Why I Prefer to Travel Solo
For most people, it’s human nature to seek out companionship. We instinctively don’t want to be alone. This urge is especially prevalent when planning your first long term travel experience. The thought of being out there on your own is intimidating to say the least.
I remember half-jokingly floating the idea of coming along to some of my friends while preparing for my first time traveling abroad. Thankfully, no one took me up on the offer. As I found out, solo travel is the greatest way to experience the world, and I’d like to share with you the reasons why.
Think about any time you’ve gone out with your friends. Have you always agreed on what to do? Probably not. It can be frustrating when not everyone is on the same page, and it usually ends up with a large part of the day wasted to arguing and compromising. Now imagine having that same experience stretched over several months while seeing each other every day. Getting the picture?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a difficult person to get along with, but you’ll never agree with somebody 100% of the time. Traveling with someone else involves a great deal of compromise, and honestly, this is not the time you should be compromising. How long have you dreamed of traveling? How hard did you work to get there? You owe it to yourself to make this experience exactly what you want it to be.
Traveling on your own means you’ll be able to do what you want, when you want. You are beholden to no one else’s schedule but your own. Maybe one day you’ll be en route to Vienna when you decide, “Hey, why not Budapest instead”. That kind of total freedom does not come along often. To be able to change your mind at a moment’s notice without anyone giving push-back is a rare gift. Enjoy it.
By this point, you may find yourself thinking that solo travel sounds awfully lonely. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a wise, old traveler once told me, “You’ll meet half the amount of people travelling with someone else as you would on your own”.
I have found that statement to be completely accurate. When you travel with another person, you essentially create a social bubble around yourselves. By having someone around with whom you’re already familiar, you tend to not interact with new people. But when you’re on your own, it’s hard not to meet others.
It can be awkward at first to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but you’ll also find that being on your own makes you more approachable to other solo travelers. I’ve traveled for months at a time both by myself and with someone else, and the the difference is unbelievable.
When on my own, I meet people everywhere I go; friends I keep in touch with to this day. But when I traveled with someone else, I can recall only a handful of people that I spoke with for more than a few minutes, and none of them became lasting connections.
For me, the best part of travel isn’t the food or the famous sights; it is the people you will meet and the stories and experiences they have to share. You can travel throughout the whole world, but without these connections, you’re merely a spectator. So do yourself a favor and embrace the social openness that comes from being alone.
After returning from my first solo travel adventure, I noticed a considerable difference in myself from the person I was prior to leaving many months before. I felt more confident in situations that would have previously caused me stress or anxiety. No matter what life threw at me, I felt prepared to meet it head on. This newfound confidence came from the time I spent on my own.
Traveling somewhere you’ve never been, especially if you don’t speak the language, is really challenging. It forces you to step outside your comfort zone and adopt critical thinking and survival skills you never would have needed at home. More importantly, they are skills you probably would not rely so heavily upon if you were with friends.
While it can be great to have someone to commiserate with when you miss your ferry, or to get a second opinion on whether to go left or right at the intersection, it also serves as a mental crutch. Relying on nothing but your own intuition prepares you to better handle these obstacles when they arise later in life. Being able to face uncertain situations with confidence is an invaluable skill, and you should welcome the chance to develop it.
The Reality of it All
While traveling long term, it’s important to not lose sight of the wonder that resides in the little details. Something as seemingly trivial as getting food from a street cart can become monumental when you pause to take stock of where you are and how far you’ve come. For me, I arrive at these realizations in the moments of quiet introspection that can only be had when you’re by yourself.
From my own experience, I can tell you that you view the world through a different filter when you travel with friends. The little things that mean so much seem to lose their significance. Places of great reverence quickly devolve into little more than a selfie opportunity to show people back home where you’ve been. That’s not to say special moments can’t still happen with others around, but when we’re with people from home, we bring the habits from home with us as well.
Being on your own, so far from the familiar; it changes your perspective. You’ll find that the world can seem simultaneously small, and yet, impossibly large. It’s a certain level of connectivity that can only be found in independence.
In wrapping this up, I feel I should emphasize that the opinion I’ve expressed above is just that; an opinion. There are no absolute truths when it comes to deciding whether you should travel solo or with a friend. You may have the greatest time of your life traveling with someone you know, or maybe, like myself, you’re meant to go it alone. Whatever you choose, just be sure to enjoy every minute of it. Have questions about traveling alone or want to share your favorite solo travel stories? Send me an email!