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You should stop traveling alone.

Not because it’s dangerous. Your level of danger when you’re out in the wind has little to do with the number of travelers in the group and a lot to do with where you go and the choices you make.

Not because it’s lonely. Solitary travelers meet other solitary travelers easily. As long as you’re in a place with a guesthouse or a hostel you can find someone to join you at least on day trips. When I traveled on the Trans-Mongolian Railway or across Southeast Asia I made new friends nearly every day.

No, you should stop traveling alone because traveling with people you know is a better way. The best part of travel comes from the actual travel itself. That’s the most exciting aspect. The second best part of travel comes in the reward of talking about the trip for years after it’s over.

Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever? You took pictures and videos of swimming in Lake Baikal with the two Italians and you tell your friends about them, but wouldn’t it be better if it were your friends with you in the first place? People from the life you’ll go back to?

Trust me, I know getting your friends to come with you can be a problem. They have their jobs, their finances, their lack of available time. Most of us want to go before we get too old. We go when we can and often we can’t wait.

But if you have a choice, take someone with you. It’s harder to meet people when you’re already with someone, but if you’re friendly, and fun, you can still join other groups or have them join yours. Of course the wrong person can ruin the place for you forever. Take that risk. It’s worth it. The right person will help the experience live between you. They’ll push you to travel farther, to experience more.

It’s easy to be lazy when you’re on your own. You can get scared or sick or just plain exhausted. Having a friend to help you, to push you, heightens the experience. If you’re good together you’ll be able to do what you want and also what the other person wants, which will take you beyond yourself, to new places. And that’s what you want from traveling anyway.

I’m starting to know more and more people who say, “I’m not traveling by myself anymore.” They all seem to agree on the same things, that it’s too lonely, that their experiences have become secrets that only they know, that while they were traveling alone the first time they thought “it would be great if this person or that person was here” and then they said that the second and third time they were on their own, until their resolve to do it with another person finally stuck.

Traveling alone is useful at first — you learn that if you want to be alone your whole life you could, and then you realize how awful that would be. You reach a point where you realize it’s only good if it’s shared.

Relationships

 

About The Author

Bart Schaneman

Bart Schaneman lives and writes in Seoul, South Korea. He has published numerous stories, essays and poems and is most recently the author of a travelogue (Trans-Siberian, 2012), which you can find here. He was raised in rural Nebraska. For more information: www.bartschaneman.tumblr.com.

  • Rudayna Bahubeshi

    I appreciate where you’re coming from, and I’ve had some great times with friends I have traveled with, but on the whole I could not disagree more. It’s so much easier to be lazy with friends. Traveling by yourself doesn’t mean you’re going to lie in bed all day. Anybody who wants to do that will quickly learn that they can much more affordably do it at home.

    It takes a lot more resilience, energy, and courage to put yourself out there with strangers. And those relationships go as far as you’re willing to take them. Have you ever reconnected with people you met abroad months or years later, thousands of miles away? I’ve gotten some life long friends out of it. It heightens all of those ‘remember when’ stories, because there was the added excitement of just getting to know one another.

    And outside of the connections you make, I feel more refreshed and as though I’ve gained more perspective than ever before when traveling alone. Being aware of how you cope with limited support, learning more about what you want–I feel like I gain years of self knowledge from months alone on the road.

    Traveling with friends from home is great, but doing it alone and make new friends is beautiful.

  • Rudayna Bahubeshi

    I appreciate where you’re coming from, and I’ve had some great times with friends I have traveled with, but on the whole I could not disagree more. It’s so much easier to be lazy with friends. Traveling by yourself doesn’t mean you’re going to lie in bed all day. Anybody who wants to do that will quickly learn that they can much more affordably do it at home.

    It takes a lot more resilience, energy, and courage to put yourself out there with strangers. And those relationships go as far as you’re willing to take them. Have you ever reconnected with people you met abroad months or years later, thousands of miles away? I’ve gotten some life long friends out of it. It heightens all of those ‘remember when’ stories, because there was the added excitement of just getting to know one another.

