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The Solo Adventure that will Change Your Life

It's time to ditch your man, your friends, and OMG—your phone, for major alone-time. Why? Experts say it will rock your world... and change the way your brain works.

When Trey Ajusto, a 28- year-old trading executive, decided to go on a Luzon-wide road trip, she knew she wanted to go alone. “It was my way of challenging myself, to see and experience something different and get a sense of fulfillment from doing it on my own,” she says. Trey did just that: learning to love the perks of sleeping alone in hotels, relying on kind strangers to take her to her destinations, and discovering tranquil spots overlooking a magnificent beach or mountain view…and she became hugely confident in the process. Yup, Trey’s trek sounds awesome, but let’s get real: Exploring by yourself takes balls, and many of us don’t consider it a first choice when making plans. We got experts to explain why it’s time to rethink that instinct.

Your World Gets Bigger

Most people approach life with a group mentality—Twitter and Facebook really feed that, says neurologist Richard Restak, author of The Playful Brain. “We’re so used to sharing things with our friends, we’re not focusing on ourselves enough.” But by trying new endeavors alone, like attempting some thrill sport, such as wakeboarding, you eliminate those influences while pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. As a result, you get a better sense of what you like.

Another important point, adds psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD, author of The Power of Women: When you do things with others, you’re always aware of their needs. Venturing out solo lets you just be…and gets you to interact with interesting people you might not meet otherwise. That’s what 30-year-old Amanda Catalan, who works in the hospitality industry, discovered last year when she shared a beach cottage with backpacking strangers. “I decided I was going to live near the beach for the summer, no matter what,” she says. When none of her friends would commit to the idea, she ventured on her own to a small town in Quezon province, asked around the local city hall, and found a house she could rent for a month. “The experience drove me to be more outgoing than I ever thought I could naturally be,” she says. Trey adds, “Traveling alone made me more open to sharing my experience with strangers, and in turn they shared something of themselves with me.”

Amanda enjoyed her trip so much that she now plans to tour Central Asia on her own. Trey, in the meantime, is already mulling over her next solo roadtrip, this time exploring Visayas and Mindanao.

There’s a Chill Factor

You don’t just gain a different point of view when you take a solo adventure—it actually changes the way your mind works, says Dr. Restak. Doing new things by yourself makes you more self-aware, he explains, which stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (the part that kicks into gear when you’re not feeling anxious), helping you to relax. It also causes a readjustment of feel-good hormones like serotonin in your body, says Dr. Restak, making you more laid-back than you would be if you were among friends. Plus, this rehab enhances your ability to focus and helps you be better at coping with any stress that comes your way.

Want to push it even further? Switch off your phone. Alice Domar, PhD, co-author of Live a Little!, points out that even if you’re physically alone, chatting on your cell to a friend is distracting and screws up your ability to truly feel comfortable being by yourself. And Amanda says that’s one of the best perks: “Through my trip, I learned to enjoy my own company. I think that’s more satisfying than most people realize.”

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