I’ll start off by saying that there are two sides to every coin. For all the reasons I love to travel alone, there are just as many reasons why I hate it. Check out my companion to this piece: Why I Hate To Travel Alone. Just don’t click it yet. Scroll back up later. Didn’t your mom teach you to see things through?
Let’s begin. There is certainly something rebellious and romantic about the idea of traveling alone. Waking up in new places, finding yourself perfectly lost and a stranger to the language around you, and yet still oddly at ease. Brad Pitt did it in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Clark Kent wandered from place to place before he decided to shave and become Superman in Man of Steel, and Julia Roberts made many a girl want to Eat, Pray and Love their way around the world. Reality is a little more complicated than the movies, but I’ll argue that when it comes to roaming this planet of ours solo, it’s even more satisfying.
I love to travel alone. Here’s why.
It’s Your Trip And No One Else’s
I want to dive in Indonesia with whale sharks. I want to spend a month walking the 780 km route from the South of France to the Cathedral De Santiago De Compostela in Spain. I want to chill in a roadside motel jacuzzi with a beer after an obstacle course race. Some will share my enthusiasm, but not all. The simple thing about traveling alone is that you can do whatever you want on your own terms. Chances are, you’ll meet people along the way to share in these activities, but there is no necessary commitment, no forced compromise. I’m not saying that you won’t choose to when there’s an opportunity to join someone else’s trip, but the choice is yours. And yours alone. Love that beach town in Koh Tao? Stay longer. Tired of Gallo Pinto, the national dish of everywhere god damn place in Central America? Book that first bus to South America and overdose on steak. Logistics are easier and you don’t have adhere to someone else’s budget. If you’re going to miss your flight, it’s either out of your hands or your own fault, and not because your friend woke up late.
The People You Meet
It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve just arrived into the Vaclav Havel airport in Prague just after 8 pm. I jump onto the only bus that was around and hoped, like the other people also waiting at the curb, that it would take me into town. In an hour, I went from wondering if I’d have a place to sleep that night to toasting a celebratory dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant with a Sri Lankan guy from France and two beautiful Canadian backpackers. The latter I met on the streets heading to my hostel and the former I met on the bus getting there. Strangers just a short while before and then friends who will always be a part of the story about that that time I flew into Prague on Christmas Eve.
It’s always been about the people. My stories, the sights, the adventures, and even the misadventures have largely been unique because of the people I’ve met along the way. Thailand is Thailand for many people, but it was Thailand for me because of the time I was boiling eggs in a hot spring in Pai with a rag tag group of people I met hiking in the jungles of Chiang Mai. Machu Picchu was Machu Picchu because I celebrated the birthday of a friend that I met 2 months back in Thailand. The truth is despite traveling alone, I rarely found myself alone.
Oh The Books You’ll Read!
I enjoy reading and there’s plenty of downtime to read, be it on a long bus ride, an sandy white beach, or when it’s pouring out and you’d rather be in. It’s a simple pleasure for me and I like that I have the time to do it when I’m on my own. Conversations are great, but silence is pretty nice sometimes too. If you’re lucky, you can choose just exactly the right balance for yourself. Use that time to yourself to write, to reflect, to daydream, or even to crochet, if that’s your thing. Wake up early and go for walk in a new city without a direction. Sit down at a cafe and people watch without having some place you need to get be.
Learning To Watch Your Own Back
It might seem counterintuitive, but I’ll argue that you can be safer traveling alone. Strength in number aside, the inherent risks and dangers of traveling alone will almost force you into being a little more prepared. Without someone else to rely on, you’ll tend to do more research before departing on a trip. Without someone to watch your back, you’ll have to be more aware of your environment. You’ll careful to not get too comfortable when the situation calls for some attention. I don’t mind so much showing up to a new city at a random bus stop after midnight if I’m with someone else, but I might opt for an earlier arrival if I’m alone. You just learn to take care of yourself and hone your instincts over time. Full stop, traveling alone makes you a more independent person. No one is going to hold your hand or carry your backpack around the world.
How Much Patience Do You Really Have?
Traveling 24/7 with your significant other or best friend can test even the most patient of us. You eat together, sleep together, do the same activities and sometimes have the same conversations over and over with new people you meet along the way. Habits you don’t mind about someone at home, will be in your face on the road. A person’s laid-free attitude will be a person’s lateness when you are ready to go or do something. The sad part is that we tend to be more patient with people we’ve just met and give them the benefit of the doubt at first. Should you meet someone and find that their style doesn’t suit yours, you can part ways just as easily as you met. Try leaving your girlfriend behind somewhere in Africa and tell me how that goes.
Adventure Is Out There
It is and it’s waiting for you. Traveling solo gives you the chance to be whoever you want. Find yourself without the shadow of a reputation, good or bad, that would hang over you. Like the you after you’ve traveled alone? Keep it. There are many adventures to be had out there and you don’t have to wait for anyone before you reach out and take hold. I