    And outside of the connections you make, I feel more refreshed and as though I’ve gained more perspective than ever before when traveling alone. Being aware of how you cope with limited support, learning more about what you want–I feel like I gain years of self knowledge from months alone on the road.

    Traveling with friends from home is great, but doing it alone and make new friends is beautiful.

    • Joe D’Aquisto

      I agree 200%. Travel alone , it’s more of an adventure.

  • Scott Hartman

    I too am one who prefers solo travel. My first international trip was with seven other men; the experience was all so new to me that I didn’t consider traveling alone, and it’s ramifications. Three years later I took off around the world for a year – six months in Asia, six in Europe. Then I began to notice other travelers – those traveling in pairs – and how self-contained they seemed. Then I began to notice how the locals were often much more comfortable in approaching a single traveler as compared to a couple or small group.

    It’s apples and oranges/mangoes and papaya… but in the end, solo travel has been and remains my preferred way.

  • Scott Hartman

    I too am one who prefers solo travel. My first international trip was with seven other men; the experience was all so new to me that I didn’t consider traveling alone, and it’s ramifications. Three years later I took off around the world for a year – six months in Asia, six in Europe. Then I began to notice other travelers – those traveling in pairs – and how self-contained they seemed. Then I began to notice how the locals were often much more comfortable in approaching a single traveler as compared to a couple or small group.

    It’s apples and oranges/mangoes and papaya… but in the end, solo travel has been and remains my preferred way.

  • Jess Fargher

    I whole-heartedly disagree, but I can appreciate the sentiment.

  • Aireal Marshall

    disagree

  • Aireal Marshall

    disagree

  • Sejal Saraiya

    I love this piece. I have been traveling for three years with my best friend we make a great travel team. There are, of course, small moments when I feel like I’d be better off alone. But if you can find that one person who pushes you when you need that push, lets you be when you need to go to a cafe and write, it works out really well. This way we do things that we both want to do, hence broadening my perspective, challenging me to areas I wouldn’t have ventured on otherwise. I’ve also traveled with wrong people who made my trip hell, and I’ve traveled extensively by myself too, but after realizing that traveling with my best friend made my experiences richer and kept them alive for longer, I’ve stopped traveling by myself.

  • Sejal Saraiya

    I love this piece. I have been traveling with my best friend for 3 years now. And we make a great travel team. There are moments, of course, when I feel like I’d be better off alone. But if you can find the right person to travel with who’ll push you when you need that push, and leave you alone when you need to go to a cafe and write, it works out well. In traveling with my friend, we end up doing things that we both want to do. This has helped broaden my perspective and challenged me into doing things I wouldn’t have otherwise ventured into.

    I have traveled with the wrong people too, who made my trip hell. And I’ve traveled solo extensively. But I agree–traveling with my best friend made my experiences so much richer, and definitely kept them alive.

  • Marie Lisa Jose

    I love solo travel. There is nothing like it! Traveling with a good partner is also nice but I would never stop traveling solo altogether!

    • Gonca Karakus

      Solo is bad only because you cant share your opinions with anyone right that moment

    • Sunil Kothari

      I love to travel in a group but when nobody is there to accompany you for a particular trip, I don’t mind travelling alone! I am travelling solo to Udaipur, Ranakpur, Nathdwara between Jan 19-25! After all during your journey into and out of this world, you are always alone…!

  • Andy VC

    Good text, but I really disagree with you man. Both are good. But traveling by yourself is the most amazing experience ever. One travels to have experiences and not to tell your friends what you are doing. However, it I respect very much your point of view. It shows that travelling is always different for everybody.

  • Andy VC

    Good text, but I really disagree with you man. Both are good. But traveling by yourself is the most amazing experience ever. One travels to have experiences and not to tell your friends what you are doing. However, it I respect very much your point of view. It shows that travelling is always different for everybody.

    • Narisa Ladak

      Traveling alone in such an amazing experience..

