Traveling alone is enlightening. It’s empowering. It’s explorative. People think you’re amazing after telling them a story about a place you traveled to on your own. “Weren’t you scared?” “Weren’t you lonely?” “Didn’t you miss your friends and family?” Dependent travelers are curious when it comes to solo travelers, and sometimes they don’t understand how an experience can be so positive unless shared with another. But you know better – you know how to enjoy your own company and entertain yourself.
You know that traveling alone can be a very fulfilling opportunity.
When you travel alone, you learn to rely on yourself. If you make a decision, only you have to deal with its positive conclusions or consequences. It’s up to you to create your trip experience, and your problem-solving skills develop in an encouraging way. You got lost in Beijing, don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, and don’t know how to get back to your hotel? But you found your way using hand gestures, a map, and the help of a toothless man at the grocery store? And you didn’t get mugged after making a wrong turn down a dark alleyway full of prostitutes? Pat yourself on the back, you’re an independent traveling badass.
It’s hard to travel with other people because other people can be indecisive. They can be more sensitive than you, or less, and have their own opinions on how their trip experience should transpire. But when you travel alone, never will you feel guilty for missing that train from Florence to Rome, or never will you have to apologize to anyone for sleeping in late at your hostel. You don’t have anyone else’s feelings to take into consideration, and that is sometimes the most encouraging reason to travel alone.
It’s easier to get the most out of your trip when you travel by yourself. You can set your own pace, create your own itinerary. If you want to spend five hours at a Turkish bathhouse, go for it. If you want to try on Lolita clothing in Japan and parade yourself around the Harajuku district in your new duds, no one can discourage you with, “No, don’t do that, you look so weird.” When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re tired, you sleep. When you want to hit on a ginger-haired Irishman that others might consider to be ugly, no one else is there to criticize your decision. You can feel confident when he accepts your advances, or you can shamelessly learn from your mistakes when he reveals that he’s gay.
The best thing about traveling alone is that you are never really “alone.” Solo travelers meet other travelers, people traveling in groups or as a couple or other solo travelers on their own journeys. Locals will embrace your bravery to traverse the earth on your own. Or maybe they’ll pity you, so they’ll invite you home to have a meal with their family, or help you hitchhike across borders, or share a mug of beer with you at the community pub. You’ll exchange email addresses, or add them on Facebook. You’ll feel like a true global citizen, with an open invitation to crash on a bed or a couch or a hammock in several countries around the world.
The worst thing about traveling alone is that you have no one with which to share in your experiences. It can be tough to bask in the sunrise over Angkor Wat on your own, when your natural inclination may be to tightly grasp the hand of a loved one out of sheer overwhelming emotion. Or when you attend a dance concert by yourself in Budapest, featuring nude dancers who pelvic-thrusted their gonads in your face during the performance, it can be annoying when friends back home have a hard time believing your story. Don’t take it personally – they still admire your ability to fly halfway around the world on your own whenever you want. There’s no mistaking that traveling alone can be lonely. But you can feel just as insecure in your own backyard – if you’re going to feel sorry for yourself, do it somewhere cool.
Discover who you are, what you want, and where you want to be when you travel alone. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go skydiving, but none of your other friends were into the idea. Maybe you wouldn’t go skydiving by yourself back home, but ah, when you find yourself in New Zealand and at the edge of a plane looking down, who is there to stop you? You jump into the clean, open air and see beautiful landscape below. As you glide to the ground, you feel triumphant – you’ve just jumped out of a plane! No one was there to talk you out of it, and your decision to finally do something you’ve always wanted to do was made by you.
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Katka is a Contributing Editor and the Social Media Manager for Matador Network. She is based in New York and has worked in the travel industry for the past five years. Other contributions include articles for Vittana, Thought Catalog, Travel Fashion Girl, Yelp!, Where’s Cool?, TripAha! and more. Read more about how awesome she is at katkatravels.com.