Why travel solo?
“But… Are you serious? Travel solo?” “Why don’t you bring someone with you? You don’t have any friends?” “You must be bored often when you travel solo right?” “Aren’t you scared to travel solo, on your own?” “Don’t you feel lonely sometimes?” “How do you meet people? Must be hard huh?“. This is the kind of questions you hear quite often when you decide to travel by yourself. I get it. In people’s minds, it’s the norm to travel with someone : your boyfriend/girlfriend, your family, friends, with a group… But alone? Weird… What’s the point? Yeah, in the end, why travel solo?
Solo travel might look in the eyes of some people, but you need to know something. More and more people travel solo and when I started hitting the road, one thing really surprised me. A lot of girls travel solo. I knew there were solo female travelers, but not that many. If you see that many solo travelers, there must be a good reason pushing people into exploring the world with no comrades!
You quickly realize one thing once you start to travel solo : it gives you an incredible amount of freedom, and that’s probably the best benefit of solo travel. Do what you wanna do, where you want to, when you want to and above all if you want to. Craving for junk food? Go to McDonald’s! Wanna visit a museum? Go, go, go! Loving this new city you’re visiting? Extend your stay! Conversely, you don’t like it? Just leave the place! No concessions, no compromises, listen to your desires and do what you want to, at your own pace.
I noticed that when you travel solo, you pay much more attention to the little details around you and your surroundings. You see and discover things you you wouldn’t have spotted with someone by your side. Reading some articles of the blog, I felt like some of them were less detailed. Indeed, those were places where I was always with other travelers.
Traveling solo teaches you to be independent. It’s always been the case for me, but I’m even more independent now. Find by yourself how to go from one city to another one, find your accommodation, what to do on the spot, waking up in time to take your bus… You always have to rely on yourself! You become more and more independent! And it gives a huge boost to your self-confidence.
And with this self-confidence, you ger more solution-oriented. Facing all the unexpected difficulties and problems, you don’t stress (or I’d rather say you stress a lot less!), and you find solutions. You learn how to deal with complicated situations on your own (being denied entry to a country, flight cancelled, hotel infested with bedbugs, crooks of all kinds…), and you’re proud of yourself when you look back.
This self-confidence has other beneficial effects : we’re a lot more open to test out new experiences “I’m in Laos and I know when/if I will go back, so why not try tubing while I’m here?” It gets easier to test and try new things : scuba diving, surf, cooking classes, horse riding, rock climbing… It makes you stronger, and you might not have tried those experiences if you were not on your own.
Traveling solo teaches you to trust unknown people. It comes with time and experience, but you learn to “read” people, even the ones who don’t speak your language. And you can differentiate good people from bad ones. This is when you realize the human being is good, really good. Despite all the things you can hear in the media, the big majority of people will help you out, or propose having tea, or a meal together if they can. People, in general, mean no harm to you. I’m not saying you don’t realize it when you travel with other people, but you’re more on the defensive towards unknown people when you’re not traveling alone. Traveling solo, you also learn to bond quickly with people met a few moments before, and to have a good time with them.
And now the million dollar question “But when you travel solo… Don’t you feel lonely seometimes? You don’t get bored? And how do you meet people???” You need to know one thing : traveling solo doesn’t mean being alone. That’s quite the opposite actually. It’s much easier to meet people, and you interact with new faces daily. But how??? Options are endless. The easiest way is to stay at a hostel. You’ll meet dozens of other travelers there (if you’re not into hostels, FYI almost all hostels have single and double rooms, and some of them have an excellent breakfast! Otherwise go to the hotel but believe me, you’re missing something!). Hostels are a hub of social activity, you just need to get motivated! They organize a bar crawl? Go, even if you don’t drink. You’ll meet people. In Bishkek, the hostel was giving Russian classes, and we even prepared our dinner all together one evening. Before sleeping, we all know one another! Even if there are no activities, just sit in the common area. Someone will walk up to you and say hello. Other people also travel solo and just want one thing, interact with other people and exchange! Locals are also interested by the Western culture and you, and they’ll ask you questions. Be curious and take advantage of the situation to question them. So many people came up to me and said hello, either in the hostel or outside in the street. Sometimes it doesn’t take long to bond with other people!
Otherwise you can use the website couchsurfing. It’s not only a place to find free accommodation, they also have events you can attend almost everywhere in the world to meet other travelers or locals. You can also try the website meetup to find events in the city you’re visiting. I guess you understand now, you need to get yourself around people, and the first contact will be very easy. There’s no guarantee you’ll meet someone to hang out with, but believe me, meeting people is a lot easier than you think. There’s another benefit of solo travel. If you don’t want to be social and don’t feel like talking to people, you can : closed expression on your face, headphones on your ears, no eye contact with the other ones (that’s what I did in Hong Kong). People will leave you alone. Since I’m an introvert, sometimes I need some “me” time to recharge my batteries (I realized it in Vang Vieng, Laos, where I was often with other people). I’m becoming less sociable and people leave me alone.
All right, I talked about all the benefits of solo travel, but there are also downsides right? I’m very subjective, I love to travel solo, and I don’t find many drawbacks. The main challenge, if I may say so, is to learn how to handle everything on your own all the time. But since I’m independent, that doesn’t bother me. The real problem when you travel solo for a long time, is that you’re far away from your friends and family. You cannot create common memories with a friend, and talk later about anecdotes experienced on the road. You’re growing alone… Solo travel also brings homesickness. It didn’t happen to me, but many people feel it after several months alone on the road. Sometimes solo travelers crave real interactions with their closed ones. And if you fall sick… You’re alone… Another thing to think about : you cannot split the costs, especially if you take a taxi/tuktuk, but also if you stay at the hotel, if you rent an apartment on airbnb. That’s how it is…
Some solo travelers talked to me about something bothering them : eating alone at the restaurant. It has a name, solomangarephobia. It’s not bothering them because they’d like to have someone with them at the restaurant, but they’re afraid of what people might think about them. They don’t wanna look like weirdos. Personally, I ate hundreds of times alone, and it never bothered me. I find a strategic place where I can watch people, and sometimes I talk with the staff. In fact, I didn’t even know several solo travelers feel uncomfortable eating outside alone. Not me. And the other customers don’t even pay attention to you… Same thing at the bar, I had a drink dozens of times on my own, and it never bothered me either. You meet people sometimes, and in some areas of the world, intrigued locals (or even the staff) will walk up to you to know more about you.
All right, that’s cool to travel solo, but don’t you get bored a little bit sometimes? In my case no. I alternate between moments alone and with other travelers. When I’m alone, I keep busy by doing various things. Not just visiting cities, planning my trip or finding accommodation but even during quieter times, I’m working on the blog, I read a lot (other blogs -not just travel blogs-, press articles, books…), I listen to podcasts, sometimes I listen to music… No time to get bored!
I’m well aware that solo travel is not meant for everybody. Actually travel full stop neither. Some people want to travel solo but can’t because of personal issues, I also get it. But if you really want to go somewhere, and no one around you seems to be motivated/to have the time, etc… Go by yourself! Or you’ll regret it for a long time in the future. If you’re constantly waiting for others to go somewhere, you’ll never go anywhere! I realized solo travel is a lot less complicated than I thought. And the personal growth it gives you is just incredible. Just to clarify one thing : you don’t need to go to the other end of the planet, and you don’t need to leave for months. Just a weekend, or ten days a few hours away by car is enough. But I think you need to try solo travel at least once in your life.
Have you ever traveled by yourself? What do you think of solo travel? Let me know! By the way, if you’re planning a trip, my travel resources page can help you out! And before hitting the road, don’t forget to take a travel insurance!
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