On most of my recent vacations I have traveled by myself. And while it is nothing new to me, most people still have the same surprised reaction when they hear I’m traveling solo: “I couldn’t do that.”
Thing is, it’s not about the literal “can” – of course they could plan a vacation by themselves. They could also fly and check in and do tours by themselves. The far more appropriate word choice would be “I don’t want to do that” – they simply don’t want to go on vacation alone, have no one they know close by to talk to, and no one to share the experience with.
Lately, solo travel is made out to be this big trend, with everyone doing it. And, yes, most tour guides no longer lose their composure when they suddenly have to deal with an uneven number in their group. But: Solo travelers are still few and far in between. Even among backpackers, solo travel is not a guarantee to immediately find like-minded people everywhere. My first time traveling abroad by myself was certainly an eye-opener: I had (naively) thought that on a group tour all other participants will be like me – alone and looking for people to connect and spend time with. Surprise, surprise: most people were traveling with at least one friend. And it’s been the same ever since.
You have to be prepared to spend the entire vacation by yourself. Sit alone on buses, or with the tour guide, or with the old granny from that family of five. Take pictures by yourself and ask others when a selfie isn’t enough. Eat by yourself at breakfast, lunch and dinner – be it at a hostel, hotel, or restaurant. Bring all your stuff with you whenever you get up – certainly no leaving your backpack at the table in that food court while you quickly run to the bathroom. And not have someone to share your thoughts with: no one to listen to your witty comment about that woman’s hideous dress, or your worry that you might miss your flight because of the traffic, or the fact that there is nothing on the menu you want to eat and you have no idea what to do in order to not offend anyone.
I know all those things. I’ve even done and experienced all of them. And I can understand why people say they would likely not enjoy a vacation if those were the parameters.
Solo travel is not for everyone, but sometimes I wish more people would test their limits, leave their comfort zones. Because maybe, just maybe, they would be surprised by the experience. By how nice it is to start random conversations with strangers, by being invited by locals because they want to take care of you, by deciding to change your itinerary simply because you want to. By spending time with yourself and your thoughts, quirks, habits and hopes. Maybe you realize just how annoying some of the things you do are. Or maybe you realize that you’re actually someone you like spending time with. Or maybe both.
Traveling alone makes you more aware of yourself but also about others. It makes you more open-minded, more accommodating, more confident about what you can and cannot do, and what you are willing to accept from others and what not. You learn what’s really important to you. And you might just end up rethinking your priorities.
Have you ever thought about traveling solo? What makes you hesitate? Or what made you decide to do it? Let me know in a message or down in the comments!
PS: Today I explained to 16 people that I am indeed traveling alone. 16. On a normal day at home, I don’t even talk to that many people. Think about that for a moment.