7 ways solo travel can heal you, according to psychology

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

One of the books that has fascinated me recently was Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”. If you’ve never read it or watched the movie based on it, it’s about how a woman trekked across the Pacific Crest Trail to heal her brokenness. 

I won’t spoil the book or movie for you, but suffice it to say that it was the perfect example of how solo travel can bring about healing. I love solo traveling myself, and I never fail to come home refreshed after a trip. 

If you’re in search of some healing yourself, you’re in the right place. Today, I’m sharing 7 psychology-backed ways that solo travel can help you overcome the pain you carry inside and move forward with a lighter heart. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) It enhances self-awareness

To rephrase the old 70’s song, have you been to paradise but never been to you? 

That song was a wonderful contradiction of sorts – here was a woman who has had so many experiences in life, but has never known herself. 

That’s where solo travel can help…if done right. 

It can be a powerful journey of self-discovery because you’re doing all sorts of things out of your comfort zone. You’re discovering how you react when placed in an unfamiliar situation. 

You’ll see just how much you’re capable of…and chances are, it’s more than you ever thought it was. 

Besides, when you’re traveling alone, who else is there to talk to? There’d be long stretches of time where you’re talking to yourself, reflecting on everything that’s happened to you, just sitting and feeling it all. 

Of course, that isn’t going to happen if you’re glued to your phone the whole time, which is why I added: “if done right”. 

For solo travel to be a healing experience, you’ve got to get in touch with yourself, no matter how painful or boring it sounds. 

The West Coast Recovery Center says that introspection is necessary for recovery. 

“People do not wish to self-examine as it brings all flaws to the surface. Yet this is something that changes a person’s entire mindset. They are no longer the closed-off person they once were. Instead, they are now accepting the new person they want to be,” writer John Sharpe says. 

That’s what solo travel can do – it can lead you to meeting and loving this new, improving version of you.

2) It promotes independence and decision-making

Obviously, when you’re traveling alone, you’ve got no one to depend on. There’s only you and the universe stretched out before you. 

Should you visit this botanical garden or go on a food trip? Should you stay in your hotel or accept that dinner invitation from the stranger you met in the museum? 

YOU decide. 

I won’t lie, it’s uncomfortable if you’ve never gone on a solo trip before. On my first one, I was terrified. I had a lot of should-I’s and should-I-nots, and a lot of anxiety inside because I wasn’t very sure of myself. 

But that was also precisely why I decided to venture out on my own. My life had become stagnant, owing to the fact that I had low self-esteem and felt incapable of so many things.  

And you know what? After that first trip, it got easier. I’d survived and seen what I could do! 

The beautiful thing about solo traveling is that it also develops your intuition. As you do more of it, your instincts become sharper and you begin to make decisions with more certainty. 

3) It builds adaptability and resilience

What if your plane gets delayed? Luggage gets lost? You get lost? 

What if the hotel you booked turns out to be a dud? What if you hate the food? What if you get caught in sudden rain? 

There are hundreds of what-ifs when you’re traveling, even more so if you’re traveling alone. It really is an exercise in survival. 

And as you know, only the ones who can adapt will survive

I don’t mean to make it sound like solo traveling is a scary endeavor (well, of course, it is, but believe me, you’ll be fine), it’s just that it really calls for resilience. 

But not to worry, that’s exactly why you’re doing it – you’re there for healing. Resilience is a huge part of that. 

According to Everyday Health, “Being resilient does not mean you never experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering.” 

4) You learn to trust yourself

Navigate enough of those obstacles and make enough of those decisions above, and you’ll quickly learn to trust yourself. 

This is absolutely crucial for healing. Trauma so often makes us lose sight of who we are. We’re invalidated and we lose our voice. 

According to Dr. Daniela Sieff, “Trauma changes and distorts aspects of our bodies and minds, so building self-trust after trauma is a complex process.”