  • Kate Gardner

    I completely agree with this. I’m about to embark on my third major trip alone, and whilst I’m super excited about this trip, I wish I was doing it with someone and in the future I will try to avoid travelling alone.

    I think everyone should travel alone at least once. You do grow so much as a person and experience things in a different way. It’s great to be able to choose to do whatever you want to do. But as Bart says, sometimes the joys of travel aren’t in the sights we see or the facebook friends we make, but in sharing the memories.

    I am very comfortable alone. I’ve lived alone for a long time, I’m happy being single and I do things alone at home. But on my last trip, it all just got a bit, well, boring. Eating alone at restaurants, seeing beautiful sights and having no one to share it with, knowing that any friends you meet will only be for a couple of days…..it gets a bit soul destroying. When you’re alone, every experience is new. This is exciting, but it means you always feel like the new girl. You’re always walking into a room full of strangers and having to ‘start again’. I don’t know about you guys, but some of my best memories are of when I let my hair down and just got a bit silly, or when things went wrong and I had someone to laugh about it with. It’s rare to have those moments when travelling alone, because you can only laugh for so long to yourself!

    So I’m very glad that I’ve had my solo travel experiences, but in the future I hope I can find friends to tag along with me, because I’d love to have some partners in crime to share the adventures with!

  • Bennett Murray

    Bart Schaneman makes some good points about the virtues of traveling with close friends, but he is ignoring the solid benefits of solo travel that simply cannot be replicated in group travel.

    When you are traveling with someone else, the trip becomes about the duo as much as it is about the destinations. Compromises have to be made, and the joys of whimsicalness are partially lost. You may arrive somewhere, find it to be incredible magical, only to have your friend tell you “I’m bored, let’s go, mmkay?” You will inevitably be in that role if you are traveling for any length of time, since no two people align perfectly in their interests.

    Couple points I want to nitpick:

    “They all seem to agree on the same things, that it’s too lonely…”

    That contradicts the point made in the second paragraph.

    “…that their experiences have become secrets that only they know…”

    Call me a loner, but I consider that a plus of traveling solo. I love having a treasure trove of memories that are mine alone. Then again, I don’t consider talking about my travels for years afterward to be one of the best parts of travel, like Schaneman does.

    “…that while they were traveling alone the first time they thought ‘it would be great if this person or that person was here’ and then they said that the second and third time they were on their own, until their resolve to do it with another person finally stuck.”

    Sure, I get that feeling too. But I tend to think that about multiple people in the same trip to the point where I will do something that reminds me of Friend A, then I’ll do something that reminds me of Friend B that excludes Friend A.. Then there are times I am just very happy to be alone.

    I can definitely think of times where traveling in groups would be preferable. More “fun” trips, such as a beach tour of Thailand or a stoner pilgrimage to Amsterdam, come to mind. Shorter trips with specific goals, such as a guided tour of North Korea or a World War II tour of Europe, also lend themselves well to group travel.

    But for open-ended travel to new places, I much prefer going at it alone. I am far too whimsical for even myself at times, and I cannot imagine doing it with anyone else without the caveat that we feel free to go our separate ways at any time.

    • Martin Dishman

      I am with you Bennett, I prefer solo travel so that I can go where I want , I want and make the experience uniquely mine. While i travel solo 90% of the time, i have enjoyed some great trips with others. But there have been the bad ones too like a trip to Europe where my travel companion would only eat at McDonald’s. that was bizarre.

    • Bennett Murray

      Furthermore, Schaneman seems to assume that having fellow travelers around you is a necessary ingredient of a successful trip.

      “Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever? You took pictures and videos of swimming in Lake Baikal with the two Italians and you tell your friends about them, but wouldn’t it be better if it were your friends with you in the first place?”

      How about none of the above? One of the best trips I ever took was a two week trip to Cuba. Throughout my stay, the only conversation I had with another tourist was with a Liechtensteiner seated next to me on a bus ride from Havana to Pinar del Río. I certainly met lots of people and had crazy times with them, but they were all Cubans. I enjoy meeting like-minded travelers on the road as much as anyone (wouldn’t trade some of the friendships I’ve made for anything), but they are not the reason I go traveling.

