A lot of people, a lot of my very best friends, have never and will never travel alone.
Let’s face it: in today’s hard learning, hard working, gimme gimme more age of long hours and begrudgingly approved holidays: not everyone has the time to travel alone. Or the desire to prioritise it.
But every student, professional, tradesman or woman, bartender or barista has the means to travel alone. If they want to.
You can’t communicate exactly how incredible it is to travel alone, only urge others to try it and promise with conviction that everything will be fine. You’ll love it. Honestly. Just take the plunge and you’ll see.
You meet people
When you’re already operating in a duo or larger group you’re absolutely less likely to meet new people. No matter how out-going and inclusive you are. There’s just not the same impetus to make new friends when you’re already yapping with your friend/boyfriend.
When you travel with friends there’s an expectation that you’ll do things together. Or at least consult them on the things you’ll do. Freeing yourself of this weight at the start only increases your capacity to diversify, take chances and make new friends.
Honestly. You will be sitting in a bar/restaurant/common area for 5 minutes before someone talks to you. And if not, talk to them. People don't sit alone in bars or common areas hoping no one will speak to them. They want to be spoken to! They’re be friendly. I promise.
You become decisive and take ownership over your decisions
In the office and among friends we’re constantly making decisions. Often they are supervised or made between a group. Minimising responsibility and lessening the repercussions. When you travel alone you constantly make different kinds of decisions. Where to go. Where to eat. How to get there. How much of your budget you are willing to spend. How long you should stay. Who is worth following.
Whether someone is genuine or you’re being scammed? Do you feel comfortable? Are you Safe?
Is now the time to run?
Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I just go with my gut.
Travelling alone has made me more decisive and alert. More sure of myself. I know when to decline expensive dinners and private transfers. I like the local mush and cramped buses better. I’m a history geek. When I don’t feel like playing drinking games I sneak off at 8pm. I’m not afraid of what anyone thinks. I don’t need to follow the big groups. I feel safe on my own. Until I don’t. And then I simply hold my head high, act like I’ve been there before, and calmly work my way out.
Your confidence soars
I’ve been a vain primadonna for as long as I can remember. Uncomfortable around boys. Always worried I was saying or doing the wrong thing. Hoping desperately to be one of the crowd and living in fear of being singled out. Generally just down in the dumps for not being pretty enough. Or skinny enough. Or tan enough.
Oh so recently I stopped wearing make up. Poof. For the first time. Not caring about the photos, or what the boys or the world at large thought. The mundane simplicity of this gesture is cringe-worthy. But to me it was symbolic of no longer trying to hide behind a facade. Being more confident about exactly who I am. And learning, with stupid glee, what I should have known all along. People like you just the way you are. Interesting people. Funny people. Dashing Germans, Brooding Brazilians, hilarious crowds of touring Irish rugby players.
You are the master of your own destiny
Friends have asked me before how I afford to travel. Friends with cars. Friends planning elaborate weddings. Friends who spend $4000 in two weeks. Friends with designer clothes. Over expensive bottles of wine. That bookend expensive lives.
Everyone I know could afford to do this (most of my friends are childless and working full time in their mid-twenties). They just don’t prioritise it. They wouldn’t want to take local buses and stay in cheap dorm rooms.
I didn’t have a car in Australia. I don’t buy expensive clothes. Sometimes I went out with friends armed with a flask of vodka in my oversized bag. I chose cheap travel. You’ve got to want it and you’ve got to make sacrifices.
While travelling I constantly meet people that inspire me.
I met a couple who’d been cycling from Cairo to Cape Town over three years. They were fit, budget conscious and ready for anything.
I met freelance farmers, working and travelling all their lives. You can always afford it if you want to. If it’s your thing.
You become comfortable alone in your own skin and enjoy introspection
Although I’ve spent the first 4 points assuring you that travelling alone does not exactly mean you will be alone, you must set out being prepared for all the possible scenarios. If you try and cling to every poor soul you meet, or if you expect company, you’ll instantly repell it. You won’t like everyone anyway, and if so you should hold out for that magical someone that you just click with. That opens your mind. That gives you an idea.
In between those people you need a chance to reflect. There is so much to process. You need time to appreciate all the incredible things happening to you every day. Not just the things you are seeing or doing but all the little sparks that erupt from every conversation you have. Everything you see. You will begin to relish this alone time. And see how valuable introspection is.
Without even realising it you are growing and changing along with the experiences you have and share. Give yourself a chance to reflect and rejuvenate.
Because you will be changing without even noticing. For the better.
And that is why I travel alone.