I experienced solo travel for the first time 13 years ago. The destination was Cameroon, Africa. I was invited as the keynote speaker for a young women’s conference, and I spent several days more connecting with and encouraging young women there. I questioned my decision to go to Cameroon a few times before my departure date. Why? Fear – mainly because I was experiencing two major firsts – solo travel and the role of a keynote speaker.
Of course, my perseverance resulted in a life-changing experience. And I have since successfully completed other solo trips to various destinations in the U.S. and abroad.
I can sum up what I have gained from solo travel in two words – Personal Growth. In what way? I’m glad you asked! Keep reading.
1. Triumph Over Fear – Of course, fear has a tendency to creep in and make one pause or even retreat. The key is to keep moving forward – persevere. I pressed on and reaped the benefits.
It was Dale Carnegie who said “Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it... that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.”
2. Comfort zone – To overcome fear I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something different. How can you grow if you continue to do the things you’ve always done the way you’ve always done them?
3. Confidence – Overcoming my fears boosted my confidence.
4. Increased Self-awareness – I learned more about myself and what I’m capable of doing.
5. Open-minded – Remaining open-minded expanded my knowledge area. One thing I learned is that just because someone in another culture/different background executes something differently than I’m accustomed to doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It simply means that it’s different.
6. Greater Resourcefulness - Resourcefulness includes:
A. Being Proactive – Planning ahead and taking care of as much as possible ahead of time pays off. Example: researching the destination – climate, culture, etc. helped in areas such as packing my luggage and understanding how to relate to the native residents of my destination.
B. Positive Attitude – Remain optimistic throughout the journey, and recognize the positive benefits in every situation.
7. Relationship Building – Solo travel (and travel in general) is a great relationship builder! You may communicate with a stranger along the way, and that simple act could end up being the start of a lifelong friendship. I have learned about different cultures, people, and attained new friends near and far through travel.
How have you benefitted from solo travel?
On June 17, I traveled to Naco, Sonora Mexico (it borders Arizona) from Wake Forest, NC with a group affiliated with Grace Ministries USA to serve the children of Naco Casa Hogar Emmanuel orphanage for a week. There were 19 of us. The youngest missionary among us was 18 years old, and it was her first international mission. It gave me great joy to be part of what turned out to be a life-changing experience for her.
I made this same journey for the first time last year (2018). But this time was different, better somehow. (Not that last year was bad… just different.) There were twice as many of us this year – with the same assignment -- to complete facilities maintenance projects at the orphanage, but most importantly to love the children. How did we do that? We drove them to and from school, played games with them, danced with them, sang with them, talked with them, and shared meals. To sum it up, we showered the children with attention. There were many smiles and much laughter. Did I mention there was lots of candy?!
Someone in our group came up with the idea to have a beach party on the orphanage grounds for the children. Yes, a beach party! (Mind you, Naco is a desert town.) The rest of us went with the idea, worked together to put things in place, and the children had a blast! (The “ocean” consisted of a couple of inflatable pools filled with water 😊). Of course, we naturally had plenty of sun in the desert.
Also, one night we transformed the ambience of the orphanage chapel into an “elegant” restaurant in which each child was formally announced by name upon entrance and treated as a very special guest. Each missionary was assigned a child and served as their personal waiter for the evening. Several of the children expressed how much they enjoyed it, and I must say, we (the missionaries) enjoyed it too!
Sure, there were long days as we (the missionaries) worked hard to complete maintenance projects. But we also had just as much fun! Through it all, we built relationships. And that made the trip worthwhile.
Recently, I took my mom on an extended weekend getaway to her favorite destination -- Charleston, SC. We have visited Charleston almost yearly for several years now. But this time instead of driving, I suggested that we travel by train. It had been about 50 years since my mom had ridden on a train, and she remembered it to be a very slow means of transportation. However, she was pleasantly surprised and elated after experiencing the speed and comfort of present-day train travel with Amtrak. (Ok, I know, the train is not as fast as an airplane, but it’s still much faster than it was 50 years ago.)
When I asked my mom what she enjoyed most about our getaway, she said “the train”, then after a couple minutes, she revised her response and said “the train, and the fact that you paid for the trip”. I couldn’t help but smile at her response.
I most enjoyed the people we met throughout our journey. For example, the impromptu song performed by Donovan Brown (a local celebrity of sorts) who walked into the Say-Yum Jamaican restaurant as we savored a meal during our layover in Wilson, NC. And as I chatted with a fellow traveler (and Alaska native) who was waiting for the same train to Charleston, I learned things about Alaska I had not known before.
I appreciate learning, experiencing new things, and connecting with people. So, for me travel is not always about the destination. I also appreciate the journey just as much.
I'm Deborah Ellison. Through my blog posts I will share my travel knowledge and encourage you to travel because it has been a life-changing and fulfilling experience for me, and it can be for you as well.