Individuals who travel solo are often considered heroes by many because of how difficult it can be to travel without the convenience of someone else. They are often seen as brave individuals who are self-reliant. They enjoy their independence and freedom away from the judgmental eyes of others. All that is required to go on a trip is oneself, which can be very freeing.
"We define ourselves far too often by our past failures. That's not you. You are this person right now. You are the person who learned from those past failures. Build confidence and momentum with each good decision you make from here on out and choose to be inspired."
- Joe Rogan
Today we are going to be covering a topic very dear to me, and one that doesn't get nearly enough attention: how traveling makes you a superhero.
From being capable of handling yourself in any situation thrown your way, to learning ways of self expression through new languages and cultures, to becoming more self aware of the role you play in this crazy world, traveling brings you so many wonderful new skills and tools that it seems silly not to make it a part of your life. Yes, I am definitely quite biased, but hopefully by the time you finish reading this you'll understand why I feel so passionately about travel.
10 Super-Powers of Solo Travelers
- 1. Super Strength (Confidence and self assuredness)
- 2. The Power of Knowledge (Diverse skill set)
- 3. Flight (Let go of fear)
- 4. Mind Control (Self expression)
- 5. Healing (Setting boundaries)
- 6. Divinity (Find your authentic self)
- 7. Energy Manipulation (Minimizing!)
- 8. Invisibility (Adaptation)
- 9. Shapeshifting (Expectations, serendipity and flexibility!)
- 10. Relationship Manipulation (A new perspective on relationships and people)
- Summary: Why Solo-travellers are Superheroes
1. Super Strength (Confidence and self assuredness)
In terms of how you carry and present yourself, being confident is the equivalent of having super strength - you make it clear that no one can mess with you or change your mind. If they're anything, superheroes are incredibly confident - they would never be seen cowering in a corner due to social anxiety or fear of the unknown. Trust me, no superhero would have a name such as captain meek!
Superheroes are confident; you will never see a superhero named “sorrow” or “mope”...
The first thing that stands out the most for me is the fact that traveling not only gives you a chance to step outside of your comfort zone, it pretty much shoves you out of that cozy bubble and forces you to confront and resolve situations you would never be faced with at home.
Just the ability to go up to a person who speaks a different language and ask for assistance has a huge impact on your confidence to navigate through the world. Add on to that the fact that you're in a city you've never been to before, with street signs in another language, as well as suddenly finding yourself in a grocery shop with no clue about what the products are- trust me, you're confidence will go through the roof once you realise this isn't nearly as scary as you thought. You'll be pleasantly surprised to realise that you're fully capable of handling yourself and figuring everything out, either independently or with the help of a friendly stranger.
Going out on a first date or interview suddenly won't seem nearly as intimidating!
2. The Power of Knowledge (Diverse skill set)
The more you know, the more power you have. “No one is you and that is your superpower.”
The more you travel, the more you'll find yourself in these new and initially overwhelming situations. It's only logical that the more you expose yourself to novice experiences, the more adept you will be at handling whatever comes your way, with a much larger toolkit as well!
Imagine how much more difficult the world is for a ten year old than an adult- an adult has simply lived longer and has a smaller set of challenges they've never faced. The older we get, the more advanced our abilities to navigate this world are. Now let's take this a step further- the exposure to a plethora of mentalities, cultures, and experiences will make your ability to face any challenge that much stronger. Everything you go through will add yet another building block to your mental library of what to do when faced with... well, just about anything! You will learn to trust yourself because you've already been through this.
As your confidence and proficiency in navigating through bizarre and difficult moments grows, so will your self-awareness and ability to let go of anxiety, over-analysing, and seeking the approval of others. You will trust yourself, because you know you can handle anything coming your way.
Something else I would like to add here is that you will quickly realise that you cannot judge a book by it's cover- so many times, my greatest teachers have been someone I wrote off at first glance.
