I have always been independent to a fault. I’d rather read the manual than ask for help. When I started school, I used to play alone because I thought I would have more fun with my own imagination than with the other kids. One time I suffered through a horrible self-cooked plateful of bacon, pasta and tomato sauce even though an Irish guy offered to take me out for a pizza, but hey, I had made my bed. Or rather, my dinner.
|Guess the city|
For all these reasons it was never a question for me to go travelling solo, in fact, at the time when I started travelling, I wouldn’t have let anybody come with me even if there had been someone that had wanted to. This autumn a friend of mine left for a student exchange, and she was terrified since she had never been away from her home country and her family for that long. Talking with some of my other friends, too, who travel less than I do, has made me realise that even now when the young explore the world more eagerly than ever, a lot of people still feel that solo travel is something frightening, strange, and lonely. I have heard the same lines as probably most solo travellers have – ‘You are so brave’ and ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing’. Well, guess what? You can. And here’s why.
Technology makes things easy
Need flights? Go to skyscanner, or whatever is your weapon of choice, pick out the cheapest flight around your preferred dates, pay the tickets and print them out. Need accommodation? Browse through hostels on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers, or find a cheap hotel on Trivago. Need travel tickets? Welcome to the magical place called the internet.
This day and time you can make most of your bookings online, which is just a ridiculously simple way of organising your trip. It can also make you feel more confident when you know exactly where you’re going to stay – you’ve seen the pictures, you’ve read the reviews, and you’ve got an address to start your adventure from.
|solo sushi in Canberra, Australia|
Everybody’s out to make new friends
The thought of ending up lonely in a city you don’t know in a country where you might not understand the language or even the alphabet is frightening. I have to admit that even after a couple of years of experience on my back and with an annoyingly sociable personality, I still get nervous before a trip wondering if this will be the time when I won’t meet any people and end up completely alone and sad. It has happened a couple of times, although the blame has been mostly on a wrong kind of hostel. The good news is, though, that most of the people you meet while travelling are feeling the same way than you are, and everybody wants to meet new people. So even if you’re shy, there’s a good chance you will get sucked into loud, happy groups in the common rooms and hostel bars.
|This one was saved on my computer on the name ‘Tequila night1’. Oh boy…
The other travellers are there to help you and they hate seeing you sit alone, because they’ve been through that scary phase at a new hostel where they don’t know anyone yet. Just try to talk to people, even if it’s just a smile and a hello. Ask what they’re cooking or if you could sit with them. Besides – I feel solo travellers are more easily approachable than those in groups, so if you do want to make new friends on the road, consider leaving the old ones at home.
Oh and hey, don’t worry if your language or social skills don’t allow you to participate in conversation much. I once met an Italian guy in an Australian hostel who only knew the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in English. Still he was always hanging around, being friendly to people and occasionally spluttering out incomprehensible Italian. He was a good lad.
There’s so much more flexibility
Whether you fancy joining a group of new friends on an escapade that is completely out of your planned schedule or just deciding for yourself where to go and what to do, being a solo traveller makes all this so much easier. If you’re travelling with a friend, you always have to make those dreaded compromises and, ugh, consider the other one’s feelings. If you’re travelling solo, you’re completely free to do whatever you want. Especially if you have previously been a part of an ‘us’, it feels incredibly liberating to become a ‘me’ for a bit.
|Contitution for Uzupis or guide lines for solo travellers?
|Statue selfies in Cologne, Germany|
You learn new life skills
There’s nothing quite like being stranded in Berlin with a bus leaving in twelve hours, a broken bank card and ten euros in cash. Of course if I had been travelling with a friend at this point, I could have borrowed their bank card, but where’s the fun in that? Solo travel puts you in challenging situations that you have to, in most part, solve by yourself. As intimidating as the idea might sound, you actually come out so much more confident than you were before because now you know that you can really survive most anything and that everything will turn out all right in the end.
The best part is, all the skills you’ve acquired while travelling are still transferable to your everyday life. A looming essay deadline or a flat tire on your way to a job interview seem like no stress at all when you remember the time you hitchhiked 600 kilometres through Australian outback or managed to ask for directions to your hostel without a map or a mutual language. When you’re travelling, you find more creative solutions to your dilemmas, which allows you to think outside of the box more freely even when you return home.
|When you go solo you get to take all the selfies without anyone judging you
Your experience will be unique to you
Sure, some experiences you need someone to remember with. But does that someone necessarily need to be one of your friends from home – or even anyone at all? When you travel with a friend, you go around together pretty much all the time and your experiences become very similiar. However, when you travel solo, everything you see and do are part of your unique map of memories. Some parts of it you share with people you met on the road, but they are only fractions, and the only person with the whole story is you. You might not be the only person ever who’s star-gazed on the mountains or bungee-jumped from a cable car, but as a whole no one else has experienced your trip the same way than you have. With that solo travel story you have something completely unique that you can call your own, and you will also know that you made it completely on your own.
|Bald Rock National Park, Australia|
Even though I take most of my trips nowadays with a boyfriend, I still try to travel solo as much as I can, even if it means just going off on my own for one day. On my upcoming trip to Spain I’m very excited to get to the city one day before Ben and get a chance to explore the city alone! I have big plans for next summer, too. Warning: solo travelling is incredibly addictive.
People who haven’t travelled solo – how do you feel about it?
People who have travelled solo – have you got anything to add?