A great deal can be said about solo travel and as with most things there are positives and negatives. Travelling alone engulfed me early on with an infectious bug which has lasted over 16 years, filling passports and travel journals.
The majority of my travelling has been solo – it’s as much about self-discovery as it is exploring exotic pastures and can be hugely rewarding to navigate the unfamiliar without a travel companion security blanket. Being able to survive a new destination, find my feet, forge my own path on my terms and ultimately make it from point A to B through careful language negotiations is a magical feeling.
However, age has revealed what is even more important than the incredible places which perpetually deliver, is someone to share the experience with – a like-minded buddy to help bring new experiences to life. With a friend it is easier to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of travelling unfamiliar territory – providing a familiar flavour and someone to share a room and drink with. Plus it means we are not solely reliant on taking a selfie!
Whilst I do prefer travelling with a friend these days, there are unique aspects of going-it-alone which as a self-confessed travel addict, has me plotting expeditions around the globe. Here are the top five:
1) On My Own Watch
It’s simple really – at my own pace and in my own time. When I want to catch the red-eye bus, I just set my alarm earlier, pre-pack (no one likes rustling plastic bags in hostels) and off I go. There have been days I just felt like staying put and relaxing, washing my clothes and chilling for a few days, or taking an overnight bus to save on accommodation. Basically I choose my own path, with a timetable to my liking and more importantly I gain from the country what I desire.
2) Freedom to Choose
I welcome the opportunity to make plans and destroy them by spontaneously booking a bus ticket without having to negotiate anyone else’s schedule. Some of my most impulsive travel decisions have ended with beautiful consequences. I have never been one to shy away from leaving an amazing group of travellers in favour of sacrificing my own plans.
3) Where To Lay Your Head
Ever blown your budget on overpriced accommodation as a ‘treat’ suggested by a travel buddy, or stayed somewhere with questionable cleanliness? When travelling solo I have walked out of hotels with no hot water when I just needed a warm shower (La Paz springs to mind), and have also taken places below par through sheer tiredness. I’m not precious when it comes to accommodation and when I find what I like and negotiate a price I am happy. At the end of the day, an overnight bus to save time and accommodation costs is not everyone’s cup of tea.
4) Meet and Travel with Like-minded People
I am more likely to meet new and wonderful people when travelling solo…often through necessity. When I travel with a friend, I rely on their company which can at times reduce the possibility to meet new and interesting people. Think of that special person you met travelling, would you have met them with a group of friends? Travelling solo can be lonesome and communicating with new people is essential, and also a great way to open you up to new experiences and life-long friendships.
5) Discover Your New Comfort Zone
Sometimes it’s the comfort of a faithful travel buddy that unknowingly prevents me from trying new things. It isn’t that we hold each other back, there just seem to be more justifiable excuses not to ‘live on the edge’. Solo travel gifts a sense of accomplishment – arriving into the unfamiliar and not just surviving, but thriving is amazing. Something I experienced when I moved to Egypt and China.
So readers, by stepping out of your comfort zone and throwing caution to the wind, you ultimately unleash the magic of forging your own path across the contours of a map. Go on, you may surprise yourself!
How do you prefer to travel? Solo, with friends, group travel? Let me know your preferred style of travel?