To anyone who’s ever done it, you will understand when I say that traveling alone can be an incredibly daunting yet eye-opening experience. Traveling solo comes with many pros and cons. The cons mainly being mainly the fact that you are, well, alone. Nonetheless, I feel that the advantages to traveling solo most certainly outweigh the disadvantages.
Firstly, when you are traveling alone you don’t have to concern yourself with anyone else’s priorities or itineraries. For example, maybe you don’t necessarily want to take that extra two hour detour to see that statue of whatever significant history-maker your travel buddy wants to see. Or, maybe you want to wander the streets of Rome aimlessly but your companion wants to have a perfectly mapped-out route. Heads will butt, and annoyances will most likely occur if you pick the wrong travel buddy and this can be detrimental to your overall travel experience. However, if you decide to travel solo you won’t ever have to worry about such occurrences…and I personally love that.
Secondly, you can make quick friends through this method of traveling so that you’re never actually truly “alone.” This is probably easiest to do at a hostel that has a common space, by joining walking tours or by visiting English friendly Internet cafes. These fast friendships you make can last forever, or they can last only a day. They are convenient and memorable. I remember when I was traveling alone through Israel I met this lovely South African named Jenna who was also traveling alone. We met in our hostel in Jerusalem and quickly became travel buddies, but only for the three days we were both there. We ventured to the Dead Sea and the Wailing Wall together and friended each other on Facebook to share the photos we both took. Was it a friendship made from convenience? Yes. But absolutely worth it.
This leads me into my third point: it’s usually easier to meet new people when you’re traveling alone. If you’re traveling with three of your friends you are more likely to be content with spending the majority of your time with them, instead of meeting new people. Larger travel groups usually appear cliquey to other travelers at a hostel or hotel and people may not approach you as straightforwardly. On the other hand, traveling solo has actually forced me into situations where I meet many new people out of pure necessity for human contact. I would go crazy if I had none to talk to for an extended period of time and it’s nice to meet new people along the way to share your travel stories with who are like-minded budget travelers.
My fourth point is a bit cheesy and pompous yet totally relevant. Traveling alone is one of the most eye-opening experiences you can ever have. I have never had another experience in my life, other than traveling solo, where I have congratulated myself in a moment of pride thinking, “Wow, you just did that!” It makes you a more rounded person, just as travel should do and lets you push your personal limits. I think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs might even classify this as Self-Actualization. When I was 18 years old I embarked on my first solo journey to France, which is not much of a culture shock, but I was happy to say that I did it on my own. I paid for my flight on my own, reserved my own hostels, navigated foreign airports and scaled cobblestones streets dragging a rolling suitcase behind me. After that trip, I realized that I wanted to do more solo travel and would never stop. I even pushed my personal limits by flying into the Middle East and crossing the border into Palestine on my own last summer.
Of course, there is nothing like traveling and sharing a memorable experience with a loved one or a friend. I am not trying to degrade that experience at all because I love doing that too sometimes. However, I think it is also necessary to balance out the group travel with solo travel. This is essential because as we travel these foreign countries on our own and learn more about them, we also learn more about ourselves. To me, that is what travel is really about.