I receive this question fairly often: “so… do you travel alone?” Always closely followed by “Don’t you get lonely?”. There are several reasons why the two answers are “yes” and “no”, in that order.
How did it become this way? I was working in Guangzhou, China with a family I already knew and felt pretty safe with, though very bored. I had two spare weeks and was sick of being in Guangzhou. I reached out to my Australian friends to see if any of them wanted to come traveling. China wasn’t a destination any of them had on their bucket list and so I ended up with the option of doing nothing or backpacking for two weeks… alone! Fear set in which resulted in mass amounts of googling. People had done it before, what! Some people preferred traveling solo? Double what!! It couldn’t be that bad right? Luckily it was one of the best trips I have done to date and probably one of the most difficult and lucky, resulting in me becoming hooked.
So why did I become hooked and why should you try it?
I haven’t found a solo traveller yet who didn’t list this as one of their reasons for traveling alone. I can do anything I want when I want. If I want to stay an extra day or week for no reason it’s all up to me. On the other hand if there is a hyped up city that I end up not liking I can move through quicker than a friend could snap a pic of me. I haven’t met one person so far who has the same taste in travel as me so this is really important for me.
You want to go where? You want to eat what? There is no one asking me these questions in any way which suggests I should do anything other than what I want. Not only this, there is no one judging me – for more than the week or so I’m in a place anyway. If there is drama somewhere I can leave and forget it.
Learn from problems and leave them behind
I was never good at socializing before I started traveling. I worried about what people would remember me by. I was careful at designing a certain image. I knew that I needed to practice being more social, but I had no idea how. One day, after having traveled solo for a few months, I realized that most of the people I met I never saw again. It meant if I acted like a crazy, weird, socially awkward person I would never have to hear about how weird I was. This is when I started experimenting socially. I became used of awkward silences and eventually learnt how to fill them. It is one of the most useful realizations I have had while traveling. Now one of the comments I get is that I am really good at socializing with strangers – a huge compliment!
Introvert? Too easy.
I need time by myself and feel dizzy and tired without it. The expectation of spending so much time with travel partners drives me insane. I feel worried thinking about it. Luckily traveling solo allows me to take time to myself whenever I need to. Sometimes that means I’m alone for days, sometimes only for an hour or so. The flexibility it allows me makes me feel like I can discover things about myself both by myself and in social environments.
Make likeminded friends
I doubt I would make so many incredible, like minded friends if I was traveling with someone. People who are alone are more approachable, plus we don’t have a lot of choice as we have to talk to someone. One person is simply easier to interact with than two or more, whether it’s at a bar, out hiking, on a boat or at a networking event. Sure, sometimes it sucks arriving somewhere alone, but the chances of meeting someone within a few minutes are pretty high.
Get given opportunities
One seat left in the car, one ticket left, one person wanted on Workaway or room for one person on the couch. It is always easier to squeeze one person in than two. I’ve received plenty of opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible with more than just myself. Of course, this leads back to making friends as I get squeezed in to said car/show/ticket/job.
Comfortable or uncomfortable?
I’m pretty happy being uncomfortable and will sacrifice comfort for money sometimes, such as when I caught a 10 hour bus to get to the airport and catch 16 hours of flights from Istanbul. At the same time there are moments where I want to relax in comfort all day. I only have to compromise with myself so planning this is really easy. Plus the only person complaining to me is myself when I remember how much I hate long flights.
You probably have different interests than me, but that’s exactly why you should get out there and travel solo. Don’t join your friend who hates hiking if you love it. Don’t join that person who loves shopping if you really want to ride a pushbike all day long. Lastly, if you have no idea what you really like doing while you travel, don’t join someone to get some direction. Traveling solo allows you to discover your direction, something you won’t get in a group.
Happy travels. xx