Let me ask you a question? Do you remember the first time you drove a car all alone? Someone trusted you right? That was huge! Getting that license was so rewarding (as my 16 year old nephew just found out.)! Remember going off to school or another city for a job on your own? Wow! Didn’t you feel accomplished and independent? Let’s go back even more…we all heard the words..” You’re a big girl/boy now! ” We were so proud of ourselves! We did it!! At some point as we grow, we learn to do our own thing independent of others. We can’t always wait on someone, our schedules don’t match, we have different desires…… I want museums and he wants the beach. If you’re a fledgling traveler and want to do it more at some point you have to ask: “Should I travel solo”?
So why should you?
1. You don’t have to wait on others. (Freedom)
Your time is valuable. Everyone can’t always get the same time off and sometimes it comes unexpectedly. That 4 day weekend wasn’t in your plans but suddenly you find out you can take off work a few days next month. You have the extra cash but your friends don’t. You have 2 weeks off (whenever) but you can’t pin down your friends. You want to go here but they really want to go there. It is YOUR dream to go to India, but not theirs. That 4 day Caribbean cruise is just right. That trip to Thailand fits right into your schedule. This may be the only chance you have to get to Italy for a while! We don’t know how long life is. Life is now! You don’t have to wait on anyone but YOU!
2. You Can Do You! (Freedom)
There will be no quibbling over where to go and what to see and how long to sleep in or how long to stay at this place or that place. It is all you. For however long you are traveling for, you call all the shots!
3. You Control the Budget! (Freedom)
You don’t have to feel guilty because you did or didn’t spend matching someone else. You eat at your level of spending. You shop how and where you want. You take cheaper or more expensive travel options based on your budget and desires.
All of these reasons why lead to you having less drama and hassles and disagreements. Even with our favorite friends we all compromise. There is sometimes a need to be selfish. A need to look after oneself. No one can feel what you feel on a daily basis with work or school or family. You need to blow off some steam how you want to. Or don’t want to.
1. You Can Spend More Time Meeting Others
Sometimes couples and groups are insular. We tend to focus on each other and not our surroundings. Solo, you really are taking time to interact with your surroundings. The small conversations with local staff, shop keepers, people who ask you where you’re from when you’re out and about, fellow travelers who have been here before or live here now. You may hang out one day with another person you met at the hostel or the B&B or the mixer. The waiter with the local tips. The shopkeeper with a reliable taxi number. The local guide who knows the best local night spots for a quiet drink or a pub crawl. That nice old guy at your free salsa class. The list goes on and on.
2. You Become Braver & Bolder
As you learn the place you are in, you discover how to do things you may not do at home. Getting around on buses and trains. Reading schedules and maps. Practicing bits of another language. (Even the basics are meaningful.) You may take a cooking class or a local dance class, or meet up with an internet pal you met on a forum or other site. Your confidence grows! You can do this! After several days in some places you realize that you are still there..still OK! you wonder why you haven’t done this before!
3. You Discover You
This is not just a bunch of new age rah. You start to see more of your own likes and dislikes. You discover how you react to sudden changes and unfamiliar turf and unfamiliar people. Your sense of sight and smell, taste and touch are tested like never before! You are experiencing more because you are not falling back into the familiar trap of the other or the group or the same routine with the homies! Even if you decide to join a group tour, there are new people, new accents, new tips and anecdotes and emails, and invites. People tend to react different when you travel alone. You sometimes get attention you didn’t expect both positive and negative with the positive usually far outweighing the negative when you are happy, because you are visiting somewhere you really were excited to see. And when you are not enjoying something you discover how decisive you can be to move on.
1. Stay Longer at a Destination
You love this place a lot. So why spend a day or two and leave? Sometimes staying at a destination longer opens up new possibilities. You eat or drink at the same cafe a few times. People tell you about things not in your guide book or website. You meet locals or other travelers and visit places off the beaten path together. People look forward to seeing you again the next day, or if you come back again for a few days from a side trip to another local city. You will feel more relaxed over time if you’re really getting into a local culture versus just staying long enough to see a few sites, eat tourist food and get on a bus to another town. After a few days in a particular city, it becomes easier. Some larger cities can take a week or more to explore. Don’t leave with just memories of buildings and buses. You may come home just as tired as when you left. If you just want to sight see, fine, but if some place really feels good, discover a bit more of why! This could be a life long relationship!
2. Get Outside The Tourist Zone
Find activities or things to do that take you more local. Stay in an area that is a little outside where most tourists are. Local cafes, music shops, sweets shops, bars close to your hotel, AIRBNB, or hostel, or even local shopping areas or malls that locals go to in cities will enhance your experience in the city. At beach or landscape destinations, sometimes groups at the hostel or hotel may be going to see a less visited temple or beach or local eatery. Ask to join! Travelers almost always look for these experiences. Ask us! We have all done this.
3. Find Friends Before You Go
For some of us, talking to strangers isn’t always easy. There are many sites and forums with expats in other cities who love showing their new cities off. Some local students practice English or your language by touring you around for a couple of hours. It’s a great way sometimes to get info and see some things you hadn’t thought of. Ask for advice on travel forums for that local info that sometimes is harder to find. Sometimes there is a local in that city who becomes your go to for information long before you arrive. Schedule a local to give you a tour for a couple of hours. This can be done online and that person looks forward to your visit!
4. Be Flexible
Don’t think you have to stick to an itinerary. Make a loose one if you really want to see certain things but be ready to throw it out if you are enjoying yourself too much. You did travel to enjoy yourself right? Why go back to Bangkok to shop if staying one more day in Ko Lanta is really floating your boat and you have the time, the money and ability to extend the stay? A lot of places around the world are easy to travel without having every night booked far in advance. Many hotels will happily extend your stay. You can always ask.
5. Remember, There Are No Mistakes
Don’t second guess yourself. You may get on the wrong bus and realize it too late but make the best of every situation before you beat yourself up. Sometimes you end up in a unique adventure. Countless times I left my room thinking I was going left when I ended up going right because of many factors like the weather, or a sudden meeting, or getting on the train in the wrong direction. If it is just a subway ride you can always get off and see where you are. Falling asleep on the Yamanote loop in Tokyo and waking up on the other side of town seems to be a rite of passage after a night of revelry! An AIRBNB host told me she would be a few hours late…..so my bags and I ended up at a beach and at an iconic cafe feeling very “Jason Bourne” in Tangier, Morocco.
6. Research for Safety
If you are nervous for any reason, read online about others who went to your destination. Learn about the UBER or ride share situation. Download apps that can help you with official taxis. Find out what may or not offend the locals. Take advantage of the others you meet to go out together after dark. Drink moderately and never leave your drink unattended. Don’t ignore what you would normally do at home.
There are many arguments for or even against. But it is a life that only belongs to you, and a world that constantly changes. If traveling is really something that your heart wants to do, don’t waste time listening to what others want you to do. Also, don’t give into fear. Sometimes you should travel alone.
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