer visiting a quirky museum, people watching on a park bench, napping at the beach, and enjoying the sunset with a glass of wine, same thing—you get to do all that until your heart's content. ✨
Solo travel gives you the freedom to explore what you enjoy and what makes you happy, and all without judgment or opinions from anyone.
**And contrary to the photos I chose for this piece, your solo-travel self-care experience doesn't have to be mystical and Eat-Pray-Love-style, either. It can be spiritual, deep, and serious, or it can be silly, funny, and lighthearted. It's whatever you need.
#2. It will build your confidence.
I like this quote by psychologist Susan Jeffers because it's such a perfect fit for solo adventures: “Every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably."
It's pretty simple. When you're traveling alone, there's no one to make plans or handle situations or challenges but you. You won't always know what to do right away, but you will always manage to take care of it, whatever it is. You're already so incredibly competent and smart—it's just that solo travel brings more opportunities for you to show yourself that than daily life often does.
And, as Susan points out, the more business you take care of, the more capable you'll feel. Your confidence will go up a few ticks each time. 📈
#3. It can be healing.
I've spoken with female solo travelers who have dealt with things like depression and anxiety, either in conjunction with or because of traumatic life events like divorce, loss, or physical illness. Many shared that solo travel was a therapeutic experience. 🌿
There's no substitute for professional help if you feel you may have a mental health disorder or similar concern. However, traveling alone can be an additional tool to help you work through some of life's challenges. It gives you time and space to deal with things at your own pace and in your own style. It forces you to quit worrying about others for a moment, and focus on what YOU need, right now.
Healing has two different definitions:
the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.
tending to heal; therapeutic. to alleviate, relieve, ease, soften, or lessen.
Solo travel may be a cure for whatever life challenge you're facing, or it may at least be a salve.
#4. It will refresh your perspective.
Like any other vacation, a solo trip will allow you to step back from the busyness and stress of everyday life. However, because you're alone, you'll have the opportunity to be far more introspective than if you were traveling with others. As I like to say, Quiet is nourishing. Time spent exploring alone gives you time and space to focus on you and your life—and nothing/no one else.
Being alone also stimulates your powers of observation. Without someone constantly at your side, you'll be more present. You'll witness the beauty of the world more fully and closely than you're usually able to do. You'll be reminded how vast and diverse the world is, and how much good there is to be had in it. 🌷
Solo travel will refresh your perspective because the alone time will allow you to look inward, look outward, and take stock of what's there and how it makes you feel.
#5. It allows you to recharge your way.
No one will drag you to the top ten museums in the city, or make you try these five restaurants, or require that you stop for their coffee or bathroom breaks every hour. No one will reprimand you for spending the entire day on the beach, or for not waking up till noon. You're calling all the shots, and you don't have to make any compromises.
How many times in life do you get to enjoy absolutely zero obligations to others (which, I'd argue, might just be the essence of true relaxation)? Juuuust about never.
You've got this free time to spend however you'd like—no judgment, no input, no comments from anyone. Use it to do whatever you need, whatever you feel like. Pay attention to yourself, dote on yourself. Sleep, read, eat, write, run, unplug, or do whatever else you need to recharge and recenter yourself. 🔋You have no one to care for right now but you.
#6. It lets you be yourself.
There's no one to impress when you're on your solo trip! There's no one to perform for. You don't have to act, speak, or dress in any way that feels unnatural to you (aside from staying safe and respecting local customs, of course). You get a break from work clothes and small talk. You're temporarily relieved of your duty to set your alarm, sit in traffic, eat healthy, tidy up.
There are no rules for how to enjoy a solo trip, except to tailor it exactly to whatever whims and preferences you feel in that given moment. Take advantage of the fact that you can just be wholly and unapologetically yourself, and do nothing but what feels right and enjoyable. 🙌
Self care is all about you. If taking a solo trip or independent adventure of any kind, large or small, feels like something you could mentally benefit from, get after it!
Happy self care and happy travels,
Disclaimer: I'm not a licensed mental health professional. The contents of this article are intended purely for informational purposes. Remember the purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month—please seek professional help if you have questions or concerns about your mental health. #breakthestigma