Has Solo Travel Made Me More Confident?

After more than two months of solo travel here in Canada, I have met countless people from all over the world and gained an empowering sense of independence. But have I transformed from a relatively shy introvert into a self-assured social butterfly?

The answer to this would be no. While I am no shrinking violet and, being from Liverpool in England where people are generally as tough as old boots, do not tolerate fools gladly, the insecurities I had before my travels have not all of a sudden disappeared.

Travel is not a magic wand for ridding you of your hang-ups. It is however a great way of improving your coping mechanisms and making you appreciate what you have.

It is also, I believe, a great way of improving your confidence.

Do not get me wrong, I still have a habit of sometimes walking down the street with my head facing towards the ground – one of the greatest body language signals of a lack of self-confidence.

But there is something liberating in the knowledge that I made this trip happen and took control of my life.

Last year, not long after launching this blog, I wrote an article about why I wanted to travel solo.

This was before I had even booked my flight to Canada. In fact, at this point, I was actually considering travelling around Germany and Eastern Europe.

Learning more about myself, getting out of the comfort zone and gaining some perspective were amongst my reasons for wanting to travel.

The experiences I have had so far have collectively contributed towards these personal goals and although, like everybody does, I still get those days where I feel like an ugly, useless waste of space, my confidence has most definitely increased and I feel much stronger and capable than I did a few months back.

I often wonder what it takes to be a highly confident person.

I do not mean arrogance – an awful trait – where somebody thinks they are above it all and better than others.

I am talking about real confidence, which is much more than having the ability to walk down the street with your head held high. I am referring to that feeling inside that makes you feel strong and self-assured. A knowingness that you have value in the world and that you are in control of your life. A confidence that is so genuine, it resonates onto the outside and makes you comfortable to be around.

Confidence is an attractive quality in a person, especially when it is teamed with good qualities such as kindness, tolerance and a good sense of humour.

When I was in Seattle, I remember a man with a soulful voice walked down the street belting out something like: “You’ve got to love yourself, or nobody will love you.”

Okay, this guy had most likely knocked back way too many cans of Special Brew – or whatever the American equivalent is – but these words made a lot of sense.

I have often been guilty of being my own worst enemy and letting others drag me down with their negativity or cruel behaviour.

Sometimes I avoided social situations that could have potentially been beneficial, because I was worried about nobody liking me, or that I would be an awkward mess.

These were the actions of somebody who did not like themself very much and lacked a considerable amount of confidence; a person that expected rejection and so held back out of self-preservation.

Being in an unhealthy working environment was part of the problem.

I can feel assured now that leaving my job was the best decision I ever made.

It is funny, while travelling the insecurities that used to be so overwhelming have hardly figured at all.

At home, especially in work, I was always self-conscious of being too quiet, of not being interesting, of my work not being good enough. There was always something bringing me down.

I almost felt ashamed of being myself, which is essentially a nice person with good intentions who can be a bit shy and nervous sometimes, but can be chatty, confident and funny given the right environment and company.

Here, I have had no problem at all chatting away and making new friends. I feel a lot more at ease.

I do not feel judged and out-of-place.

The distance has made me see things more clearly and I know now what to avoid in the future.

I am always nice to other people, I just need to work on being nice to myself.

Becoming as confident as I would like to be is still a work in progress, but I know I am definitely moving in the right direction.

This quote by Norman Vincent Peale sums up the importance of having self-confidence pretty well…

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

Does travel help increase your confidence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

  1. July 16, 2012 / 03:16

    I think travel definately helps one’s confidence. But it is also dependent on state of mind and the situation. I think the more you challenge your own boundries the more you are able to adapt and become more confident. I was a really awkward teen, the best thing i did to gain confidence was join Toastmasters, it’s kind of like a public speaking club. (It also did wonders for my resume).

    • July 18, 2012 / 15:55

      True, you have to take advantage of the opportunities in order to grow. Just travelling and not trying new things is not enough, pushing the boundaries is key. Glad to hear public speaking helped you as a teen. I still shudder at the thought of presentations ha ha.

  2. July 16, 2012 / 20:50

    There is nothing like travel to help you look outside yourself. Your two months solo travel is a form of education that can never be duplicated in a classroom. That is why at one time, ‘doing the continent’ was part of every wealthy, young person’s ‘coming of age’ requirement.

    • July 18, 2012 / 15:52

      Travel is a great education and never fails to open your mind more and make you wiser.

  3. July 17, 2012 / 02:27

    Great post :) It was nice getting to know you a little better with this one :) Keep enjoying your travel. You must be enjoying it for the usual reasons, I’m sure (the food, the places, the people) but the fact that it’s making you a better person is the cherry on top.

    • July 18, 2012 / 15:50

      Cheers Fernando, I’m definitely enjoying all of those points you mentioned – especially the food – and it is great to be enjoying something so much that is hopefully benefitting me in other ways as well.

  4. July 18, 2012 / 04:12

    Totally agree with your point that travel helps you learn to adapt and deal with different situations. I’m one of these people that can appear confident but inside am petrified of dealing with difficult situations. When you have no choice but to deal with them it can only be a positive step in improving your confidence.

    • July 18, 2012 / 15:49

      Totally agree, doing anything that is out of the comfort zone and difficult always pays off.

  5. August 15, 2013 / 11:41

    Hi I understand many of the points you make about yourself in this post. I am glad you hear that travelling has helped you make such progress. I have just finished university and before starting full time work I intend to travel for 12-18 months to try and help develop my confidence as well as my personal skills with new people ( as well as having an awesome time). Do you think this prolonged period will help me develop and do you have any tips for me? Thanks

    • August 15, 2013 / 17:13

      Hi John, travel will definitely improve your confidence but only if you get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new activities and situations, which is easier to do while travelling – especially solo travel! Where are you thinking of going?

      • August 15, 2013 / 17:27

        Hi – I travel to Sydney Sept 10th from there on we shall see how things pan out. I have a few places in mind but I am sure this will all change. I hope this makes a big difference as it will be the first time traveling alone and there are many new people to meet along the way. This could not be further out of my comfort zone! Did you find anything particularly helpful for breaking yourself out of being shy or meeting new people on your travels?
        John James recently posted..Dominica: The Nature Island of the CaribbeanMy Profile

        • August 15, 2013 / 19:16

          Honestly, if you’re staying in dorms you will meet people! Try and book smaller dorm rooms of 6 beds or less – as there’s more of a social atmosphere while in the bigger ones people tend more to do their own thing. Just be friendly, say hi and chat to people. In Aus there will be loads of solo travellers and you’ll meet loads of people. I would really recommend trying different things. I volunteered on a farm, worked in a coffee shop for a few weeks. Don’t be afraid of spending time on your own either as being confident and feeling secure alone also increases confidence. It takes time for confidence to grow and you might not even realise it until much later. I’m quite a confident person now, but was painfully shy as a kid and had some bad experiences with people that knocked my confidence as an adult. Now that I’m getting on a bit (ha!) I’ve found generally positive thinking and doing things that make you feel uncomfortable (like going to a networking event) are the best ways of improving confidence. But ultimately, just be nice to yourself and not let idiots get you down. There are lots of ace people to meet out there and you’ll meet many fun, open-minded peeps on your travels.