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20 Life Lessons from Solo Traveling 20 Countries

There is nothing quite like waking up in a foreign place, alone. 

It brings a sense of the deepest understanding of possibility. 

Ownership. 

Free from any routine or external influence – every moment is yours to create. 

From a beautiful season, here are a few lessons learned that shape how I navigate today: 

  1. Time is our most valuable resource – Every day we have on this earth has 24 hours. How to spend them is up to us. Experiment in all the ways you can, as soon and often as possible, to find your personal, optimal flow of how to best enjoy time. Every day thereafter will be more full. 
  2. Depth > breadth – Getting to know the local vantage points, restauranteurs, farmer’s markets, neighborhood streets and hikes is always more memorable than rushing to “the sights”. Our standard 2 weeks of vacation a year in the U.S. is a sham. Richness of all experience deepens with time. 
  3. Off-peak is best for everything – Lines, crowds, and peak pricing, by their nature, directly oppose the optimal investment of time. With the exception of special and group events, I aim to do as much as I can in this life (commutes, groceries, bank runs, etc.) off-peak. 
  4. We are all human – We’re a collective unit, us humans, trampling around here on earth. All with bodies, emotions, brainwaves, heartbreaks and dreams. Every system we’ve created to “separate” ourselves is a facade. Currently, COVID is politely reminding us of this.
  5. Begin again – Getting back from your hike after the last bus out of a Japanese volcano town has departed and trekking down the highway in the dark until you reach an open hotel to mime your way through asking for help to get a cab is a real emotional roller coaster. But tomorrow, the sun will rise, and we get to begin again. Every day, every moment, for as long as we live. There is extreme freedom in remembering this often.
  6. The nervous system thrives on routine – During my first few months on the road, my schedule was all over – and my digestion, sleep cycles, and energy levels took a nosedive, fast. In an effort to build routine, I bought a ceramic mug for my carry-on, to drink water from first thing when I woke up. For 6 months, this mug was my “home.” It was indescribably comforting at the time. We deserve so much more comfort than one mug has to offer, but small changes can have a big impact.
  7. “Cities are cities” – Noticing the systematic structure of one thing is the foundation of noticing the systematic structure of all things. Observing cities profoundly impacted my understanding of growth systems which profoundly impacts my understanding of holistic wellness. Everything is interconnected. In cities, the details created by locals – through art, architecture, food cultures, entertainment, etc. – are what make them each uniquely vibrant!
  8. You are your most important relationship – Each of us will spend every moment for the rest of our lives inside of our own body, spirit and mind. May as well enjoy it! It is cliche because it’s true – the more we love ourselves, the more we love we have to share. Solo travel is a fast track to getting to intimately know, understand, embrace, and love, our whole self. 
  9. Community is only one step away – Likeminded humans are everywhere! If you’re not yet comfortable opening conversations in another language IRL (everything with practice), there is an “Expats in ___” group online for all popular destinations. You’ve got options, one step away. This is true for everything in life. 
  10. Allow time for magic When the itinerary is packed, serendipity has no chance. Welcome it whenever possible. “The scenic route” is a metaphor for so much.
  11. We need way less than we think – Baggage is heavy, and you’ll always want to pick up more memories along the way. Remote destinations aside, underpacking does more good than overpacking, in life and on the road.
  12. Experience breeds discernment – Crafting your personal flow of trip length, type of activities, speed of day, time for curiosities, when to say no vs. yes, etc. all get sharper every time. Also true for everything! 
  13. Emotions are universal – Learning foundational words in the language of each country you visit shows respect. Smiling shows connection. Both welcome wonders. 
  14. Shoot your shot – Table with a view? Walk-in for 1 at the world’s #12 restaurant? Possible flight/car/hotel room upgrade? Won’t know unless you ask. Game changer. 
  15. Live in the moment – Removing distraction heightens awareness, so the nature of solo travel is naturally: deeper presence. Once the mind has experienced this, it is forever expanded, and can be accessed at anytime. (See also: meditation.)
  16. Always extend the layover – You’re already there. Seize the day! 
  17. 24 hours (or less) is better than not at all – Life is fleeting. Enjoy it anyway.
  18. Solo adventures are important; Shared adventures are the best – Freedom is exhilarating. Being able to look back and laugh on shared experience 6 months down the line with someone else is exponentially more meaningful.
  19. Be in love as often as possible – Through all the means you have – be in love. With places, with life, the process, with moments, with others, with yourself. All in life and travel is brightest in love. 

    Most importantly?
  20. Every moment is always yours to create.

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