After two weeks of non-stop crying and non-stop scrolling through Grindr, while crying, I knew I had to do something. Yes, it was a breakup! Four years together and with a simple phone call everything was set and done. At the time I was just a 23-year-old beach boy from sunny Puerto Rico recently relocated in the big apple. It felt like salt on my wounds that the break-up from the man I loved happened during the first winter of my life. I came to New York City to pursue a Master of Fine Arts and this was the longest time I had been away from home. My heart was frozen and all I was doing was sitting with my pain and crying overlooking at the snowflakes.
I went to drown my pain in a glass of booze at Barracuda, one of the last remaining gay bars in the once-thriving gayborhood of Chelsea. Mario, one of my only friends in the city at the time, was bartending. He recited the same clichés from across the bar that friends always say after breaking up from the man you loved: “Look around, baby, there’re plenty of fish in the sea.” True, there are plenty of fish in the sea—I was in New York, after all—but the only thing my broken heart could tell my depressed brain was that none of those fish are MY fish.
After school let out for the summerI was supposed to go back home to Puerto Rico, but the last thing I wanted to do was run into him. I didn’t want to dwell on the relationship and I didn’t want to be sad anymore. I wanted to be free and I wanted an adventure. “Screw it!” I told myself and I booked a flight to London for three months. It was going to be my first time out of the States and traveling solo. I felt better already—it was exhilarating.
After 14 countries, 20 cities and countless adventures, traveling the globe alone proved to be the best medicine to mend a broken heart, and I learned invaluable lessons along the way. Here are 7 reasons why you too should travel solo at least once in your life:
1. You think you’ve had the best sex of your life; well, you haven’t
After being in a long relationship, the first thing that came to mind was: “Am I ever going to find someone as good as him?” This is tricky because, unconsciously, by comparing others to our exes we set ourselves for failure. We put incredibly high expectations and pressures on others when we go out on dates. But when we are on the road there’s no expectation to date anyone. We are able to be relaxed and take the situation, and the person, for what it is—knowing that we will probably not see them again.
Guess what happens when you’re relaxed? Good sex! Different cultures don’t only bring new culinary experiences, but also introduce us to alternatives ways of exploring sexuality, our bodies, and the other. Go to Germany and see what I’m talking about. 😉
When traveling alone you have more possibilities to meet and involve yourself with strangers than when traveling with friends. There’s no one to impress or feel restrained by. You can try it with that hot tourist guy without the fear of being rejected and being seen by others. You can really go wild! Ok, ok, I’ll share one of my Berlin stories with you.
I was riding a bike and this hot guy started to ride next to me. I keep looking and checking him out and he’s doing the same. We continued to do this for almost a mile and then eventually I turned left. I couldn’t stop thinking of him all day—I felt stupid for not seizing the moment, for not saying something. It was obvious that he was checking me out as well.
It was pride weekend and that night there was a special party in some basement club. As I was walking to the party guess who crossed my path? Sounds like a movie, I know, but it was even better. He immediately recognized me and, this time, neither of us missed the chance. Turns out he was a Brazilian/German dancer for a company in Berlin. Yep… neither of us made it to the party 😉
2. You become more attractive
I was not eating or sleeping well, and as a consequence lost weight, and in every picture my body was set. I’m joking! Well, kind of. The reason you become more attractive is because you become more knowledgeable. Guys like guys who travel. When you share that you have done a lot of traveling by yourself, you become immediately interesting to the other. You have stories to share and you are perceived as independent. When we travel alone we acquire skills that we would not develop if traveling with someone. Research is all on you, for example.
Learning from different cultures and absorbing different ways of living gave me an understanding of the other that I wouldn’t be able to get from books. What you learned on the way is something that no one will be able to take from you, from a different language to different ways to move the body. “The more languages you speak, the more people you are.” Hot, right?
