Whenever I say I want to go on a trip, one of the first questions I get asked is who I’m going with. A few years ago, I never imagined travelling alone. But one day, after getting tired of waiting for friends who couldn’t make their mind up, I decided to just make my bookings and go.
My first ‘solo’ trip was with Contiki, and although I was going on a tour with 50 complete strangers for 16 days, I was still alone. The thing is, when I think of that trip, ‘alone’ is not a bad word. ‘Alone’ is the ability to be completely independent if you want to be, and with company if you don’t want to be by yourself. Being alone did not mean you were lonely, which is a common misconception.
Here’s my reasons for loving solo travel:
You can do whatever you want, wherever you want. Want to spend money only on the cheap stuff? Fine! Want to splurge? Fine! Want to go to a museum that others might find boring? Fine! There’s no one to tell you “no”.
2. Time Travel
Time can stand still. Its just you and your surroundings, and not a single thing to interrupt you.
Time can even move backwards.
3. Watching the World go by
It can be very difficult finding a travel partner that moves at the same pace as you. Chances are they’ll be lazy to wake up early and/or lack the desire to do what you want to do, leaving you both frustrated and with the feeling of not having seen or done what you set out to do in the first place. If you’re alone, however, you can sit on that bench staring at the view for however long you want. You can take as long as you want to eat that sandwich. You might want to wake up at the crack of dawn just to see a sunrise over the mountains. It is better to be alone to enjoy these little pleasures, than have the wrong company.
4. Making friends
You can’t really go anywhere without talking to anyone. Travelling alone encourages you to make friends by talking to the locals and meeting people from different parts of the world. Very often, you meet other travellers that might be looking for the same things that you are, like directions to an event, perhaps.
5. Getting to know Yourself
It sounds like such a cliché, but the truth is that when you’re completely alone in a foreign place, you learn things about yourself that you didn’t have the time to learn while you were living your crazy life. You get to know what you’re capable of, and what your heart really wants. You’re free from the distractions of your normal, everyday life. You will also feel more alive than you ever have before.
6. Overcoming my fears
Travelling alone can be scary for those who have never tried it before. But trust me, once you do it, your fears will start to disappear. You get to challenge yourself and overcome those fears just by having a little courage. The more you travel, the less you fear.
7. Having that sense of accomplishment
Being forced to make your own decisions is the best thing that could happen to you. In a way, your survival instinct kicks in and you try to make the best of a situation. What’s the best thing I ever did, you ask? Booking that plane ticket for one. I have not regretted a single decision since. I can give myself a pat on the back for going to Europe solo just a year later, rafting even though I can’t swim, and helping some new-found friends pay less for some hats from a street vendor whom I thought was ripping them off, purely because of my use of Hindi. I can also proudly speak about chugging my first beer, yodelling on stage in front of at least 100 people, visiting CERN after trying for weeks to get a booking, and using my memory and sense of direction to walk from the Colosseum to St Peter’s Square without a map or asking anyone. Had I travelled with someone, there’s no way I would have met my German penpal of 15 years, either.
Thinking of travelling but have no one to go with? Here’s the truth: unless you stop waiting for people, its never going to happen.
So book that flight. Go.
It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done.