Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Solo Travel: 5 Reasons To Travel Alone

I've traveled to quite a few countries, mostly with my family and school. During those travels there was always a part of me that longed to separate from the group. I wanted to see what's it like to be on my own. In groups I always felt too safe, as if I had cheated somehow.
Several years have passed since my last trip with family and in that time I have been on three backpacking trips, alone.




The fear of being on my own seems to omit me until the last moment - usually as I'm about to board a plane it strikes me that I'm going half way around the world to some country that is rarely heard from at home. That's when fear kicks in, not the real fear, just an unusual feeling associated with fear. But it disappears after a few hours/days in the country. At least that's how it's been so far.

I usually set goals for trips - more often than not, it is to escape the comfortability of a daily routine, to end the lack of responsibility and experience something new again for a change. Whenever I decide to go somewhere, family and friends can't resist the urge to toss out comments and protests - saying my plans are unsafe and that I "barely hatched" and should therefore not walk the Earth alone. In a way I'm grateful for their commenting. It reinforces my initial decision because I want to prove them wrong.


So, what is so unique about solo travel?
Here are my reasons:

1. Independence

Traveling alone is an experience of ultimate freedom. When on your own, you don't have to rely on others and nobody is going to judge you. You are free to go where you want, when you want, however you want. You can sleep late, skip breakfast, wander around at 4am, change plans at the last moment, and nobody is going to say a word. No debates, no arguing, no compromises. It's all up to you.

In the beginning it may take some time to realize that you are free to do whatever you please. You may subconsciously avoid doing some things even if you're interested in them, just because that's how you would act back at home. Let go of that. Give yourself permission to explore the unknown.

2) Learn To Expect The Unexpected

By learning to expect the unexpected I mean getting thrown off the bus at some small village late in the evening, miles away from your desired destination, and instead of panicking, you would simply laugh. Or arrive in an unfamiliar city at 2am and not worry about a thing. Or walk on the road for hours before finally getting a ride and feel good about it.

You would be surprised what all can (and will) go wrong during your solo travel. While it may be frustrating at first, you'll learn to cope with the unexpected and stop caring so much about everything. Sooner or later you may even start appreciating all of it.

I still remember my first solo trip when I was 18. I arrived at the Singapore Changi Airport (which is on the other side of the world) and I didn't have a clue how to get into the city. So I panicked a little. I wandered around airport for ~2 hours before figuring out where I needed to go. I was reluctant of asking for advice. Big mistake. After finally arriving in the city centre I was even more lost. It was getting dark and I still needed to find accommodation. Tired and lost I sat on the sidewalk, trying to calm down and come up with a solution. After a while I managed to convince myself it's not a big deal and soon after I found the hostel I was looking for.

The more such experiences, the better - the quicker you get used to all kind of situations.

3) Leave Home (And Travel Companions) Behind

Traveling with friends doesn't allow you to experience the far-flung country in its true colours. If you bring a friend, you may find yourselves spending most of the time talking about home-related things/gossip that don't belong in the environment you're in. Thus you tend to miss a lot of details. Bringing a friend with you often means you're packing remnants of home along with other things.

When traveling solo, observation becomes means of entertainment. I've seen people traveling as a couple or in group who, rather than noticing the diverse landscapes out of the train/bus window, were lost discussing which movie they've watched and arguing about trivial things. If only they knew what they had missed.

Also, traveling with friends will only prevent you from being truly yourself. They serve as a "safety-lock" which doesn't allow you to change - they constantly remind you of who you are.

4) Meet The Locals

You are likely to meet far more people when you're on your own than you would if you're protected by "invisible shield" made by your friends. Locals and other lone travelers tend to avoid groups because it's harder to make contact with a group than with an individual. Socializing is easier because you're alone - you're easier to get to.

In Vietnam, wherever I'd been I couldn't sit down without having at least one local approach me and discuss things in English. Obviously the main reason was to practice english - some students came equipped with 2 dictionaries in their small bags. It was really an interesting experience talking to so many locals, discussing various topics.
One time I was sitting in the park in Hanoi, tired after a whole day of sightseeing. I noticed a Vietnamese girl sitting on a bench on the opposite side. I just acknowledged she was there and continued watching the traffic and people walking by. After ~15 minutes she approached me, really shy, and wanted to practice english. She had only been learning english for 3 months so there was a lot of pointing and waving with hands. Awesome experience. This would have never happened if I had friends with me.

