Updated: 07/26/2018 | July 26th, 2018
“Joe, did you book your ticket yet?” I asked as we sat playing video games.
“No. I changed my mind. I’m not going to go.”
“What? You aren’t going to Australia? We’ve been planning this vacation for months!” I was stupified.
“Yeah, I don’t feel like it. We’ll go some other time.”
Over the coming weeks, I attempted to get my friend to reconsider, but to no avail. When Joe changed his mind, he changed his mind. Our trip to Australia — our big post-college adventure — was off.
And none of my friends wanted to replace him.
If I wanted to travel, it would have to be on my own.
So, in 2004, I left by myself to Costa Rica. It was that trip that planted the travel bug in me. It was that trip that helped inspire me to travel more, visit Thailand, and quit my job to travel the world.
Joe not going was the best thing that ever happened to me.
But him not going was a pattern that has repeated itself consistently over the years. While a few friends have joined me here and there along the way, more often than not, plans to meet friends in far-flung places don’t pan out. When it comes down to the wire, “something” always comes up and they’re suddenly too busy, change their mind, or can’t afford it.
It’s taught me that if I wait for others, I’ll never go anywhere.
There are places I want to go, people to see, experiences to have, and food to try — and only so much time to accomplish it all.
So I refuse to wait. I won’t let others keep me from realizing my dreams.
It can be scary traveling alone, especially when you’ve never done it before. But, to me, growing old without experiencing everything you want from life is even scarier.
If you’ve been putting off a trip because you’re waiting for someone to go with — stop. Just go. Don’t let others hold you back from your dreams. Trust me, along the way you’ll make plenty of friends — from other solo travelers who thought “Screw it, if I don’t go, I’ll never go” to locals interested in meeting new people.
I’ve found that you’re never alone when you travel. I worried that if I didn’t travel with friends, I’d be alone. I’d never make any friends. But it turns out you make so many on the road that you have to go out of your way to be alone! You’re constantly surrounded by people!
Solo travel gives you ultimate freedom. You wake up and it’s just you — what you want, where you want, when you want. In that freedom and infinite space of possibility, you meet yourself. You hit the limits of what you like and don’t like. There’s no one to pull you in any one direction or override your reasons. Want sushi? Get sushi. Want to leave? Leave. Want to try bungee jumping? Go for it.
It’s sink or swim and you have to learn how to survive — who to trust, how to make friends, how to find your way around alone. That’s the greatest reward of solo travel: the personal growth. Each time you go away, you learn to become a little more independent, confident, and in tune with your emotions and desires.
Solo travel is not for everyone. Some people return home soon after departing, others cry for weeks before embracing it, and some just embrace it right away. But you’ll never learn that if you don’t travel once by yourself. Whether a weekend away, a two-week vacation, or trip around the world, try it at least once.
Don’t wait for people or hold back from living your dreams. You could be waiting a long time until someone finally says yes. There’s only now — and if you don’t go, you’ll regret it.
Because if I hadn’t stopped waiting, I’d still be in my cubicle, trying to convince Joe to go to Australia and wondering if I’d ever get to see the world.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.