    • Bennett Murray

      Furthermore, Schaneman seems to assume that having fellow travelers around you is a necessary ingredient of a successful trip.

      “Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever? You took pictures and videos of swimming in Lake Baikal with the two Italians and you tell your friends about them, but wouldn’t it be better if it were your friends with you in the first place?”

      How about none of the above? One of the best trips I ever took was a two week trip to Cuba. Throughout my stay, the only conversation I had with another tourist was with a Liechtensteiner seated next to me on a bus ride from Havana to Pinar del Río. I certainly met lots of people and had crazy times with them, but they were all Cubans. I enjoy meeting like-minded travelers on the road as much as anyone (wouldn’t trade some of the friendships I’ve made for anything), but they are not the reason I go traveling.

    • Bennett Murray

      Furthermore, Schaneman seems to assume that having fellow travelers around you is a necessary ingredient of a successful trip.

      “Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever? You took pictures and videos of swimming in Lake Baikal with the two Italians and you tell your friends about them, but wouldn’t it be better if it were your friends with you in the first place?”

      How about none of the above? One of the best trips I ever took was a two week trip to Cuba. Throughout my stay, the only conversation I had with another tourist was with a Liechtensteiner seated next to me on a bus ride from Havana to Pinar del Río. I certainly met lots of people and had crazy times with them, but they were all Cubans. I enjoy meeting like-minded travelers on the road as much as anyone (wouldn’t trade some of the friendships I’ve made for anything), but they are not the reason I go traveling.

  • The Tanned Traveler

    having the right travel partner is best. Often its better to travel solo and recount your experiences to others, than go with someone who’d only diminish your experience.

  • Elena Talalasova

    Naah, still a fan of solo travel. Although I have to admit, that “your friends back home will never understand” argument almost got to me. And I liked it how the closing provides a nice Into the wild reference, whether deliberately or not.

  • Tui Wise

    For me, I may start out traveling solo but it never stays that way. I’m very good at making friends along the road. All of my longer trips have been a mix of going solo part of the time then joining up with friends or family & traveling together. Yes, it can be lonely for brief periods, but it’s still completely worth it. Sometimes it’s nice just to see where the road will take you instead of playing the “where do you want to go?” game and that can be easier alone. I’ve had some amazing experiences come from just going off by myself. Though the adventures with friends are often the most memorable and retold (often because of the inside jokes that come from them), there are many memories of solo travel that I think about often and put a smile on my face.
    I’ve found the same with concerts and other live shows. If I can plan it with someone cool, if not I just go. I’ve met some fun people along the way and seen some fantastic shows that I may have missed had a waited to find someone to join me.

    • Tui Wise

      This was a comment I made on Matador’s page in response to this article in which the author says he thinks it’s best to not travel alone so you can share the experience.

  • Candice Walsh

    I’m used to traveling alone, but my favourite memories are sharing travel experiences with my dearest friends.

  • Wendell Glenn DrWends Cagape

    This is a great article and something to reflect on and as I wrote on my travel blog’s by line and its a quote I wrote that “Living life as an inspiring journey is priceless when shared” rings true to this important article :)

  • Alex Marie

    This article came to me at a perfect time; I was just having this discussion with one my close friends. After having experiences traveling alone and with others, I can fully agree with you. It IS intimidating to travel alone, and you are able to get so much more out of it when with some one else. When you have someone traveling with you that has similar travel goals you are both able to push each other to do and see things that you may not otherwise seek out.

    At times, solo travel may have its benefit of meeting many new people from all over the world, but I think that overall traveling with someone makes the experience that much better.

    • Alex Watson

      I could not agree with this post more…

      -did I write it?

      -that’s not it.

  • Pasaribu Raidus

    this is a good thought. how do you think, Defi Lim? I immediately remember you when I read this article simply because you are crazy about traveling, whether its traveling alone or with friends ;p.

