Why I Like to Travel Alone

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 18th, 2008

Solo Travel in the mountainsI always get asked the same questions when I tell people I travel alone:

“Don’t you get lonely?” “Is it safe?” “How do you meet people?”

People are amazed that I’ve traveled so much by myself. “I couldn’t do that, especially for so long,” they say. Yet I wouldn’t do it any other way. Traveling by myself has taught me a lot about myself.

People often assume that solo travel means traveling alone. Far from it. I meet more people on the road than I ever thought possible.

When I left to travel, I was worried that I’d go without meeting people or that it would be extremely difficult to make friends. I was wrong on both accounts. You spend the first few hours alone, but then it is a constant stream of new friends. I often can’t get away from people! I was meeting so many people that it sometimes was friend overload! Even when I wanted time alone, there was always someone around to chat up.

Travelers make for kindred spirits. I recently got into this conversation with a former co-worker, who was worried about this very thing. You meet people, I said. You have to. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your time alone. Solo travel forces you out of that bubble. It forces you to get comfortable with talking to strangers, because everyone you meet is one. Moreover, sometimes you end up making very close life long friends.

I met many people who said that when they were traveling with friends, they found it harder to meet new people. They had someone to talk to already and were less likely to make an effort to get to know others. Going alone forces you to make new friends, otherwise you wander around bored and depressed. Solo travel brings you out of your shell and forces you to be comfortable saying hello to random strangers and adjusting to new situations.

As you meet people on the road, you head to new destinations together. I picked up travel partners everywhere. I found roommates on boats, lifetime friends on beaches, and girlfriends on buses. I was always jetting off to new places with perfect strangers. It’s one of the best things about traveling – the ability to constantly interact with people from all over the world. And if I didn’t like who I was with or where I was, I simply moved along.

That is one of the other great advantages of solo travel – flexibility. You go where you want when you want. Don’t like a town? Just leave! Simple. Beautiful. Easy.

When you travel alone, you only have to answer to yourself. In a way, it can make you more selfish, because it’s all about you. You get used to only having to deal with your needs. You do what you want when you want. And when you do meet a big group of people, it can be a hard adjustment to suddenly have to deal with the needs of others. But that makes you remember the importance of patience.

However, traveling solo lets you discover who you are because you have to put your skills to the test. You don’t have anyone else to rely on. You discover your likes, dislikes; all you can do, and can’t do. You learn to survive and adapt. You learn to deal with new cultures and calamities. I’ve become a very independent and capable person due to all my solo travel. Solo travel is the travel of self-reliance.

However, don’t think I never want to travel with people. I travel to meet people, to discover new cultures, and to make new friends. Sometimes you want to share that moment or share that adventure with someone. No one wants to always eat alone. No one wants to spend their whole trip to Paris with no one to talk to. But group travel has too many downsides for me. There are too many opinions, needs, and desires. The larger the group, the worse it is. I rarely ever travel with more than four people. While I think tour groups play an important role in tourism and that meeting people is great, if I do it too long, I get a little agitated. Sometimes it is nice to just have some me time.

In the end, I always leave home alone, not because I’m a loner (far from it), but because I like to explore the world on my own terms. I love meeting new travelers and new people, but I’d rather set out on that journey alone because, isn’t it all about self-discovery anyway?

comments 12 Comments

agree with you..however I have always liked to travel with one more person , its usually my husband or a friend or a cousin ..its just to share the joy of discovering something… when we travel with friends sometimes its quite difficult to accommodate every one

lakshmi

Matt-

Whew. I could spend the next hour talking about my solo vs. group preferences, but they boil down to this.

I used to be a tour director for an educational tourism country, which meant one thing: I led big groups around places and talked to them on a microphone from the front of the bus, which the vast majority of them appeared to hate. When I think about it, though, I’m amazed by some of the authentic moments of cultural contact I was able to create for and with them.

I eventually quit the job though because those moments were so rare and those moments are the main reason why I travel.

I agree with Lakshmi– though I sometimes find traveling with my husband maddening (mostly the packing and getting to the airport part), when I’m traveling alone I always find myself thinking, “I wish he was here so we could share this.” There’s nothing like having an experience or seeing something that blows your mind and having someone to talk with about it, though, as you say in the post, there are people everywhere– you just have to open yourself to them.

Anthony

Great article man. I think most who travel solo do so to get away from routine and the people who they are always around, not to be entirely “solo”. Otherwise you’ll end up talking to a bloody faced volleyball on some remote island in the South Pacific and crying when it floats away.

You also get to learn more about yourself. Your success and failures are yours to enjoy and best of all, like you mentioned: FLEXIBILITY!

Cheers

The only ‘solo’ part of solo is getting on that first plane. After that, staying alone is virtually impossible, I agree.

If you’re on the backpacker trail, you’ll meet people instantly – registering at the hostel, sharing your room, in a suggested restaurant, on the beach… If you’re in rural Africa, crowds will follow you around because you’re such an oddity, and next thing you know you’ll be surrounded by most of the village. In big cities people will walk up to you and ask where you’re from. And you’ll make plans to meet up with people you’ve met on the road, further up. As for villagers and citizens of the lands you travel through, some will become lifelong friends, even if that friendship is limited to the occasional postcard exchange.

I love to travel on my own because it gives me the freedom to do what I want, when I want. The thing is – I rarely end up doing it alone!

i like to travel with my best friend, but we don’t stick to each other like glue. we break off, meet our own set of new friends, regroup, and viola, double our friends base. i have such a wonderful time doing that because i feel very independent traveling by myself, but when i need a familiar face, she’s there.

Cuckoo

Solo traveling culture is not very popular in India as such. Some might like to go in larger groups but I prefer not more than 3 as it becomes a crowd then.

I like both. Although I think solo travel forces you to interact with other people. When you travel in a group, its so easy to become a little bubble.

NomadicMatt

@Lakshmi- I do like going with people but sometimes, it’s easy to do your own thing.

@Julie (and Lakshmi)- There are plenty of moments you want to share people with. You don’t want to be alone all the time! What’s the fun in that! I hope I didn’t give them impression!

@trang- great idea! A lot of people I’ve met have done that. They travel together for awhile then break up and then come back together. Because like Chistine just said, it’s easy to get into a little bubble.

Erica Johansson

So far I’ve also left home alone and traveled on my own terms. But I’ve returned with so many new friends and experiences that it doesn’t feel like I’ve been alone during my journeys.

It’s definitely about self-discovery. We learn most about ourselves and the world when we travel solo and are faced with new places, cultures, challenges, people, events…

Kenny

I travel the world solo and absolutely love the freedom to go and do what i want when i want. I travle with no money but meet people who help me out everywhere on this globe. The first initial risk is all worth it.

I am currently living in a tee pee with a lovely family in the sawtooth mountains, Idaho. I never would of experienced this if I traveled on a set plan with other people. It’s hard sometimes when you have no money and haven’t eaten for a while but the world looks after me.

Just take a risk and discover whats over the horizon.

Good luck fellow travellers

I use to travel alone too, Travelling alone lets you be what you are. You can do what you feel like doing. Although its very risky at times, and some circumstances push you to the limit. One such thing happened with me too, and since then I go out with my best buddy. And now I think if you can get someone with the same likes and dislikes as that of yours than its great to travel with such a person.

True about meeting new people often. I bump into new people frequently. Even more frequently than when I’m at home.
Travel actually connects you to people, opens you up to the rest of the World.

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