I 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?