    • Jupiter Heidelberg Siburian

      hahaha… dudus, pinjam duitmu. :D

  • Anna Leevia

    There are positive and negative sides on both: traveling alone or with friends.

    “No, you should stop traveling alone because traveling with people you know is a better way. The best part of travel comes from the actual travel itself. That’s the most exciting aspect. The second best part of travel comes in the reward of talking about the trip for years after it’s over.”
    *’Travelling with people you know is a better way’. What kind of argument is that?
    The travel itself can be quite enjoyable on your own, or with people you recently met. And with online communications you can still talk with this people years after it’s over if you want. Or who knows, maybe u meet someone on the road whom you enjoy so much that you decide to move to this foreign country?

    “Sure you become Facebook friends with your fellow lonely travelers from Austria and New Zealand and Finland, but how often are you going to see those people again in your life, if ever?”
    *You can keep in touch online with the other loners you meet on the road, and maybe only meet them again live after ten years. This doesn’t make the relationship superficial.

    “It’s easy to be lazy when you’re on your own. You can get scared or sick or just plain exhausted.”
    *I usually do a lot more things when I’m alone, since I’m willing to walk around until I’m completely exhausted, or to take more risks than most of my friends do. A friend can always push you, but can also simply discourage you to do things.

    “Traveling alone is useful at first — you learn that if you want to be alone your whole life you could, and then you realize how awful that would be.”
    *There are so many ways to share your travel experience. Posting pictures, giving advice, sharing videos… with today’s technology it’s not difficult to give your loved ones a glimpse of what you are experiencing, even if you are thousands of kilometers distant.

  • Marj Garra

    There are definitely perks to traveling with other people, like saving on items that need to be shared, and the biggest one: actually having someone with you! Nothing beats a trip with really good friends. The place could suck but it won’t matter because you are with the people you love. Keep in mind though that the opposite may also be true; you could be at the most beautiful place in the planet, but if you are with the wrong people, that could “ruin the place for you forever.”.

    But no, don’t stop traveling alone. Have that experience. Keep it and treasure it. Do it once in a while if you could. There is no experience like it.

  • Amanda MacArthur

    I agree with your sentiments. I did a lot of solo traveling for a long time, and I loved it, but it’s so much more enjoyable now with my fiance, who I can share all the memories with. Maybe it’s just a matter of choosing the right travel partners, or maybe it’s just a matter of how much alone time you want/need. I don’t want/need much and I like to have someone standing with me in all the memories that I make and take photos of.

  • Amanda MacArthur

    I agree with your sentiments. I did a lot of solo traveling for a long time, and I loved it, but it’s so much more enjoyable now with my fiance, who I can share all the memories with. Maybe it’s just a matter of choosing the right travel partners, or maybe it’s just a matter of how much alone time you want/need. I don’t want/need much and I like to have someone standing with me in all the memories that I make and take photos of.

  • TravelnLass

    “You reach a point where you realize it’s only good if it’s shared.”

    Say what? “ONLY”? Clearly written by a lad who’s never known the joy of quietly contemplating his blessings, indeed his very EXISTENCE – in the solitary glow of a sunrise.

    I also question your incessant emphasis on how great it is to meet/travel with “other travelers”. Seriously, I don’t understand this. I’ve witnessed it when traveling solo all over the globe – from Capetown, to Cairo, Fez to the San Blas Isles, Hanoi to Siem Reap, Ulaanbaatar to Sydney. It seems so many of the travelers today travel only to hang out with “folks like them”.

    No doubt about it, there are as many different styles of travel, as there are travelers. But personally, a large part of why I travel is to… why meet the folks who call the other side of the globe home. The locals, the folks who, imho make schlepping to the distant corners of the world worth it. Indeed, the folks who make Mongolia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Mozambique, Morocco, Morocco. I guess I just don’t understand why someone would go to the trouble, expense and enlarge their carbon footprint – just to hang out with their cookie-cutter LP counterparts drinking bottled water (dontgetmestarted) and eating cheeseburgers – in the lands of pho and green curry.