Overcoming prejudice is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned- you start to take people and things at face value, rather than automatically attaching your prejudices and expectations to everything you see. Higher education is such a big deal, yet my professors at school didn't impart nearly as much wisdom as strangers on a bus, jewelry craftsmen selling their work on the street, or janitors working in hostels.
When you realise that everyone you meet has the capacity to teach you something, it makes you much more humble and open to connecting with every member of society, not just the ones deemed important and valuable based on a very rigid rating system.
You also start being a lot less intense about making sure you fit into a certain category of society, as you see the value in every person you meet and recognise that your own value is more than your resume or education.
Read: Super Simple Ways to save money while traveling
3. Flight (Let go of fear)
When nothing scares you, the world opens up and you can spread your wings to fly.
“I didn't fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”
- Albert Einstein.
Scientists are superheroes too, guys!
By far one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome in this life is fear- fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake, fear of being left alone, you name it. Today, we are surrounded by a media presence which loves to highlight and exaggerate all of the terrors we could come in contact with.
The media is wonderful at over-reporting bad news and events, while good news barely ever makes a presence.
It's hard to remain optimistic and remember that at the end of the day, we are all the same- we all want to have a good life filled with people we love and stability which allows us to have our basic needs met as we follow our pursuit of happiness. I was warned so many times by various concerned family members, about being kidnapped, raped, or mugged before I went off on my travels.
Guess what: I had maybe two bad experiences while abroad, the result of which was me learning to trust my gut. Maybe I have two hundred dollars less in my bank account, but I am much smarter about who I trust and confident in my ability to take care of myself- I take that over cowering in fear anyday! I ended up having much worse things happen to me in my own hometown than while abroad.
When you continually find yourself in a series of situations that push you out of your comfort zone, it suddenly dawns on you that this world is a lot less scary than we are led to believe, and we are much more capable of defending and advocating for ourselves than the bubble we grew up in let on.
The more times you are able to work out how to act and react to new people and situations, the more you understand that being scared of something usually draws that thing to you even more (law of attraction). Yet when you are confident and believe that everything will work out, it usually does- or you find another path to accomplishing your goals.
Read: How to find cheap flights - step-by-step
There is no such thing as failure, simply a sign from the universe telling you that this wasn't the path you're meant to take in order to reach your destination. Turn around and try another way!
Something that really stuck with me is that no situation is hopeless- it is all about your attitude and the way you choose to react to your surroundings. Fear is just your insecurity that you cannot cope with and overcome challenges that come your way. What better way is there to get confidence than to explore the world, one country at a time!
Another perk that comes with confidence in yourself is the ability to accept change as a natural part of life, one that often brings something bigger and better into your life.
4. Mind Control (Self expression)
The ability to express yourself effectively and feel confident in your oration skills has moved not only individuals but whole countries to do great things. The ability to control a room with your words is pretty much mind control if you ask me.
Can you imagine a superhero commanding a crowd whilst stuttering or filling the spaces between words with prolonged ummmms? I don't think so! Knowing how to make yourself heard and understood is super without a doubt!
One way to make sure you're staying authentic to yourself is finding the best language that works for you.
I don't mean literal languages, but body language and an intentional selection of words to use when expressing your thoughts and feelings. Something that blew me away while traveling is how one word can have a million drastically different connotations based on who you ask, and it is always best to avoid assuming that everyone has the same definitions as you do for vocabulary.
For example, I love using the word relationship- my relationship with my family, friends, coworkers, money, etc.
For many people, when I casually mention something about “our relationship,” they get quite scared and assume I am much more serious just because I have used the word “relationship” (and yes, a big percentage of those scared by this word were suitors who were absolutely terrified of commitment.) By traveling, you give yourself a chance to learn new ways of expressing yourself, physically as well as vocally.
When I was studying communication disorders, I was amazed to find out that rather than being handicapped or confused, bilingual children actually excel at expressing their thoughts because they have multiple languages in which to do so.
