Long term solo travel is one of the most immense growth experiences a human being can ever undergo.
It doesn’t particularly matter where you go, as long as you go somewhere that’s alien, foreign and unlike home.
I’m not talking about going to work in a bar in Spain or as a travel rep on the Greek Islands.
There’s nothing wrong with those experiences, but they won’t really teach you anything life changing and you’ll mostly be surrounded by people from home anyway, doing the same things you would have done at home.
That’s not growth enhancing. It’s not challenging and it won’t change your life.
To really squeeze the juice from solo travel and learn its lessons you have to submit to a longer term journey (a minimum of 3-6 months), and you have to commit to living minimally.
South East Asia, South America and Africa are all places you should consider and with about $1000 a month in any of these locations you will be set to travel and have a great time.
I set off when I was 21 to Thailand for a 3 month trip and I never went home. Sure I’ve visited, but I never truly went back.
As I approach my thirtieth birthday and have just marked 7 years since I moved to Indonesia, I got to reflecting on some of the benefits of long-term travel and how it has enhanced me as a person and helped me develop my life.
I want to share those things with you now, and encourage any guy of any age or circumstances to take the plunge and do it. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
What you’ll get from solo travel:
#1) A new sense of living – Sometimes life simply grows stale. We’ve been working on our goals, plodding away to work and saving steadily. We’re working out, seeing a nice girl and everything looks tidy on paper.
There’s just one problem – we’re bored shitless and a growing sense of doom has begun to well up in our chests. We begin to wonder ‘is this all there is to it?”
Travel is the solution to this problem which huge amounts of men face. It will snap you out of this comfortable, zombie like state and startle you back into full awareness and living.
Travelling somewhere foreign will put you back into a child like state where everything around you is new, interesting and novel. It will draw you out of yourself and into the moment. It will cause your body to snap into alertness and awareness of everything going on around it (thanks to evolutionary instincts), and you will almost immediately begin to feel more alive.
I’ve been shot at, almost beaten to death, crashed a motorcycle into a restaurant full of diners, found myself without a single dollar left to catch a bus, bitten by a poisonous spider and attacked by a group of ladyboys trying to smash me with their high heels.
I’ve also made amazing friends, made a tonne of money from opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have come about, seen the most spectacular views on this earth, got my scuba license, ripped a jet ski around a private island, fallen in and out of love with beautiful, exotic foreign ladies and had the time of my life!
I wouldn’t reverse a single one of these experiences. Every one of them, including almost dying several times, has taught me something and added richness to my life.
One of the best analogies I have heard is this: Travel is like turning the dial from a life in grey-scale to a life in full Technicolour.
The experiences and lessons won’t always be good in the moment, but they’ll always stretch you, teach you something valuable and give you unforgettable memories.
#2) An awareness of the world – People tend to live in safe, comfortable little boxes. They surround themselves with people who share the same religious and political views, who usually share the same interests, who feel the same way about many things and enjoy the same experiences which become habitual.
When you go off into the unknown, all of these things are taken away from you and you’re forced to reflect on who you really are. You’re forced to define (or redefine) yourself to everyone you meet for the first time. You’re forced to consider your points of view as you will constantly meet people who share different views and will gladly challenge what you think you know.
You will face uncertainty on a massive scale and your ego will soften or possibly even crumble. You’ll realize that on the grand scale you don’t know a damn thing.
It’s a good feeling, even though it’s a little scary to begin.
#3) The ability to manage your finances – When you travel on a set budget, assuming you’re not Bill Gates reading this, you’ll have to learn to manage your money.
I like to think I’m pretty good at managing my finances, and this is something I learned the hard way while travelling. More than once I found myself broke in a faraway land with nothing to save me but my head and my own two hands.
I always survived, and that’s the most valuable lessons of all – you will find that you have unlimited creative resources at your disposal when it comes down to the bone.
Possibly the single greatest thing I got from all these years of travel is the confidence and knowledge that no matter if I go flat broke, have no-one around to help me back up and no prospects in the immediate future, I will survive and be OK.
In fact, living close to the edge is often much more motivating and exciting than being well off and secure.
The sense of power and confidence gained from the experience of going broke or at least living on very little and surviving will be something you carry with you all of your life. You’ll also learn for next time that managing your finances is an essential part of a healthy, peaceful life.
Travel teaches you how to budget and manage money like no other experience. You’ll likely learn to get by on very little and will also learn that’s all you need to be happy. That’s a great feeling to know in your gut.
#4) Greater social skills/emotional intelligence – One of the biggest challenges while “on the road” is a sense of isolation and loneliness.
It’s a problem for sure and any long-term traveller will tell you that if they’re being honest. But with every problem there is a solution. Social skills.
If you move around a lot on your travels you’ll constantly be forced to make new friends and partner up with people wherever you go. In order to do this you’ll have to develop emotional intelligence, the ability to read people, assess their values and get along with them.
Trust me, these skills are great to have throughout life. Learning to get along with people of all backgrounds, beliefs and types will serve you in whatever you chose to pursue later in life. Your career, your social life and your relationships will all benefit from this.
I’ve had conversations with Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, spiritualists, atheists, hippies, punk rockers, minimalists, millionaires, married couples, divorced people, gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, feminists, military vets, pacifists, hobos, rocket scientists (actually), monks, investors, entrepreneurs, authors and everything in between along the way.
After a while, especially when travelling alone, you begin to develop an intuitive sense for people, what they’re about, what they value and how to build a rapport with them. It becomes, almost, a sixth sense.
Who couldn’t use more of that in their lives?
#5) Gratitude – If you’re willing to step outside the banana pancake tourist trail and get out into the real world around you, you’ll quickly come to realize that the people in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia who complain about being poor and having it hard are a laughing-stock.
There’s no such thing as poverty in any of the above mentioned countries. I don’t care if you’re offended by that statement and suffer from a “poor me” complex, because if you have a bed to sleep in, a roof to shelter you, a single meal in your fridge and even 5 dollars in your pocket, you’re doing better than the majority of human beings surviving daily on this earth.
Add to this the access to medicine, the ability to sign onto some form of unemployment benefit, the ease of access to food, the political freedom to say and do as you please without harming others, the technology and the countless other blessings you likely have, and you’re a rock star compared to most.
That’s the greatest thing travel will do – make you appreciate home. Make you value family and friends. Make you realize the keys to your happiness have been in front of your face the whole time but you never noticed.
Personally speaking I’ll probably never go home to live. The life I have is too good to give up and is filled with abundance and love. But I do appreciate where I come from, who raised me, who I grew up with and the countless advantages I had over the people I meet around the world every day.
Sure I didn’t start at the top of the pile, but what I’ve seen has taught me I sure didn’t start at the bottom either.
Travel has a lot to teach you if you’re open and receptive to its lessons.
Get out there and go on a quest if it’s something you’ve been thinking about. What’s the worst that could happen?
Desire. Decide. Persist.