5) Growth

Traveling solo will definitely play a key role in your own personal development. Any long trip will change you, probably for the better. People change through time, but it usually takes years to develop a different view on the world. Traveling accelerates this.
Every trip enriches you - whether you've become more confident, or you've learnt things about yourself that you previously had not known, or changed your view on certain things. Chances are you will like and be proud of your new self.


Walking into the unknown by yourself isn't for everyone though. It also has its downsides - being lonely and taking risks are the top reasons why many choose not to travel alone. If you're still in dilemma whether you should try it or not - go for it! In the end, the positive aspects by far outweigh the negative. And as Tairaka1985 said below one of my previous posts:

"Traveling is a wonderful thing. It really opens your mind up to how other people exist in this world. I recommend that everyone travel to somewhere far away at least once in their life. Usually the experience makes a good impression."

75 insights:

Pool Fool said...

I do like to travel alone too so I've to agree with you I experienced the same

Skinny Guy said...

I have done short day trips alone but I don't think I could go far, like out of the country, alone.

P.Jordan said...

awesome!

BigMike said...

Reason 4 is my favorite reason to travel alone.. even in the US.

Grant said...

Thanks for this post. I'm actually thinking of travelling out of the UK this june. Going backpacking around europe :)

ZKMin said...

I agree, aside from when I was 2, every time I have traveled alone.

Stephen said...

I'm not much of the type to be alone. Most of these would still apply even if you were in a small group.

Jay Reid said...

6 of us are doing Europe next summer, but I'd like to solo Asia.

Speedy Ed said...

i think its great to meet locals of new places you go, great way to get a good feel for the place that your in

Intraman said...

agreed; i've travelled both alone and with friends in the past and they are two completely different experiences

Delicious Oophagy said...

I agree but you have to make sure to be careful when it's just you. Also you have to be an out going person to maximize the potential of the trip.

Alexis said...

I love travelling alone. It's such an achievement when you combat your loneliness and fears. I wouldn't do it any other way now!

Tairaka1985 said...

I can relate to this very much...

When I went out by myself in Japan, I was far freer to do what I wished. The experiences for me tend to be very personal as they are developed completely on your own accord.

In essence, it is a necessity sometimes to travel by yourself. You never know what will happen, what you will learn, who you will meet, and sometimes where you will go!

n0kS Phr33d0m said...

You're maybe right. But I prefer travelling with someone and never alone, just for my own safety. And that way you don't get bored :D

MikeNeuman said...

This really helps you grow as a person and learn more about yourself. You do things your way and learn by trial and error. Definitely a great experience for anyone.

Joe Clark Cinematography said...

Leavin' on a jet plane!

First pic reminds me of the end of the Original Hulk. Bruce Banner walking away down the road.

CPH said...

Get raped and murdered. [X]

Carles said...

but not always is better beign forever alone traveler

RapMan said...

well see the fact is. Its easier to mantain a shorter crowd, but sometimes you have to bring a bigger one.

thomau5 said...

traveling alone allows you to do what you want, whenever you want. however, some friendly company you can trust would be nice now and then

Broccoli said...

I have never traveled alone, not yet anyway. I really want to do this, and your reasons seem really damn good and spot on.

Quetopia said...

I've been on so many road trips solo, I'm a huge concert goer. Independence is the number one reason I go solo. I can do whatever I want and not have to compromise with friends.

Tom said...

Lone wolfs for the win. This is some pretty darn good advice.

The Boy said...

Travelling alone is the best way to discover something, be it yourself or the world. I've done a few solo bike trips and some solo backpacking in C. America and although you may begin a journey alone, there is no better way to meet a new friend than sharing a dorm or a table or somesuch.

yourminigames.com said...

I will travel a little bit this year after my exams.

hazel said...

I only have one reason I like traveling alone: being butt-naked in hotels ;D

Anima Metallicus said...

Thanks for the tips, I'll be sure to write it down.

charlie tuna said...

this is a great post. I can relate to that first picture so well. I often take road trips to no place in particular.

JkF50 said...

I think travelling alone is ok, but I prefer travelling with people, but that may only be because I've on properly travelled with people, and don't like change. Oh well.

Fortune said...

I plan to travel to North Africa in a few months. Not going with anyone.

Phate said...

I don't think I could travel alone. It's not that I wouldn't want to, it's that my girlfriend is HUGE on traveling - if I were to go somewhere, she'd be right there the whole time.