Traveling means exposing yourself to different cultures, each with its own customs, body language, understanding of the world, and language.
All of these differences allow you to creatively express yourself with more ease, thanks to the tools you pick up as you go.
5. Healing (Setting boundaries)
By far the most damaging thing we can let someone do to us is ignore and bulldoze the boundaries we have set for ourselves. No superhero would allow someone to walk all over them- how would they defend justice if they were too busy watering their neighbors plants for the hundredth time?
Setting up boundaries is a way to heal and respect yourself, as well as providing an example for others to do the same.
An additional perk I got out of this confidence was finally finding my voice and saying no when I did not like something. I have always been quite the people pleaser, a yes girl to the core. I was so scared of upsetting someone or being disliked, I had absolutely no boundaries and did whatever others wanted of me. Traveling gave me the confidence I needed not only to trust in myself, but to trust that others will respect my desires and honor my boundaries. I met so many different people- some I liked, and some I didn't.
Then it hit me, if I do not like everybody I meet, then maybe it is not so important that everyone likes me.
By becoming your authentic self, you actually open up your life to people who are naturally drawn and can resonate with your boundaries and lifestyle. Oddly enough, once I set those boundaries and began respecting myself enough to uphold them, I found that those around me also began to respect me more.
Trust that you are worthy of setting up and firmly standing by your boundaries! After all, if you don't take care of yourself, who will?
6. Divinity (Find your authentic self)
What could possibly be more divine than discovering and nurturing your authentic self, letting go of all the “supposed to be-s” and diving into your innate strengths.
Superheroes have a unique name for a reason- they know who they are and own both their strengths and weaknesses. After all, if you don't know yourself how are you meant to succeed?
It is definitely difficult to keep your priorities straight when you are constantly being bombarded with the opinions of your friends, family, social media, and community. One of the best methods to get away from all that and reconnect with your authentic self is to literally get away.
When I started traveling, I found myself free to make decisions based on what I genuinely wanted, rather than worrying about who I may offend or disappoint with my choices and actions. While in your hometown, you are stuck playing a role, one that was partially cultivated for you by the family and friends you grew up with, who expect you to behave a certain way. When you go away from all of that, you have a chance to recreate yourself, intentionally prioritising your needs and desires rather than those of others.
This gives you a chance to reconnect with your authentic self and build the life you want for yourself, rather than falling into the role you are “supposed” to fulfil.
Your life is yours, don't let anyone guilt or shame you into living it by their rules! For me, this meant letting go of the pressure to build a prestigious career, marry a lawyer or doctor, buy an expensive house and fill it with all sorts of gadgets I don't need or even really want.
7. Energy Manipulation (Minimizing!)
The objects, people, and thoughts you surround yourself with have a massive impact on your energy; it's only logical that by intentionally controlling and minimizing what and who you surround yourself with gives you more energy!
Imagine a superhero showing up to fight crime with three suitcases in tow- good luck with that captain hoarder! No, a superhero comes with the essentials and knows how to use it.
Next up is the amazing superpower you develop while traveling.
When you constantly have the restriction of packing your life into a small backpack, you learn quite quickly that your basic needs are met by a solid tenth of your closet’s contents. Back home, I have two closets in my room as well as a big section of the attic to store other seasonal clothes. Wouldn't you know it, when I moved to the Canary Islands I shipped over at least half of my things.
Three years later, and I found myself wearing the same five outfits anyway, while the rest of my clothes remained neglected at the back of my closet. Our society has become so consumerist-based that it's easy to get wrapped up in the feeling like you need to wear a different outfit every day of the month.
A crazy thing to consider is the fact that the US alone spends at least twenty four billion dollars a year for storage units- we’ve gotten to the point that our houses are so stuffed with things that we now pay to have an extra space for storing all the other things we don't need, making space to buy more unnecessary things. Thanks to traveling, I learned to better discern what counts as a necessity. I am proud to say, this perspective has spread to other areas of my life as well.
