Let’s face it. To take yourself out of your comfort zone can be well…uncomfortable. And travelling solo and planning for extended time alone can be quite polarizing. Some crave it, others shy away from it. But you’ve got that urge to travel and explore so what are your options?? Not go, wait until your friends’ timelines line up or…go solo!
Too often I hear people saying how much they wish they could find someone to go with them on an adventure or that they would really love to see a certain part of the world, but they never seem to go to these places that they crave because of barriers they create for themselves. And apart from money and time, most barriers are a mindset.
I’ll be honest. When I set out on my first solo adventure, I was blanketed in naivity, where ‘fear’ never set in only because I could not anticipate what to expect because I simply did not know what to expect. I reasoned that I’m a very social being but also fiercely independent, where days of droughts in conversation with others is not worrisome. It has now been several countries and countless cities that I have adventured through as a solo traveler. I now know what to expect. I now know at times I’ll be uncomfortable. I now know that I’ll feel an awkward sense of embarrassment when I am seemingly the only person solo travelling while everyone else has their buds to eat with, making me want to go up to their table and say ‘Hey yea, I actually have a bunch of friends!!! But I chose to travel alone!’ to prove that this was, in fact, my choice! And I now know that I’ll experience a little bit of loneliness.
And I now know how to embrace each and every one of these temporary vulnerabilities to have a badass solo adventure, meet new people from all over the world, and deepen my life experience to return home to a city that I adore (New York City) feeling renewed, energized, and appreciative of the time away.
Below are some of the most common trepidations and questions I get about solo travel.
Isn’t sharing the experience with others (friends, significant others, family) always going to be better than experiencing by yourself?
Of course, the shared experience can be unparalleled! Having those you love right alongside of you while you adventure can be the ultimate gift. However, on the flip side of that, allowing yourself this sense of autonomy and time to yourself is not only rewarding for the trip you take but also for the life you come back to. You gain an even stronger sense of independence. You gain an even stronger and broader foundation of perspective in which you can form opinions from, tell stories about, and connect to others with. You open yourself up to the world as your classroom, where the ability to soak in newness is in constant combination and conversation with all that you have learned in the past. Your ability to grow, challenge, relate and admire will expand tenfold.
Simply put, those are the main reasons why I recommend traveling on your own.
Additionally, when you travel solo, you can answer to your interests and time. What if you seriously want to see this one temple that requires you to wake up early and hike a mountain? You do it. What if you wake up one morning and decide that actually you don’t want to go to visit the local markets but instead want to change your plan to see the jungles? You make that change.
Also, traveling solo does not mean you’ll be alone – just means you came alone! I have met far more people when I am alone than when I travel with others. I put myself out there more often because I do not have my best friends by my side. A simple ‘hello’ and exchange of conversations can lead you to some of the greatest friendships you’ll ever know. The world quickly becomes smaller as you know have friends and shared experiences in all parts of the world.
Flip side, I want to go alone – but how do I tell my significant other or friends that I want to take this trip by myself without it sounding alarms??
Oh, I have had this conversation before! And it is not always the most pleasant. I always revert back to the reasons why I want to go independent of others and then have an honest conversation from there.
The conversation in my head before I actually have it usually falls within three buckets:
Bucket A) I actually just want to do this solo travel thing…
Bucket B) I reallllly want to go to X during time Y this year so that’s what I will be doing this year…
Bucket C) I love you to the moon but we would not travel well together – we just don’t have similar travel styles!
Bucket A) + Bucket B)
It usually doesn’t matter who you are talking to as this will mostly likely sting a little bit when telling this to others that you care about only because it is seen as you prioritizing yourself and what you want rather than you prioritizing your ‘could be’ experience together and the other will feel as they will be missing out. I get it! Tough conversation. But delivered correctly, in no way will it come across as self-indulgent and in no way is it self-indulgent in the first place. Simply stated, you are excited about an experience to tackle by yourself and/or excited about making a bucket list travel destination a reality for you this year!
For as much as you love them, sometimes your best friends are just not those that you would travel well with. Perhaps you are far more into planning than they are or far more comfortable with outdoor adventure or far more open to new cultures. All of these nuances of life that we don’t always experience on a larger scale in our day to day life will expose themselves when traveling. Often times, the types of trips you would be into are wildly different to begin with so a conversation is not necessary. Being frank about the type of trip you desire will often will end any conversation before it begins and you two will be simultaneously laughing and appreciating your differences.
But, I’ll be lonely…
Sure, totally get this fear! I’m someone who loves to spend time to myself, whether reading or walking around a new place, I truly love getting lost in thought and observation. I didn’t think I would get lonely. Oh, but I did.
Whether you are like me or prefer constant social interaction, feeling lonely is a shared human experience. We will all feel it – and it can hit at any time at any point in any place – independent of travel. Knowing this, is a learning all in itself and makes the feared abstraction of loneliness vastly more human and approachable. And of course travelling solo to a place where you know no one exacerbates this vulnerability but I argue that you should welcome it with both arms. To be lucky enough to ever experience brief boughts of loneliness (extended time is another thing…) can be wildly uplifting. It reminds us of those that we love while simultaneously placing us out of our comfort zone to tackle this feeling. To embrace, rather than shy away from it, is to gift yourself the power to meet people from all over the world.
I’m pretty shy when it comes to new people and situations /// how can I avoid getting bored…
Not to worry – you can kick start meeting people:
- Just know, you tend to meet more people when you are alone because of sheer necessity. Travelers are also usually welcome newcomers to their travel groups because well, why not?
- Hostels & group tours – a great way to dive in! Not only will you meet so many other solo travelers, you’ll have a chance to spend time with them too. Some have nervousness about hostels in general (are they clean, are they safe, what is a hostel???) and yes, rest assured hostels can be and generally are all of the above and more. Make sure your hostel has a fun common area or plans events for their guests! You can read reviews through booking sites like hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com to find out which accommodation will have that social component as all hostels come in varying shapes and sizes!
- Regarding boredom – that’s on you to continue your adventure! A new city, a new country, a new perspective, new friends…there is a lot to keep yourself entertained :)
But is it safe to travel alone?
Safety is my number one priority when I consider whether or not this country will be a good place to travel alone in, especially as a female.
Do your research. There are other countries and cities that are far better for solo travel than others. Within those countries, yes, it is safe to travel alone. However, always use your best judgement and keep your wits about you. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
With all of the countries and cities that I have visited, I have never had a problem but that is because I travel responsibly.
Countries for solo travel: https://www.shexexplores.com/blog/2016/10/6/5-countries-that-make-solo-travel-a-piece-of-cake
How do I even start planning?
- Ease into it with a tour group: https://www.shexexplores.com/blog/2016/10/21/best-tour-groups-that-get-your-adventure-started
- Or dive head first with a trip: https://www.shexexplores.com/blog/2016/10/6/5-countries-that-make-solo-travel-a-piece-of-cake
- Plan your trip! https://www.shexexplores.com/travel-resources/
Ready, set, gooooo!