Traveling Alone Can Be A Real Productivity Booster, And Not Only
So, a few months back I had to go on a business trip to the US for a few days. There was a catch though. I had to go solo. Alone for the first time. Initially, I was kind of freaking out. Even though I’ve visited US a couple of times before, I was still kind of anxious. It was going to be my first time alone in a plane. In a foreign country. What if terrorists hijack the plane? What if I got lost at the airport? What if there is a turbulence and there is no one around me to hold my hand? I was worrying for nothing.
Not only traveling alone can still be fun, but it can also be a hell of a productivity experience.
Traveling often involves a lot of waiting, planning, packing, arranging, worrying if you’re going to be on time. When you travel with another person you always have someone who will support you along the way. Someone to speak with. Someone to hold your backpack when you go to the restroom. Someone to hold your hand when the plane takes off. A friend with who you can complain about your flight being late. A companion, who will probably notice if you’re going towards the wrong gate.
Actually, one of the main reasons people don’t travel as much as they wish it’s because they don’t have a companion. A fellow soul mate who can hug you when there is even a slight vibration.
After my quick visit to the US, I realized that traveling alone it’s not as I bad as I imagined. Actually, I turned out to be an amazing experience. The mandatory loneliness helped me stay focused and organize myself to execute a tremendous amount of work for a really short period of time. I was able to write this article, start another one, read one book cover to cover, while still doing the work for which I was sent to the US.
Want to hear what I’ve leardned after traveling alone from Europe to US for a few days?
Ok, let me tell you why traveling solo can be a gold mine for productivity and not that scary:
1. You Set The Rules
I’m a quite irritating guy when it comes down to traveling, or going somewhere in general. When I say that we have to leave from the hotel at 05:00 AM, I actually mean that we should all be ready and actually leaving, not tying our shoes or looking for our phones.
The first solo-trip-benefit was notable right from the start: you don’t have to comply with what other people want.
Yep, I sound like a total jerk, an anti-social guy, but that’s a real issue for me and I believe for other people as well.
You want to leave for the airport at 05:00 AM? Done. You get up and you go. You don’t have to ask people stuff like:
“Are you OK with the mentioned hour?”
“Do you want to sleep 5 more minutes?”
What, you don’t like the breakfast at the hotel and you want to go to the restaurant which is 5 kilometres from there? No worries…”
People have different interests which is normal. We’re raised differently. We want different things. We have different values. We have different skills. Different desires.
Unfortunately, this contrast in the pleasures we pursue as people eventually ends up being a pain. You might be OK with eating a ham sandwich prepared by the chef who is also the receptionist of the hotel you’re staying but your travel buddy might hate this option and prompt you to go somewhere else to eat.
When you’re solo you decide what needs to happen. Where you’re going to eat; When you’re going to leave the hotel; At what time you’re going to leave the party; What you want to see and what sightseeing you want to skip.
Basically, what you wish is always going to be happen.
2. More Time For Yourself And Your Thoughts
We’re rarely alone when executing our day to day chores. Whether you’ll be at home with the family. At work with your colleagues. In the neighborhood store getting groceries for dinner. Or you’re simply browsing online. In most of the cases, people will interact with you.
I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. Having a caring family and friends it’s surely a bliss. Yet, the benefit of wandering solo around the streets in a different continent is that you’ll get some time off from your world. For a while, you can be alone with your own thoughts and your own ambitions. No one to interrupt you or judge you. No one to tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do. When you’re alone you gain time away from the daily routines that sometimes can crush our creativity.
When you’re sitting alone in the hotel room, or in the cabin of the plane, you get the chance to know yourself better. A chance to plan things, think about things, arrange and re-arrange the priorities in your head till you finally find what’s best for you.
Since you don’t have a companion. You don’t even speak a lot. You just think. Which can be a great way to reevaluate your life and where you’re headed.
3. You Can Workout Whenever You Want
I’m a morning person.
I get up around 06:30 and I exercise for around 40 minutes when I’m at home. I’m doing this routine every-single-day for the past 7 months while I write this.
When I’m at home I simply get up, go to the other room and I train. I don’t have to ask for permission or worry that I’ll wake up someone.
When I’m traveling with someone though. Even if this is my wife, I have to be careful.
As you can imagine, me and my girl don’t rent apartments when we travel, for financial reasons. Usually, the hotel rooms we stay in have a single room with a bathroom. Meaning, we both need to be awake if I want to workout and to my disappointment, not a lot of people wake up early like me. Of course, I won’t get up and wake my companion with my heavy breathing and exercise routines. That’s why, when I travel with someone I either workout later, if possible, or I don’t work out, which is a real bummer for me.
While I was away alone this wasn’t an issue.
During my brief stay, I was waking up early, I was doing my sessions and there were 0 people influenced or harmed while lifting weights.
4. You Meet New People
Sitting alone in a restaurant or in the seat in the plane in most of the cases acts as a green light for other people around you to speak with you and try to connect.
Usually, this is not so cool because there some people who are really annoying and usually want to talk only about themselves. But that’s not always the case.
The best way to really experience other cultures, understand the values of a foreign country, is by speaking with the locals. To try to understand how they think and what are their views of the world.
On my way back to Bulgaria, I had the opportunity to talk to a really lovely lady.
She share her story, I shared mine. We started ordering shots. We got drunk, and…
No, I’m kidding. It was a pleasant conversations and I updated my view of the world.
I was able to read one book, cover to cover, take notes from my reading, arrange them, and also prepare this post during my stay. All this while I was doing my job for which I was sent to the US.
When you travel, even if you’re going with someone, you have a choice to make: You can either take advantage of the time you have in front of you. This includes the time in the hotel. The time spent on the plane. The time waiting for your connecting flight, in line, etc. Or, you can simply say “fuck it” and watch movies throughout your whole stay, unconsciously scroll through social media where you can share the places you’ve been and post pictures of your food.
When I fligh, I rarely see people who actually do some sort of work on the plane. They either sleep or watch movies. Some bring video games and their own tablests to watch their favourite TV shows.
Not that I don’t go through at least one movie when I’m doing a 10 hours flight, but I try to use at least 70% of my time in the clouds to do something that will benefit my future self, sort to say.
When I first visited US, I went to Los Angeles. The long flight was 11 hours. Most of the people around me were playing movie after movie or sleeping, not me. I was thinking “Wow. This is so cool. You’re basically locked in this metal grave, 10,000 feet above the ground, with no internet connection, no phone calls, no emails. Only crying babies can interrupt my focus but this can be easily blocked by putting my headphones on. This is the best time to get some shit done!”
And I did. I read books. Took notes. Started different articles. Thought about starting some sort of an online business. Who knows, probably this site was born while I was somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean.
Flying, especially transoceanic trips, are probably the best way to gain time and get more done. This is amplified when you’re doing it alone. There is no one to distract you. No one to call you and interrupt your silence.
You’re away from all the buzz. Disconnected from the whole world. Locked in a cabin with your own thoughts and ambitions. This is a great opportunity for the average procrastinator.
A chance to learn something new or do some work.
If you’re thinking about going somewhere, but you’re afraid of doing it alone, you should reconsider.
Surely there are a lot of benefits when you’re traveling with someone. The main one is that you’re not alone and you can both share the experience which is always a bliss.
Still, going to a different country, no matter if this will be for work or for pleasure has its own benefits. Not only you can do whatever you want. Eat where and what you please. But you’ll also have this big chunk of time which you can use to finally write something, read something or simply use to rest from all the buzz around.