Which isn't a bad thing, really. :)

Blogger said...

i'm sad

BKK said...

Dude, your story is amazing.
Btw, how do you avoid bad people? Like being robbed or something like that...

Things on my wishlist said...

Great story, makes me really realize how painfully boring my life is.

ShadowPunk said...

I am hopefully going to Paris.

Skankin_Pete said...

Heading on a solo trip to Japan after I finish my second year of college next year =)

Jesse Crows said...

number 5 is the strongest reason

omgigotnickedforprotesting said...

Less getting drunk with friends. More making new friends to get drunk with. My favourite reason!

Intraman said...

to answer your question:
yes i speak korean
i think what motivates me is pretty much the same as for all bloggers :) plus i'm not living in korea anymore so this blog is a good way to practice my korean (by researching and translating stuff)

Moobeat said...

it can be so boring though!

Triper said...

Thanks for advices, looks helpfull.

mwesten said...

It is an unique experience

paulz said...

Good writeup, never thought of travelling alone.

wastrel said...

Lone travel is great if you are restless type.

Radux said...

Well it could be cool to travel alone, but for me, the biggest point in travelling is when you reach a special place, for example a mountain with a great view, I want to share it with someone.

Rorschach Redemption said...

#1. #1 alone is good enough for me. Simply not having anyone around to debate on directions or desires.

Blk Jesus said...

very nice! this makes me want to go somewhere by myseld

Jack Burton said...

Very nice post. I did some solo travelling to (somewhere near) northern maine after reading Walden. Was one of the best and most memorable times of my life.

Buzbee said...

i never did any solo traveling i had a travel buddy with me

nohone said...

I dont have the balls...I would just sit and rock myself back and forward.

sfxworks said...

I would probably travel with someone who would be just like me so we wouldn't talk about the things at home. Ya kno?

liquidelle said...

Maybe, but I'm kind of shy and would like the company to travel with.

Bunny Hill said...

Traveling alone his scare a lot of people, they think they will be capture, robbed or something else. This or they feel like they have nobody to talk or to share they experience with.

Traveling alone seem interresting

Cartoon Universe said...

I think the independence factor is the biggest one for me.

Doro said...

I totally agree with you. Alone traveling is a great adventure!

adss said...

traveling alone i think could be q. lonely especially in a place you are not familar with although at least you always get to do what you want - but is that always a good thing?

sildude said...

I really want to do it but haven't yet. Need some money first.

TK1927 said...

Great post, I've been wanting to travel by myself for a while now.

Sammy said...

Traveled alone for months and prefer it. So easy to make friends - checkout couchsurfing.org for meetups

Gambling Degenerate said...

i agree with this post, i intend on doing this someday for these exact reasons.

Newhumanbreed said...

I try not to sleep when I'm on vacation. I need to get the most out of it lol

Lucas said...

man, i need to do more traveling. i am definitely saving up for some sort of sweet trip!

Simon black said...

Really nice post, I've always loved to travel.

SeanExact said...

i think once i learn some martial arts or something ill feel confident enough to travel alone, then my only fear would becoming a lone traveler forever :)

Alunith said...

Sounds really nice, i love to travel around the world

That nerdy girl who is skinny said...

A friend of mine went on a travel like that in France... he started alone and ended up with a lot of people he met along the way..

HOODPHENOMENOM said...

Travelling alone is one of the things I appreciate the most. Nice post.

Daniel said...

Thanks. I was struggling to go alone but this is definely set my mind to it.

vinex08 said...

wooo got tired of reading... anyway, great post

Beer Blog Barry said...

Wow this is a great post, I like it. I may do this one day, thanks for the information

The Guy said...

Yeah, travelling alone can definitely be worthwhile. But I still prefer travelling together with a few friends.

Fermium Death said...

It makes you strong and helthy, with a relaxing mind all the time too, and by traveling usualy,you'll have no enemy but many friends (and lovers)

Jude Cooper said...

I like travelling alone... makes me relaxed

Benji Radman said...

I've never travelled overseas alone. The thought of it scares/excites me. I was so happy to read this post :) I can't wait to do it :)

wellpickedbooger said...

The only solo traveling I've done is flying from Hawaii to Florida a few times. I really, really dislike it. I can't sleep on planes, & I'm too paranoid to try & sleep during layovers. The last time I flew back I was awake for 36 hours total, ugh.

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