Most solo travelers that make School of the World a stop on their journey, view their travels as an opportunity to not only embrace new people, landscapes, languages, foods, and ways of life but also find that they become more in tune with who they truly are.
Jasmin, a recent solo traveler that spent two weeks at the school, agrees that traveling by herself has molded her into who she is both when she’s on the road and when she’s at home. Over a series of Instagram messages and a shared Google Doc (Because we all have Zoom fatigue!), we uncovered why Jasmin loves traveling solo, and why she encourages everyone to try it at least once in their lifetime.
SOTW: Let’s cut to the chase. What is your favorite thing about traveling solo?
Jasmin: As someone who has taken three solo trips, the appeal of solo travel is simple. You can do whatever you want because you’re the only decision maker! However, there is a caveat to that statement. Because you’re traveling alone, you’re basically forced to make connections with other people that you typically wouldn’t make if you were traveling with a partner or group of people. Your social competence grows, your awareness of who you truly are as an individual is enhanced, and your appreciation for life is deepened. It’s simple. The more you see of the world through your own lens and the more experiences you make as an independent decision-maker, the higher chance you’ll have at meeting new and interesting people, learning valuable life lessons, and becoming a more empathetic human being.
SOTW: It sounds like you’ve also gained a level of comfort and confidence when it comes to setting off on a self-led adventure. Have you always felt this way about solo travel? Tell us about your first solo trip.
Jasmin: No. I was incredibly nervous when it came time to back my bags for my trip to Thailand, my first solo traveling experience. At 20 years old, it was the first time I had traveled outside of Europe, and to be honest, it wasn’t even planned as a solo trip. After a series of last-minute changes to the original plans, I found myself alone in a country whose language I didn’t speak. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t doubts, moments of uncertainty, or the thought of going home, but embracing that trip through a country that was over 8,000 miles from my home in Austria completely changed my perspective of solo travel. I met countless new people, I completely came out of my comfort zone, and I learned things about myself that I never would have known if I had been traveling with my friend.
SOTW: Aren’t the best things in life unplanned? It says a lot that you continued on when things were seeming to fall apart. Speaking of things falling apart, anyone who has traveled either alone or with other people knows that it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and have a backup plan. As a solo traveler, do you have any specific pieces of advice that you’d like to pass along?
Jasmin: In general, the biggest piece of advice that I can give is to use your common sense. Trust your gut, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t make obviously poor decisions. Through my personal experiences, I have also learned that it’s incredibly helpful to know at least the basics of the native language of the country that you’re traveling to. The ability to communicate will not only help you have a more enjoyable experience, but it also has the power to keep you safe if you’re in an unsafe situation. As a solo traveler, I’ve found that it’s best to stay in groups. Meeting new people is fun and exciting, but not all people are good people. I prefer to only accept bottled or sealed beverages, and I never go out alone after dark. I keep my senses about me, and I always tell someone where I’m going and when I expect to be home.
SOTW: Thanks for sharing your advice. We agree that it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone when solo traveling but abandoning your decision-making abilities to make choices that affect your safety is never a good idea. Switching gears a bit, can you tell us how traveling solo has impacted your life beyond your travels?
Jasmin: The solo trips that I have taken have completely changed my life. My second solo trip was to Central America. I traveled to Mexico and then went on to Cuba. While this trip had its ups and downs, I wouldn’t change a thing about it because while I was in Mexico, I met my current boyfriend. It’s hard to say, but a part of me doubts that we would have connected had I been traveling with other people. Aside from the physical connections that I’ve made during my travels, I’ve also found a new sense of appreciation for the simple things in life. When I am home in Austria, I enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the comforts that home brings. I spend time with my cats, Chapo and DaVinci, and I ski in the winter and spend the summers swimming in one of the plenty of lakes that we have in Austria. In my opinion, if you want to travel by yourself, I think that it’s important to be at peace with yourself. I’ve been fortunate enough to also feel that sense of peace when I’m not traveling.
SOTW: That’s a great point. Sometimes it takes going somewhere new to appreciate what we already have. To wrap up, we want to get your definition of our favorite phrase: Pura Vida.
Jasmin: Can I just say that Pura Vida truly embodies everything that it means to be a solo traveler? Not only is it a reminder to chill out and take things one day at a time, but it’s also seeing the beauty in everything and appreciating it just as it is. It’s connecting to nature, as well as yourself. It’s living life to the fullest and being kind to yourself and the world around you. When I traveled solo to School of the World, I was shown what it means to live Pura Vida. The people, surfing, yoga, Spanish language, and the beauty of the Pacific coast and the jungle will forever remind me of one of my very favorite experiences, not just as a solo traveler but as an individual that finds herself happiest when exploring and connecting with our incredible earth.