Read: The Smart Hostel Packing List
Quality over quantity has become my motto not only with clothes and material things, but also friendships, ways to make money, grocery shopping, and just about anything else you can imagine.
The less you chase after the big, shiny goals you’re supposed to prioritise, the more you open up space for appreciating the little things- a sunny day, someone giving you a flower or holding the door for you, the feeling of sand under your toes, or even just a smile from a stranger. Invest in experiences and memories, not things!
Watch this cool video for inspiration:
8. Invisibility (Adaptation)
You don't need to become invisible to avoid being seen- just really good at camouflage. Though they usually proudly wear their skin tight bodysuits and capes, sometimes superheroes use the art of subtlety and blending in to get the job done. Think of Violet from The Incredibles.
What you choose to let go in terms of the material world, you get back in double in way of experiences and relationships (yes, I am using this word, despite the terror it may incite in some of you!)
When you are moving around and constantly exposed to new cultures, languages, city structures, and social norms, you get quite adept at observing and adapting to your surroundings. I used to be quite the socially awkward human, with a hefty amount of social anxiety issues. Traveling helped me come out of my shell and realise that we are all super different, and just because you're not accepted by one community of people, it doesn't mean that you won't find your place.
Own who you are, and explore all the facets of your personality.
While in my hometown, Boston, I find myself walking faster and highlighting the part of myself which is efficient and task oriented. On the other hand, while living in Spain, I was much more laid back and nurtured the aspect of myself who loves to sit in a cafe and take two hours to drink coffee, while watching the waves and letting go of the to-do list constantly running through my head.
Each culture comes with it's own traditions and ways of doing things- by exposing yourself to more cultures, you get to explore different ways of living and see which suits you best. I like to think of it as making a collage of all the best aspects you've seen in various cultures.
You become a real life citizen of the world, capable of fitting in no matter what the setting is!
9. Shapeshifting (Expectations, serendipity and flexibility!)
Shapeshifting, also known as changing your form, can be a metaphor for the ability to easily adapt and adjust to fit your surroundings. A basic requirement of being a superhero is the ability to adequately react to the unexpected. If villains aren't masters of secret plans and unexpected attacks, I don't know who is! Elastigirl is quite the perfect physical manifestation of this skill!
One of the greatest ways I've learned to adapt is letting go of control. To say I am a control freak would be the understatement of the century- I love feeling like I am in control, writing up lists, planning out my day, and bossing people around. Not my best quality by far, but I'm learning to accept myself for who I am, flaws and all! Traveling really helped me let go of this need to micromanage everything in my life by erasing my illusion that it was even possible.
Buses are late, tours get canceled, people flake on the trip you've been planning together, and the city of your dreams turns out to be an utter disappointment.
One example that comes to mind is a trip I took to South America a few years back. My dream since I was a kid has been to visit the ruins of ancient civilisations that ruled the continent, Machu Picchu above all. A friend and I were planning to spend a full year exploring all the countries together.
That plan shifted from a year, to half a year, to a few months, to a mere two weeks together within an incredible short span of time. I was devastated, but realised that this is a part of life, opting to find other travel companions for the duration of my trip (which turned out to be wonderful, as it gave me a chance to reunite many friends I love dearly.)
Next, we were scammed into buying a tour almost ten times the standard price. The catch?
We didn't find out that this was the case until after paying the deposit (pretty would have covered an entire tour with any other agency.) Luckily, as an American, I am well versed in the art of using my credit card as a safety net for such scams- I contacted my card and reported a scam artist (a process that took well over half a year and many phone calls,) but ended up getting my money back and booking a different tour the day after our arrival to the country. The four day tour was for the very next day.
This experience taught me that very few things outside of yourself are actually within your control, but you have complete authority over the way you choose to react and handle what happens in your surroundings.
Thanks to traveling, I have given up on religiously sticking to my plans when they don't go as planned.
