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Why you should take a solo vacation

Taking a trip with only your own company can be life-changing.

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We are always surrounded by people. But sometimes we need to find ourselves, and what better way to rediscover who you are than a trip alone? Nearly a quarter of people traveled alone on their latest overseas vacation, up from 15 percent in 2013, according to the most recent Visa Global Travel Intentions Study.

They weren’t only single people, either. Sometimes a spouse can’t take time off from work or isn’t interested in a destination. Whatever the reason, taking a trip with only your own company can be life-changing. Here, seven reasons to travel solo at least once in your life.

  1. You can break out of your comfort zone. What better way to get to know yourself than by doing something that makes you a little uneasy? Traveling alone can give you the kind of push you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable—be it embracing unfamiliar places, people or the inevitable other challenges that solo travel will present (like how to get a picture of yourself that isn’t a selfie).
  2. You can be spontaneous. Often when you travel, you come across something to do that isn’t on your itinerary (think an impromptu concert or a cool park you’d like to sit in all day), and it’s a lot easier to do it when you don’t have to convince your travel partner to follow suit. Moreover, you aren’t jeopardizing their plans.
  3. You’ll be more Zen. It’s true. Solo travel can lead to “personal feelings of freedom, relaxation and discovery,” according to a professor from Queensland University of Technology's Business School, who lead a recent study of people who had traveled alone. While the study of solitude by choice is relatively new, and therefore difficult speak about in scientific terms, more and more experts believe it has positive psychological benefits.
  4. You can indulge in anything without being judged. Want pasta for breakfast? Done. Fancy dancing your head off at a rave? No problem. Going at it alone means you’re no longer tied to the “old you” that friends and family have come to know and expect. This is your chance to let your freak flag fly.
  5. You’ll meet new people. Still hanging out with the same group of friends you made in high school? Solo travel, when you choose the right place, pushes you to make connections with people you otherwise may have avoided. The proliferation of Seattle’s coffee culture, for example, makes solo drinkers eager to strike up conversation, while Austin’s festival-based society means meeting new people is inevitable. Choose a location you’ve always wanted to visit, but also one whose culture is known to be inclusive and friendly.
  6. You’ll be more confident. You’ll have no choice but to challenge your fears and insecurities when you haggle with street vendors, navigate subway systems or order dinner in another language.
  7. It’s not as scary as you imagine. Safety is top of mind for single travelers, according to research from Crimson Hexagon, which studied social analytics around the conversation of solo travel between 2010 and 2016. In actuality, solo travel can be quite safe if you take certain precautions. Some guidelines to follow, before you leave: Book a hotel with a 24-hour front desk, carry valid ID in more than one place (and make copies), and leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member. And once you’re there: Keep to public spaces (now is not the time to go off the beaten path), avoid flashy clothing or jewelry, check your map before leaving your hotel, and check in with that friend or family member regularly. For those traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which could help the State Department assist you in case of emergency.