    Furthermore, I also have to wonder about your penchant for…

    “The second best part of travel comes in the reward of talking about the trip for years after it’s over.”

    Presumably you mean talking about your travels – to others – for years to come, yes?

    Yes, that’s what I thought. Funny, but while I too have long felt strongly that a large part of the joy of travel comes afterwards, for me, it’s all about the MEMORIES that I hold so dear – forever and ever. Memories that are a part of my heart, nay my very wanderlust soul. Memories I might add, that I don’t need to yap about to every poor friend and relative that’s within earshot for the rest of my life. Sorry, but again I just don’t understand why you feel it’s oh so important – indeed, apparently REQUIRED that your personal travel memories must perpetually be shared with others. Is it not enough for you to simply experience and remember that wondrous sunrise at Angkor Wat – for YOURSELF?

    In short Bart, I guess mostly I question you’re dogmatic “either/or” of it. That somehow traveling solo is the pits, has no redeeming benefit whatsoever (and those that delude themselves otherwise simply haven’t woken up yet.) Uh, beg ta differ. After 30+ years of it, I do believe I’m quite wide awake, thankyouverymuch. Perhaps in time, with more travel experience, you too will be a tad more open-minded.

  • Aicha Haidara Ben Becaye

    This Article made me smile, especially the assumption that solo travelers want to meet other solo travelers. Nothing could further from the truth for me. I travel alone for 2 reasons: 1) to be alone and not have to deal with the compromises necessary when you travel with another human being and 2) to discover a place/culture and meet locals NOT other foreign travelers.

    “I wish this or that person was with me” is a thought that never crosses my mind except when I feel that a particular person would have enjoyed a specific sight, smell, dish etc… then I feel sorry for them and think “too bad for x or y, they would have liked that” not “I wish x or y were with me for togetherness”. There are solo travels and there are friend/family trips; the mindset and experience are both enjoyable but totally different. Traveling alone is an extraordinary journey in self-construction. And any well-balanced person should do both solo and friends/family travels.

    Lastly, my camera is my travel partner because it enables me to share what I see with my loved ones and motivate them to go check things out around the world.

    I disagree with you Bart, no one should ever stop traveling alone.

  • Lorena Rodríguez Díez

    This is the most silly article I have ever read. You did not understand it at all. The point is that when you travel with your actual friends, you are closing yourself to a thousand experiences. If you are with your friends and something goes wrong, they will solve it. But if you are alone you will have to struggle to solve it yourself, and probably end up knowing someone who will help you and will become a travel fellow. This experiences make you stronger, change you! And what if you do not see them never again? This reasoning of you it is so sad. Half of my friends , my best friends, live really far from me, like thousands of miles, and what? they have all given me something and made me better in a way. I have learnt from all of them, and that is the point of friendship! if for you friendship is just a group of people you have to hang out all the time, travel with, etc etc etc, like you safety circle or your safety net, you are not really the right guy to travel solo, and less to talk about it.

  • Michele L Appel

    Thanks, Bart. You are right, on all counts. I think there will always be a place for solo travel, but the “secrets” are hard to keep! (That’s why we write, right? Good luck out there and thanks again for pushing us lone wolves toward greener pastures. :)

  • Michele L Appel

    Thanks, Bart. You are right, on all counts. I think there will always be a place for solo travel, but the “secrets” are hard to keep! (That’s why we write, right? Good luck out there and thanks again for pushing us lone wolves toward greener pastures. :)

  • Manoj Juyal

    solo travel is totally depend upon person to person. someone like it and someone not.I’m personally not like solo traveling.because for me, traveling mean fun and without friends how can I enjoying fun alone.
    http://www.compasstours.com/must_see_india_experience.html

  • Dené Sinclair

    Love this!

  • Megan Krempels

    Crazy, I’m in Seoul Right now and I also grew up in small town in the states. I wrote an article on the benefits of traveling alone. I totally get where you are coming from but I made a couple points about why it works for me :) http://trekity.com/traveling-alone/.

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