It is perhaps cliché to say that travelling solo is one of the best things that I have done in my life. That taking a semester off university to explore Europe is one of the most incredible decisions I have made. Cliché to say or not, it is unequivocally true. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The chance to get out into the world and see beautiful scenery and bustling cities is invaluable. The places experienced and the people you meet, through tours, hostels, or even just in the street, are fantastic. There is so much food to try, history to learn, art to see. Taking the step outside your bubble and seeing the world teaches you things that you cannot experience at home.
No matter how or who you travel with, there are things to learn. Travelling with friends and family is a good test of your relationships, and creates memories and experiences that you are likely never going to forget. They fuel the stories you remind each other of for years, create nonsensical jokes that get brought back at almost every occasion. Travelling solo tests you too, and even though these experiences are not directly shared with another person (or people), it does not lose its value for that.
You really learn how to rely on yourself. The training wheels are off, you are on your own. There is no one guiding you to where you will stay, or how you will get there, and what you will do. You have to step forward, pull yourself into gear, and sort everything out for yourself. You can get advice from others, of course, but there is a difference between asking the opinion of a person, and having parents or more organised friend sow everything together into a neat holiday where your only job is to go along and enjoy it. Half the fun is in the planning.
It is not always clear skies and sunshine.
Your holiday is in your hands, everything is completely your decision, and that is my favourite part. Travelling with other people can be a compromise, which is not always a bad thing as it can bring experiences otherwise unsought. However, there is something completely liberating about standing alone in a foreign country and realising that whatever it is that you want to go and do, you can do it. It is an unparalleled freedom.
It is not always clear skies and sunshine however (especially if you end up in rainy London). Planning everything yourself can be difficult, tiring, and frustrating. There is no one there to catch the things you missed, or remind you of the things that tie everything together. You do not have someone with you the whole time to share your memories with, or to have your back if you feel unwell. Also, having to carry all of your belongings when you need to go to the bathroom in an airport is a killer.
It was a lot of work, I would be lying if I did not admit to that, and some parts of it were difficult. But without a doubt, it was worth it. I gained a level of freedom and independence that you can only really reach by jumping into the deep end. I learnt that I was capable of doing it, that I was capable of looking after myself in a place that was completely unknown to me. It is independence that has also impacted me back at home, there was a confidence and a responsibility gained that lasted the return to my normal routine.
As unabashedly cliché as it is, stepping off that plane alone heavily impacted my life. I came out of the trip a more independent and confident person than I was when I left.