Two small words that scare a lot of people.
They used to scare me too. I let a lot of travel opportunities pass me by because I had no one to go with. Friends were either busy, broke or simply not as ‘wanderlusty’ as me. And I am perpetually single.
But turning 25 and graduating from University made me reexamine my life, my goals and how I would spend my meagre paychecks.
I decided it was time to be bolder, take more risks and go after the things I wanted. To get the hell out of my own way.
But what will I do all day?
Well, whatever you want to do.
That’s the best thing about solo travel. Because travelling alone provides the ultimate freedom. You have no one to answer to, no one to consult and the wide open world before you.
Whether you want to go sight-seeing, hiking, lying on a beach or stay in and read a book, it is up to you. You decide what to do, what to eat, where to go. No endless discussions about which restaurant to pick, no compromise. You can plan your trip exactly to your own tastes.
It’s very seldom that we have that freedom to be that selfish. To focus completely on our own needs. For me, solo travel is a form of self-love. Getting to indulge in my whims, treating myself to what I want, instead of being worried about pleasing others.
A lot of people find the idea of doing things alone daunting. They fear the’ll be stared at or even mocked. And I admit that sometimes it is a bit awkward. But it usually isn’t. And besides, who cares about what other people think? And what’s so terrible about a bit of awkwardness? Embrace it!
I actually love doing things by myself. I love going to museums and moving through the exhibitions at my own pace, without waiting around for someone else. I love hiking alone and just immersing myself in nature. I love just strolling around a city and taking in the views without the constant need for small talk. Without having to ask if the other is tired/hungry/bored. I love sitting down somewhere for a cup of tea or a meal and just look at the people going by. Chatting with the waiter. Enjoying every bite of my food. And if you feel really self-conscious about being by yourself, bring a book! You’ll just look like one of those really cool, self-assured and cultured people that go out to eat and read a book.
But don’t you get lonely?
Short answer? No.
I have traveled solo for two years now and haven’t been lonely once. I’m also rarely alone, because I meet people wherever I go. In hostels, Couchsurfing, on tours or just in the street and in bars.
Of course, you can also meet new people when you’re traveling with friends or a partner, but it won’t be exactly the same. The beauty of travelling alone is that you are automatically more open to meeting other people. People are more likely to strike up a conversation when you’re standing alone and you’re more likely to do the same.
Sure, it feels a little awkward to approach others, but once you get over that initial hurdle you’ll see how friendly and open others generally are. I was a painfully shy kid, but you’d never know it now. People that I meet now find it hard to believe. Traveling solo has made me less socially anxious and more confident. Because the fear of strangers is all between your ears. People are social creatures and love to make new friends or just have a drink and a chat with you. Just think about it: do you mind if someone strikes up a conversation with you? Probably not, so what makes you think others would? Solo travelers are the most social bunch you’ll ever meet!
Especially locals are often happy to talk about their city and give you tips. And these days there are so many young people travelling the world alone that you are bound to meet some. And they’ll be happy to hang out and exchange stories, share a meal/drink or go explore with you.
But what if something goes wrong?
Yes, I see your point. It’s a very justified fear.
The thing is, something is definitely going to go wrong. Trust me, I have never been on a trip where everything went off without a hitch. Buses are late, flights are cancelled and accommodations fall through. Passports get lost and money gets stolen. Setbacks and accidents are an inevitable part of travel. No matter how carefully you plan everything, you can’t control life.
Of course, there are things you can do to stay safe while traveling. And always get travel insurance!
So, let it go. Let loose. With every thing that goes wrong you’ll start to relax a bit more. Because it may be a rule of life that things go wrong, but it is also a rule that things work themselves out. For every problem, there is a solution. Sure, it can be really annoying and stressful in the moment, but I promise you’ll find a way to fix it. Whatever it is.
As a woman alone, it can be even more stressful. That’s where these great tips for solo female travelers come in.
Traveling is a great way to learn to go with the flow, loosen the reigns a bit and trust in yourself. Because with every problem you fix, big or small, you start to believe in yourself a little more. Nothing is as empowering as doing things yourself. Learning to trust your instincts and know that you are much smarter, stronger and capable than you had ever thought.
And even though it may feel like you’re all alone and you have no one to rely on, that’s usually not the case. In my experience, people are very generous and helpful. I’ve never been in a situation where no one offered to help. It’s a wonderful feeling to have your faith in humanity restored like that.
But that confidence takes time to build. So if you’re new to the world of solo travel I would recommend starting with a short trip. Go on a weekend away to a town close by. Travel doesn’t always have to be far or long. You don’t have to immediately strap on a backpack and head to Southeast Asia for a month if you’re not up for it. You’re just as much a solo traveler if you’re going on a road trip or a city trip for a couple of days. In fact, that’s how I started. With a short trip here and there, building up to years traveling the world by myself. Something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do.
As with everything in life, solo travel only seems scary before you do it. But it is such a rewarding experience. So go out there and give it a try. And if you hate it? Well, then you never have to do it again 😉
Do you travel alone? Why or why not? Tell me all about it in the comments. And if this post convinced you to give it a try, please share it on social media to inspire even more future solo travelers!