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.
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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.
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