As a solo traveler, I spent a lot of time meeting new people and spending time alone. I discovered that I have a strong need for alone time; I realize that I had been taking care of this need by going riding for hours on the weekends, alone, but traveling alone was definitely a different experience.
One of the first questions I am asked is whether I was lonely traveling. I can’t say that I was ever by myself. There were always people to hang out with; most of them were very interesting and I enjoyed our time together. However, at some point I began craving familiarity. Generally the same topics are discussed when hanging out with travelers: where you’ve been, where you’re going, what’s your life situation that allows you to travel. While very interesting, I began longing for the type of nonsense conversation you can only really have with someone with whom you feel comfortable. As someone who takes a long time to warm up to a new person, this type of brief contact is not conducive to close friendships.
|Does this seem like a bad idea to you?|
Why travel solo if there’s a lack of lasting connections to other people? Freedom. My plans changed all the time. I would set out for the day with a rough itinerary but run into something cool and the whole day would turn out differently. There was the last minute trip to the beach in Cambodia that totally threw off my Cambodia/Laos itinerary but I felt was necessary at the time (and I don’t regret at all). I am not very rigid in my travel style; I generally have an idea of the route I want to take but I am very flexible once on the road. I know that this works for me, but traveling without an itinerary can be very stressful for others.
As a young white girl, alone, I became very approachable to other travelers. While this might sound dangerous, Manila was the only place that I felt uncomfortable walking around by myself at night. I felt far safer in SE Asia than I do in most of the US. I do not know whether the statistics back me up on this claim; I make this statement only based on my experience. I met a lot of other girls traveling solo and they echoed the same sentiments. Since I wasn’t traveling with an itinerary, these interactions became the way I planned my travels. I’d listen to stories of what people enjoyed or felt was a waste of time, and plan accordingly.
I have traveled with people in the past, and my next trip I’m planning with friends. It is definitely scarier leaving for a trip by yourself. Familiar faces provide a comfort that cannot be replicated. Once I got past the initial shock of being someplace new, I was okay and thankful for the freedom I had that would have been sacrificed for a familiar face. Coming back to the US I found I was so used to just doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, that I would get annoyed whenever I had to make plans. When I moved back to DC, I didn’t tell anyone that I was back for about a week because I wanted to preserve that freedom to which I had grown so accustomed.
For someone who has never traveled solo before, it can seem very intimidating. I like to think of myself as fairly adventurous and I know that I certainly had reservations about solo travel for an undefined amount of time. However, if the lack of companionship is the primary factor holding back your travel plans, just book your ticket and go. Even if you never want to travel solo again, it is an experience that will demonstrate just how much you are capable of doing on your own.