Why doesn’t everyone travel solo? If you explore the world alone, like I do, you may ask yourself this question during times of particularly acute bliss borne of travel experiences you never would know if not alone.
I have to remind myself, though, that solo travel is not for everyone. Most people seem to want to actually share their travel experiences with people whom they love, people whom they like, people whom they cringe and tolerate so they can split the cost of a hotel room. Many individuals, mostly women, may strongly desire to strike out and explore the entirety of the world or even just take a short vacation but flat out end up staying home due to lack of a travel partner. Some of you want to travel and want to travel bad. Yet many arguments against traveling solo abound. I can tell you that these reasons not to travel alone are rooted in myth, though, not in reality.
Perhaps you’re tampering with the idea of hitting the road alone but are rendered motionless by tales of negativity that have seeped into your psyche. Here’s ten solo travel fallacies accompanied by the truth, to get you out of a can’t-do mindset and onto the road.
1. Traveling alone is dangerous – Probably not to the extent you think, unless you are traveling in a part of the world known to be a red hot danger spot. The town I live in is literally more dangerous than many, many parts of the world. Perhaps the same holds true for you. Just because you’re all alone while traveling, you are not automatically a crime target and you don’t have to be on guard during every single moment you’re out there.
Do, however, carry yourself with confidence, and think smart at all times. Walk tall and look like you know where you’re going even if (in fact, especially if) you don’t. Avoid getting inebriated alone. It is best not to get plastered at all, unless you’ve managed to hook up on the road with someone whom you’re confident won’t abandon you in the midst of a drunken haze so that you’ll have to wander the streets alone. In short, think your way through your travels. Don’t worry so much that you never give it a go.
2. Traveling solo is scary – Don’t allow yourself to go through life avoiding experiences because you are scared. Live today as if you are going to be stricken with a debilitating illness or injury tomorrow. If you don’t, when you grow older you may have not much more than a life of unfulfilled dreams to accompany you into the twilight.
To conquer your fear, expand your comfort zone. First, step one foot carefully into something that scares you. More likely than not, you’ll come out on the other side with less fear and more bravado. Now take your new comfort level and shake it up again. And again. Soon you’ll wind up capable of most anything.
3. I’ll be lonely – Not necessarily. You’ll probably get to know one or more travelers at some point, perhaps even locals, with whom you can share experiences. Also, family and friends are only an internet away. Tell them to set themselves up with Twitter and Facebook before you leave, and you can communicate with them en masse easily through every step of your journey.
Interestingly, a traveler named Leyla Giray commented on a post of mine called Five Great Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo, saying she’s actually lonelier when she travels with people. Here’s what she had to say: “I actually like to travel solo because… it’s LESS lonely! When I travel with someone, I’m usually with that person and no one else. Over the course of weeks or months, that might close me in a bit as I become accustomed to one person’s company but not in need of anyone else’s. Solo, on the other hand, forces me to reach out constantly, meeting new people every day. The problem I usually have when I’m on my own is how to actually find some solo time!”
4. I can’t plan a trip all by myself – Internet travel sites and forums with loads of helpful information abound. Study these websites to become familiar with the process of planning a trip before you step foot into your own. Learning about other traveler’s mistakes and victories can really help steer you in the right direction before you dig in and start cementing your own travel plans together.
5. I don’t know how to travel alone – You’re probablly accustomed to letting your travel partner(s) share some of the necessary footwork on the road. While traveling solo you can still get the help of others when planning your adventures. Ask people you meet for their input on where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Enlisting other people can help you more gently ease into traveling alone. You’ll find that some aspects of solo travel are similar to traveling with others, except you’ll enjoy a great deal more freedom. At all times you’ll be able to do exactly as you please. Take off in the morning when you want, do all that you wish each day, and return to your room when you feel like it. With no one else to answer to, solo travel will set you free.
6. I can’t afford to pay for a room by myself – You don’t have to pay for a room at all. You can join an on-line couch surfing network and spend your nights on people’s sofas across the globe. This may not sound all that appetizing, but it is free. Don’t want a family gathered around watching you sleep on the couch? Spend just a little more money for your own bed in a hostel dorm room. If sleeping with strangers is also too uncomfortable, shell out a little more money and you can sleep at the same hostel in an inexpensive yet perfectly acceptable private room.
7. I won’t be able to get around all alone – Since you’ll have only one brain to figure out on which streets to walk, what bus to take and when it’s time to double back because you’ve overshot your target, getting from Point A to Point B probably will be more stressful when you’re traveling solo. But you’ve got a good brain in your head, don’t you? Traveling alone you’ll learn how to pay more attention and become more resourceful by figuring out every step you take all by yourself.
8. I won’t have any fun – Fun can be redefined while traveling. Fun is living your lifelong dream of visiting the Louvre. It’s spending the day on a white sand beach in Bali. It’s experiencing your first tuk-tuk ride in Thailand. Simply opening yourself up to the enjoyment and excitement of traveling alone will introduce you to a whole new world of fun.
9. Guys might hit on me – Seriously? What’s wrong with that? Whether you’re single or attached to someone back home, there’s no reason to worry. If you don’t want the attention, a polite good-bye usually suffices. In many instances, though, you may feel like you’re being hit upon when a really nice guy is simply trying to talk to you. Talk back. You might make a great new friend. I have, many times over.
10. I’m not the solo travel type – Are you positive? We are all multifaceted. Realize that at least a little bit of a solo traveler may very well be lurking inside of you. Some part of you, even if only for a week of your life, is capable, and possibly even looking forward to, setting out to explore a bit of the world on your own. Don’t ignore this aspect of yourself. It could enrich your life from this point forward.
Thumbnail girl on bus photo by trygvesmor, woman walking alone by
Ollie Crafoord, girl planning trip photo by The Alieness Gisela Giardino, woman studying map photo by Alex Castella, group photo by BrandontheMandon.