Modern life can be stressful and everyone needs a break now and then. Most of us lead very busy lives, working and/or looking after a family, and it seems that there is constantly something going on that we have to be involved in. This can be exciting and has become the norm for millennials, who are working longer and settling down later in life. But it can also be dangerous. Non-stop lifestyles can lead to mental health issues because our brains are constantly at work. Not giving ourselves time to breathe and actually enjoy the lives we are living has been shown to increase the risk of developing mental health problems.

Global travel itself has increased exponentially over the last few decades. With international travel becoming much easier and the development of technology allowing us to learn more than ever about countries and cultures besides our own, the world has never felt closer to our fingertips. Of course, this is a two-way street – globalization leads to increased travel and, on the flip side, it has allowed humanity as a whole to develop at an extremely high rate by increasing international collaboration. As a result, traveling abroad has never been more viable, with 38.8 million US residents traveling overseas in 2017. There are now trips and companies that cater to any needs, whether you want to explore nature, cities or yourself – with eco-tourism, spa getaways and culture guides easily available and often customizable.

Traveling is one of the best ways to give ourselves time to relax and ‘reboot’ our systems to make sure that we are able to work as well and as hard as we can. It is clearly a privilege to be able to travel the world: getting time off work is one thing, but you also need to have the funds to do it properly. But you don’t have to go on a long or particularly distant journey to feel as if you are having a break – simply exploring areas near you that you have never visited before can refresh your mind and give your brain something to think about that isn’t work.

It is also important to get away from other people for a while. What with social media and the internet, we are more connected than ever, which, while being an overwhelmingly positive thing, can also make our lives extremely noisy and crowded. This leaves little space for reflection and self-care. As research into mental health grows and increases in depth, there has been a rise in people wanting to travel alone instead of undertaking the ‘traditional’ vacation with a group of people.

So why go it alone?

There are many benefits to traveling solo, whether it be across the globe or simply discovering places in your own country. The fact that 72% of American women took solo trips in 2014 is proof in itself that people are beginning to grasp the positive outcome of traveling alone. Firstly, it gives you total freedom. When you are traveling with a group of other people, there is inevitably going to be some compromise necessary to ensure that everyone has a good time. But if you are planning a trip solely for yourself, you can decide where to go, what to do, what eat, tailoring the trip to be as beneficial to you as it can be.

Secondly, it will push you out of your comfort zone. Simply booking and organizing a holiday can seem like a daunting task and solo travel will help increase your confidence in interactions of this kind. Not to mention when you actually arrive on vacation, you have to look after yourself, in every way. You may have to interact with locals and try and speak their language and you will have to navigate through places you have never been to before. These things may seem daunting but everyone who has ever experienced them will say that it has improved their social skills and allowed them to be more outgoing.

Finally, it will help you understand yourself better. When you spend an extended period of time with mainly just yourself for company, you have a lot of time to reflect. Also, when you try out new things you may find a new passion or simply understand what makes you happiest.

Won’t it be lonely?

It can indeed be lonely spending a lot of time on your own, even if you are exploring. But companionship comes naturally when traveling solo. Many people make friends along the way and they are friendships that can last a lifetime. Some people decide to look for love while they roam the globe and that has also become easier than ever with dating apps like Badoo allowing you to look for fellow singles wherever you are in the world. The appeal of short-term dating as you travel is that you have someone with whom to share adventures, you can meet different types of people and you have fun without the pressure of maintaining a long-term relationship. Knowing you’ll eventually move away from the person you are spending time with makes you appreciate the time you have with them, but you are also able to continue the communication should you choose to. Some prefer to meet someone organically or through mutual friends but using a dating app can be extremely helpful in finding like-minded individuals without wasting precious travel time. Just remember that, if you do decide to meet up with someone, safety is key.

Speaking of safety…

Staying safe when traveling (and dating) on your own is extremely important because you have no one to look after you. Prevention is key: keep yourself safe and stop any problems before they occur. One of the main things is to trust your instincts – if someone is looking at you strangely or for a little too long, try and keep away from them. If you think that you are being targeted by pickpockets, keep your belongings in your hands and close to your body. Feel free to check in with the locals or tourist information about the most traveler-friendly areas, where there is likely to be more surveillance.

Travel insurance is an essential option – if you suffer from an accident or an illness while abroad, it will make your life much simpler and you will be able to get healthcare without breaking the bank. Scheduling your arrival during the daytime and knowing how you are going to get your (first) hotel will help to ensure your own safety as a visitor. Sleeping well and staying sober is also very important when you are alone and in an unknown country – as much as we wish the world to be a kind and forgiving place, it is still the best option to keep your wits about you and reduce opportunities for others to take advantage of you.

‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ 

The old saying was not kidding! To optimize your trip, planning is key. And while you would probably have an amazing time without an itinerary, if you are visiting multiple countries or there are several things that you would like to experience, then it is best to be organized beforehand. Booking experiences and travel to and from them will ensure you can take in as much as you can and that you aren’t disappointed when you get there and tickets for that event you wanted to go to are sold out. Having a file or a folder filled with everything you need for admin (tickets, receipts, check-in times and IDs) is really helpful, because, if you’re having any trouble, you know you have everything you need in one place.

Planning is also important when you’re deciding what to pack. Assuming you are going away for a long time and moving around a lot, you will need to think about what kind of bag is best for you – backpacks are often a good option as they are portable, durable and can carry a fair amount. You should also make sure that you have travel essentials such as plasters, water bottle, sun cream and any basic medicines, because you may get stuck in a situation where you cannot access a pharmacy. Having blisters or a throbbing headache will definitely put a dampener on your trip, so it is best to be prepared.

The most important thing is to have fun and use the time alone to your advantage – whether that be exploring nature, learning about a different culture or spending some time on self-care by relaxing at the beach. Traveling solo, when done correctly, will be a life-changing experience and you will be glad that you made the leap into the unknown. You will come away with amazing memories, new friends and a new outlook on your own life.