If there is one piece of universal advice that I could give to everyone – one single piece of advice that will improve your life more than anything else – one suggestion that will give you the most bang for your buck, it would have to be…
Travel the world, by yourself, for at least 6 months.
There are countless blogs out there about the benefits of travel. Traveling is exposing yourself to new places and food and ways of thinking and creates a lasting impression and gives valuable lessons and all of that other stuff.
BUT I believe that the other two parts – the “by yourself” and “for at least six months”, are equally or even MORE important than the travel itself.
The travel is the seed, but the solo time and long duration are the water and sunlight that nourish those seeds to grow.
Why these two factors in specific?
For one, there’s something magical about the solitude that comes with solitary travel.
Flights, trains, busses, taxis, and rickshaws all taken alone. Meals eaten alone. Nights spent alone in strange hotels and hostels. All solitary experiences that are yours and yours alone.
There’s wisdom from spending all that time alone. A certain calm and ease that you develop while living with yourself constantly. A familiarity you create with your behavioral and emotional patterns when you’re outside the influence of friends and family. A love for yourself.
Solo travel forces you to make your own decisions without the influence of others around you. Teaches you how to rely on yourself.
It gives you time to explore what YOU want to do. Each and every day is a choice of how YOU want to spend your time.
When you’re on your own you see how YOU are responsible for the experience you create. Your actions and decisions dictate the way that the experience unfolds. Everything is in your hands.
This is why you need to travel alone. To see how your thinking creates your reality. To see what type of experiences you create for yourself. To see how you react to those experiences, both good and bad.
To see how you react in the face of new foods, languages you don’t understand, people who behave and think differently, and other random encounters you could never predict or prepare for!
There’s a tremendous ownership and responsibility that comes along with knowing that you are the creator of your own experience. Long term solo travel is a great way to normalize this ownership.
But again, while solo is good, we’re still missing the other important ingredient which is….LONG TERM.
To do it all for an extended period of time.
Not a week. Not a month. A truly long duration that allows you to kick your feet back and relax. Settle into things and not feel rushed. Take your time. Be slow and deliberate.
Traveling is much different when you can do it slowly. It’s a marathon.
In short term travel we can see and do a lot in a short amount of time, but longer term travel makes it harder to sustain the energy required to ping pong like that. You have to be slower, more methodical, more deliberate. Intentionally take days for yourself and relax and do nothing despite the pull of travel and FOMO calling your name.
In either case though, while traveling alone you can choose to jump from place to place and ping pong around OR dive deeply into one place. It’s your choice, and exploring that question teaches us a lot about ourselves, our preferences, and our balance for adventure vs. sitting still.
Moreover, extended time traveling also gives you sufficient time to break the habits of home and develop some new habits. Short term travel doesn’t give us ample opportunity to break free of old ways of living or adopt new ways.
Most importantly, long term travel gives us time and space to reflect. To process the experience and make meaning of it.
The experience in itself is only half of it, the meaning we derive from it is the other half. Extended time give us that space to process and make meaning of the experience.
This proverbial “shedding of the old self” can only happen over an extended period of time. It’s a process of discarding old habits and picking up new ones, and that process takes time and refinement.
That’s the trifecta. Travel, alone, for a long time.
If I could give any advice to anyone, it’s this. It’s the best medicine you could ever take.
Now I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone. I understand that this is a privilege to have the opportunity to be able to even do this.
If you do have the privilege, I say exercise it. But do so knowingly. Have the awareness to put things into context. Be grateful for it. Give back in the small ways you can.
If you don’t have the privilege, if it’s something you truly desire, you work towards it. If you set a goal for yourself, plan it, and make it happen, you earn it by creating the opportunity…which is doubly rewarding.
If you’re a couple, traveling solo might not be an option and you might travel together as a result of it. This is a beautiful experience in itself that I would recommend for every couple, but not the same flavor of experience I’m talking about.
I also understand that if you’re a woman, it’s more dangerous to travel the world by yourself. It’s a completely different experience – but I still think you should give it a try anyway.
There are always circumstances that might prevent this from happening and it’s not for everyone or might not be possible. But if you can do anything at all…go do it.
Can only travel solo travel for a short term? Good! Do it. Can only travel long term with someone else? Go do it!
The best is long term solo, but all are effective medicines on their own. If you can’t get the whole recipe 1 or 2 out of the 3 are perfectly fine.
If I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that memories are not created equally.
If you look back on your life and ask “What are my top 3-5 memories in life”, it’s not as easy as you would think to find the best events.
And what are those events? Usually travel. Having children. Accomplishments of some kind.
More or less you’re guaranteed to do something you’ll never forget.
That’s what life is about right? Creating memories you will never forget so that when you look back on your life you can smile at all the cool shit you did!
So if you have the choice. If you have the ability. DO IT.
Travel the world by yourself for at least six months 🙂