As soon as I could hold the concept of my future in my head, as in a future in which school wouldn’t be a thing and I would have to make decisions about my life for myself, the idea of exploring the world appealed to me. Throughout my last years of secondary school and during my time at sixth form college, I plotted hundreds of different trips for future me: some relatively reachable, others sheer fantasy, but all got me a little closer to the plan that actually materialised.
Long story short, once I finished college I took a gap year, and for some of that time independently circled the globe. On this journey I learnt many things, but the overwhelming feeling this trip gave me was one of having absolutely no regret towards the decision I made; in fact, travelling during my gap year was possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Here’s seven (of many) reasons why I think other people should consider it:
Starting off with a cliché, but one that deserves to be mentioned the amount of times it is. Being a solo traveller will push you to your limits, a lot of the time. You will find yourself unsure of many things and, if you’re anything like me, asking people for help is daunting at best. Both having the courage to ask questions and the confidence to tackle new situations get easier the longer you’re away from home.
Create stronger friendships
One of the wonderful things about travelling is the fact that you have the potential to meet so many like-minded people. At school, friendships are born as a consequence of sharing the same school environment. As you travel, you get talking to all sorts of people, who all have a strong desire to experience the world, and this helps put you in situations with new people you’re likely to share passions with. Some of my strongest friendships have flourished as a result of travelling, bonding with people who might also be looking for similar experiences or struggling in the same way as me.
Appreciate the world more
Your perspective on home and your place on the planet will be shaken up, your world will concurrently feel a lot bigger and a lot smaller: standing in the shadow of Uluru with thousands of miles of desert separating me from any major city gave me a peek into the vastness of the globe, but knowing I’d visited Christchurch, New Zealand, nearly the furthest city away from my hometown, made me see the trivial size of this blue and green marble we call home.
Improve life skills
Even the most straightforward of trips requires planning, organisation, budgeting, problem solving, effective communication, positivity, initiative… The list could go on for a long time. The point is, just the process of going on a travelling adventure will naturally improve your abilities in all of these areas.
An idea that goes hand in hand with improved life skills, there’s no doubt your independence strengthens with solo travel. Not just how you’re seen by others – “you’re in Australia alone? At 18?” – but also how you see yourself and your capabilities.
Give yourself time to decide on your future
How many people actually know, with a great deal of confidence, what they really want to pursue in the long term? From observation of the people I was surrounded by at college, I’d say quite a big proportion of people end up going to university to study something they’re not that sure about, just because that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do. Personally, I don’t see what the rush is; perhaps even taking one year out of education to explore other passions could lead you to a much more certain idea of what you want out of your future. It definitely changed my plans.
Learn more about yourself
I learnt more about myself in one hour sweating on a farm in Hawaii as I tore weeds out of the ground, than I did in a year confined within the walls of a classroom. I learnt I was resilient, capable of coping alone, and that I’m even more susceptible to sunburn than I thought was possible. These kinds of revelations were frequent, as I faced new challenges and discovered things about myself I hadn’t really considered before. Oh and it also meant my budget was blown one week on very expensive suncream – never put yourself in a position where you need to buy suncream in Hawaii.