She further says, “While working with inner distortions, we continue to place our trust in those who are helping us. However, there comes a point when we must reclaim that trust. If we are to thrive, we must eventually stand on the ground provided by our own inner world.”

This is something I discovered myself when I got into solo traveling. I can’t tell you how good it feels – how healing – to be able to stand on my own, shedding all those distortions that I carried around for a long time. 

Which brings me to the next point…

5) It provides perspective and inspiration

A fresh mind is one of the most valuable gifts solo travel brings with it. 

As we’ve established earlier, trauma or pain distorts aspects of the mind. We get stuck in harmful patterns of thinking, and we’re often unaware that there could be other ways of approaching our problems. 

Or, we may know that there must be, but we don’t know how to go about it. 

Well, much like we need to air out stuff long stashed in the closet to get rid of the musty and moldy smells, our mind needs airing out as well. 

Dr. Jared Packer puts it this way: “Our perspective can influence our beliefs. Different truths can manifest as we open ourselves to different points of view.” 

Sometimes all we need is to be in a new place, see new things, and meet new people. Encounter things we’ve never encountered before and savor them for the first time, without the habitual lens we’ve always used. 

Exploring the world alone can challenge your old ways of thinking and inspire you. Seeing how different people live and solve problems can motivate you to try new things or even change your life. 

6) It encourages connection with others

And I don’t even mean just people. Connecting with nature, places, and cultural aspects can be just as healing. 

Look, when we’re wounded, our instinct is to withdraw and disconnect. This is a natural protective response, but the problem is, isolation can deepen our distress even more. 

Solo travel counteracts this by nudging us towards new connections. 

You might think it’s ironic, given how you’re literally all alone. But really, when you’re wandering around in a completely foreign place, there’s bound to be something you’ll connect with. 

For instance, when I went on a hike in California and reached the top, I felt an immense sense of peace. 

Looking down at the landscape of centuries-old sequoias, pine trees, and cold streams, I knew I was witnessing something larger than me. 

Instead of making me feel more lost, it actually made me feel more grounded and connected. I had this sense that the universe is infinitely mysterious, beautiful…and that there’s so much I will never know. 

Strangely, it brought me to a place of acceptance. Yes, I may never get some answers to my burning questions, but I can still move on despite that. 

I was just grateful to be part of the world and it was time I broke out of the walls I’d built around me.

7) It encourages mindfulness

Finally, solo travel trains us to be more mindful of both ourselves and our surroundings. Solitude always makes us more aware of our thoughts. 

In psychology, mindfulness is a concept so central to healing. Expert Jon Zabat-Kinn explains why: 

“Mindfulness of thoughts allows you to be aware of a thought or strong emotion as a kind of a storm in the mind or an event in awareness. Once you see it as an event or a storm, it no longer has the same power over you.”

That’s really what healing is all about – to make those old negative patterns loosen their hold over us, enough that we can begin to see the way forward. 

When you’re alone with your thoughts in an unfamiliar environment, every sensation and experience is heightened. You: 

  • Become more attuned to the ebb and flow of your emotions
  • Begin to see your thoughts and feelings as temporary, observable events
  • Realize that they don’t have to control you anymore. 

Once you realize this, you can make the leap from powerless to empowered. It’s exactly what you need to move forward.

Final thoughts

Before ending this, I’d like to share the lovely way Cheryl Strayed encapsulated the tremendous change that happened to her over her long trek: 

“For once I didn’t ache for a companion. For once the phrase ‘a woman with a hole in her heart’ didn’t thunder into my head. That phrase, it didn’t even live for me anymore.” 

That’s been the case for me, too. In my experience, solo travel has been a source of inspiration and possibility. 

And always, I am left with a sense of both fierceness and humility – it’s a huge world out there, and I’m just honored to be a part of it.  

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

People who always seem to be in control of their life usually display these 9 specific behaviors

7 phrases insecure men use when they feel intimidated by a woman