Not only is this painful, leading to you blaming yourself for not having better regulation of the people and events around you, but it is pointless. Some plans are simply not meant to come to fruition and that's okay!
Many of my favorite memories during my time abroad are thanks to plans getting destroyed, being replaced with incredibly fun and spontaneous days of adventure. The thing is, the more you plan and control your surroundings, the less space you leave for life to surprise you and bring wonderful gifts in the form of unexpected people and situations.
I realised over time that when I planned my whole life, I formed expectations of how these plans would go. This limited my ability to fully experience life, as I was so stuck to fulfilling my expectations I cut myself off from being present.
There is no such thing as a mistake, only an incapacity to learn from and enjoy the unexpected outcome.
10. Relationship Manipulation (A new perspective on relationships and people)
By learning to accept transient relationships, you also learn the subtle skill of managing and guiding the relationships around you to suit your needs, desires, and boundaries. The ability to discern who is the villain and who the victim is key to any self respecting superhero...
...imagine how awkward it would be if a beloved hero accidentally beat up the good guy.
Not only do you become skilled at integration and adaptation, but you also get more comfortable making new friends and speaking to people.
While traveling, you become much more open to meeting new people because you have no other choice- and you quickly realise that making friends has never been easier! Whether it's to ask for directions or making friends in a hostel, you start seeing humanity with rose colored glasses. Sure, there are always going to be jerks who only care about themselves.
But you quickly realise they are the minority, and most people are happy to help in any way they can. It is entirely too easy to stay in your comfortable bubble of childhood friends and school acquantainces while at home, but I love how much traveling forces you to broaden your horizons and connect with people who are drastically different from you, yet have a very similar set of priorities- happiness, success, and fulfillment in life.
No matter who you are or where you come from, at the end of the day all you want is a safe place to call home, a community of people who love and support you, and a way to make an impact in this world, leaving it a slightly better place than it was when you came. Recognizing this and seeing for yourself that we are all the same makes you feel all kinds of warm and gooey inside, I promise.
Another thing you become really good at is letting go, something I have struggled with my whole life.
As much as I hate labels, I would definitely categorise myself as someone who struggles with the idea of letting go, especially of people (also known as fear of abandonment, though please don't think my parents are not absolutely wonderful!) While in school, I constantly worried that my friends would leave me, after discovering the real me and finding someone much more exciting to spend their time with. When friendships ended, I immediately jumped to analyzing what I must have done wrong, or how I could have stopped this from happening.
Through traveling, I got really good at making friends but also at saying goodbye. When you and everyone you meet is traveling, it is inevitable that you will have a long list of goodbyes along the way.
Some people fill your time with joy and laughter, for one or two hours, and then you will never see them again. While you can see this as sad, I learned to see it as beautifully bittersweet. I am so honored to share whatever amount of time I get with these people, and recognise that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever- there simply isn't enough time for that.
Even more wonderful, are the people who you meet for a brief period of time, yet connect so strongly with that they become life-long friends who provide a glorious excuse to travel many more times in the future in order to see each other.
Transient relationships may be tricky and an emotional rollercoaster, but they teach you to accept life and let go of the need to control everything and everyone who enters yours.
Summary: Why Solo-travellers are Superheroes
In conclusion, traveling gives you an entire goody bag filled with superpowers and strengths that set you up for a much more enjoyable, stress free, and successful life. Whether it's the ability to read and connect with people, fit in and thrive in any environment, or discover and nurture your authentic self, traveling is a chance to explore the world and yourself and learn from the cultures, experiences, and people you meet.
I could go on and on about how I've become a better person, gotten a clearer definition of what I want from my life (rather than struggling to meet the expectations placed upon me by loved ones and our dear society,) but I'll spare you.
Instead, why not gather some motivation, a small sum of money - I assure you it's much less than you expect - and try it out for yourself. I promise, you won't regret it!
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