3. Bye bye anxiety
When I got to London, that sensation I felt when I came out of the train station into the city center for the first time is tattooed in my memory. My stomach was tight as a knot, my feet were moving erratically, and I kept opening and closing my hands as if I could grasp the air. The backpack I had was almost my size, and with every step I felt a falling sensation; I felt so anxious not knowing where I was and where to go. And soon I realized that that’s why I was traveling, to get lost. I wanted an adventure. I had nowhere to go and nowhere to be. It was truly a freeing sensation, feeling lost and happy about it.
Nothing will empower you more than realizing that there’s really nowhere to go and nowhere to be. At the end of the trip, I saw that anxiety was a story I would tell myself when fixating on the future. Traveling alone gave me the greatest opportunity I’ve had to be fully present without worrying what would happen next. It was liberating to be in places where no one knew who I was. Having the opportunity to introduce myself, a new in on a daily basis, helped me feel better in my skin.
4. Hello, Network!
In a world of connections like the ones we live, there’s no better way to meet someone than when we travel alone. It forced me to looked around at the bars and events I went to and be social. Whenever I went to a bar, there was always someone who eventually approached me, wanting to know why I was alone. There was this guy I met in Berlin, then ran into in Madrid, and ended up going on a romantic trip with to Brazil.
People move to the big cities to do this, but there’s no better place to meet and connect with an influencer than when you are both in a pool in Ibiza enjoying a sunset. And if you don’t meet someone successful, you can get an honest friendship, and there’s nothing better than having a free house to stay in in London…pretty expensive place, you know.
5. You consume less
At the end of my 3-month trip, my perspective and consumption had changed. I would get rid of stuff and things on the road. Very soon, I found that I brought way too many things that I didn’t need, and before buying anything I would think about it two or three times because buying something meant putting more weight into my bag.
When we travel with someone we constantly pressure each other into consuming and getting stuff. By being with myself and seeing how little many people lived on out there, I became conscious of where I was putting my money.
6. You will meet Spontaneity, and it will give you confidence
After missing flights, getting lost, delays, getting bad street food and having to go to the bathroom in creative ways, I became more easy going and adaptable. Last minute decisions now are easier for me to make. Remember the breakup? Well, me neither. Traveling healed me. Gave me insight and perspective I wouldn’t be able to acquire in other ways. Missing a flight is like a breakup: it is no longer a tragedy, it is an opportunity.
Things gain the level of importance and weight that we put into them. Soon enough I realized that the breakup was simply a chance to explore new places, to explore myself. Without that phone call, I would have never put myself on that plane in the first place and met the friends, lovers, and experiences I had. We really never know why things happen, but this I can tell you: as soon as I stopped resisting change, the happier I became. A knowledgeable, non-materialistic, relaxed, connected, spontaneous guy: how does it sound to you? You want to date that guy, right? Well, I’m still single 🙂 . But seriously, that’s the way you will feel after going through this life changing experience. No longer fearful of making decisions or approaching strangers.
7. Guess who’s the travel expert now?
My research skills and adventurous days helped me to now make better decisions every time I travel, saving time and money. That first trip opened Pandora’s box, and I’ve not been able to close it since, and I’m not sure that I want to. Traveling is now a way of living for me. Now I know how to get cheap flights and accommodations, and what kind of tours to get myself into or not. Traveling gave me a new purpose in life: now I’m a travel blogger on the road full time. Helping others do the same and discovering the gifts that only the road can offer is my new goal.
Traveling made kindness unfold her beauty, and all I want to do now is to pay it forward. This is what I wrote in my journal at the end of that 3-month Euro trip:
“Three months ago I decided to start from scratch, to begin again, to not try or think…just be…open to spontaneity, I’ve been walking like I have never walked before…to unknown places, at the mercy of unknown people…and I have learned…yes! Learned…that nature gives us everything we need…strangers have given me their houses, their food, their wine, their friendship…YES, in every single country…I have learned that perceptions and prejudices limit us from experiences and brotherhood…I learned that we should not belong to countries or flags, borders, or passports…we belong to the same world…and the most beautiful thing to learn was that we are NOT the same, and in that difference is where true beauty resides. Respecting that the other doesn’t need to have my same beliefs or orientations to share a slice of bread, a smile, a hug, or a life changing conversation…”