When I first decided to leave everything behind and travel the world on my own and all alone, it was exhilarating. The thought of solo travel for 2-3 years seemed like such a crazy thing (I had never solo travelled before), and yet, I couldn’t wait to go. When the final days leading up to my one way flight to Tokyo (which was the only ticket I had bought in advance) approached, I started to get a little scared. Ok, fine, I was terrified. Can I do this? What the hell is it going to be like? Will I be doomed to eat alone, drink alone, and talk to myself for the next few years?
Now the people who know me personally, would probably consider me an extrovert and a fairly social guy. However, I do have my introverted side that just likes to be alone sometimes. As I soon discovered, solo travel actually nourishes BOTH your introverted and extroverted sides. As scared as I was taking those first steps as a solo traveller, I knew within minutes that this was exactly what I needed in my life at the time.
Most people would probably start with the bad points and end with the good ones but I know most people’s attention span these days is short so I want you to read the good stuff before you go back to checking Facebook or something. First off, solo travel is amazing, life changing, enlightening, and an absolute must at least once in your life. But it is not without it’s tough moments. After 10 months of backpacking through Asia on my own, here are my own personal truths that I learned about the awesome things about solo travel.
In every sense of the word. You are completely free to choose every aspect of your trip. Where are you going to go and for how long? Who are you going with and when will you leave them? Where are you going to stay and what will you eat? Everything is up to you and you have no one to ask permission, affirmation, or acceptance from – it’s all up to you! This kind of open travel is so liberating and is the single best aspect of solo travel. Because I was free to go anywhere, at anytime, with anyone I wanted to, I embarked on countless adventures that I didn’t even think I was going to do – like travelling to Myanmar and Sri Lanka with 2 Canadian girls that I met in Vietnam and then deciding to get my Open Water Scuba certification while I was there. Then I thought, why not go to India and meet another travel friend there? Then cutting my India trip short because I decided to go to Ubud in Bali to do a Yoga Teacher Training course for a month. And then deciding to stay an extra month in Ubud because, well… Bali. This kind of freedom of choice would be hard if you were travelling with someone because it’s unlikely that they’ll have the EXACT same interests and desires as you. Of course, this amount of choice may be frightening to people who aren’t used to always being able to make their own decisions which leads to my next point.
2. Personal Growth
When you travel solo, you will become a different person. A stronger, more willful, more confident, and more resourceful person. There is no question about it. If you weren’t those things before, after a few months of solo travel, you will most certainly encounter situations that will challenge you and change you. You’ll have to be more social and confident to talk to strangers and make friends. You’ll have to be more vulnerable in asking for help. You’ll have to be more resourceful in trying to figure things out on your own. Don’t be daunted though, because all these things are learnable skills. In no time, you’ll be THAT traveller that people will ask, “Wow, that’s amazing. I could never travel alone. How do you do it?” to which you’ll simply reply, “You just do.”
3. Reflection and Time For Yourself
Here’s the beauty of solo travel. Whenever you need it, you can have time for yourself. Even when you don’t want it, you’ll have time for yourself but we’ll talk about that later. This is a GOOD thing. Self reflection and mindfulness is good for the soul and that is when you can truly begin to ask yourself the important things. What do I want to achieve from this trip? Where am I going and why? Do I have any toilet paper left to use at the next bus stop? All too often we are caught up in conversation, distraction, or some other social interaction and we don’t have enough time to ourselves. When you solo travel, you’ll begin to discover what is important to you and you alone, in life and in everything else.
4. No Compromises
If you’ve travelled with friends, family, or your partner, then you always have to be responsible for them in some way, even if you don’t realize it. Whether it’s dietary restrictions, activities that they are scared of, or simply just things they don’t want to do or see, you’ve likely had to compromise what you wanted to do for their sake. Well compromise no more! You can go trekking through the jungle and bungie jump off a cliff without feeling guilty about leaving your partner back at the hostel. You can party until sunrise in Patong or Kuta without feeling guilty to anyone who can’t keep up. You can spend the entire day lying on the beach and do nothing but soak in the sun without anyone nagging you about “doing nothing”. This is your life, your trip, your vacation – enjoy it however the hell you want.
5. No Drama
Even when you travel solo, you’re never really alone. You will meet other travellers and locals along the way who you will bond with and perhaps travel together with. In the 10 months that I was alone backpacking through Asia, I was really only alone the first week. After that, I met so many travellers that I kept on changing my plans to travel with them. But the great thing about solo travel is that if things don’t work out, you can just go your own way. Perhaps there’s a conflict in schedule or a difference in taste or maybe you just want to change the company you keep – you are free to part ways whenever you please!
6. No Judgement
When you solo travel, nobody knows who you are so you can be whoever you want to be. Now, I’m not saying that you should be someone you’re not, however, there are no people to tell you that you can’t do this or that because that’s not who you really are. Try new things, experiment with life, and reinvent yourself. That’s the beauty of being a stranger in a strange land – you can find your true self without people judging you and telling you how you should be based on your past.
7. Your Facebook Friends List Will Explode
It is inevitable with solo travel – you will meet new people and make new friends. If you travel with family, friends, or a partner, it can be easy to just stick to social circle and not make an effort to meet strangers. But if you travel alone, you will have no choice but to interact with strangers. Even if you don’t try, quite often people will just come up to you! And soon enough, you’ll be meeting so many new people your Facebook friends list will artificially inflate but some of them might actually become real friends. The best thing is that they will likely be travellers from all around the world whom you’ll be able to travel with or reconnect with when you go visit them in their home town!
Solo travel has been one of the greatest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And while now that I’m in a relationship, the opportunities to solo travel won’t be as easy to come by, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses. For the not so glamorous side, check out my post on 7 Bad and Ugly Things About Solo Travel.
For some more tips and insight on solo travel, check out Brooke’s tips on how to enjoy solo travel.
What did you like best about solo travel? What stood out to you as the most rewarding and enlightening aspects of solo travel?