Why I Only Travel Solo And You Should Too
I am a twenty-four-year-old female backpacker. People tell me I shouldn't travel solo. I'm telling you that you should.
"A stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are." —Shadow of the Wind
Exposed inquisitive exploration—that is what it means to travel the world, and in my case, solo; where experiencing different cultures, customs, nuances, and beliefs are a day to day learning experience and way of life.
Every day you are exposed. You are stripped of all that was once familiar and thrown into the unknown, exotic, and unpredictable. You present yourself as not what you want to be, but what you are. And those who meet you experience a raw version of you—one that cannot rely on the habits of her previous life, rather, an instinctual creature of pure human quality and instinct.
I write this to encourage you to wander; go on, and wander. Book your ticket, be impulsive, and leave your habits behind. You don't need a friend, you don't need a clutch to hold on to. All you need is curiosity and determination. There's an entire world out there—aren't you a little bit curious?
To Stay Is To Exist. To Explore Is To Live.
Every time I travel I find myself returning to the same montra:
Rester, c'est exister. Mais voyager, c'est vivre. (Translated above)
Our fixed lives are riddled with excuses that are too easy to believe: I don't have the time, I can't afford it, I don't want to travel by myself, no one wants to go with me. I'm not telling you to leave the country—I'm telling you to leave your routine.
Too often our natural curiosities are idled. Exploration, since the beginning of mankind even, has sought to answer man's questions; Traveling turns your "What If's" into physical journeys.
There's something personal and intimate about traveling solo—particularly as a woman. Constantly I am asked the question, "You're traveling alone? Why isn't your boyfriend with you?" My boyfriend doesn't need to be with me. My father doesn't need to supervise me. I don't need a male companion to protect me. And if not asked about why I'm not traveling with a man, I'm asked why I'm not traveling with a group of women—also representing a protective unit.
You have the ability to challenge the preexisting notions of what a solo traveler—or even, a woman—"should be" by traveling solo. Prove to yourself that you're able, capable, and willing to go through the unknown alone. It's empowering, and you'll find strength and growth in yourself that you never knew possible.
Life Lasting Friendships Are Made While Traveling Solo
Just because you're traveling solo doesn't mean you're actually "solo." During my 18 day trip to Thailand, I spent a whopping two days by myself—and that was by choice. (Hey, sometimes you want to do laundry and read all day, too!) The rest of the 16 were spent meeting new friends and spending the day (or days) with them—exploring cities, jumping into waterfalls, and trying (way too) spicy food.
Whenever I travel with family, friends from home, or a group, the opportunities to make lasting new friendships are slim. I cling to my habits, to what is already known, and don't divert from them, but rather with them. The familial group has an experience together, but it is completely different than the experience you can have with a new peer.
While I enjoy sharing experiences with my immediate group, in order to develop myself as a woman of the world, going solo is the way to go. People forget how easy it is to make new friends! Here are a few scenarios I've found myself in, and you will to:
Flat Out Doing It: One hour after arriving in Bangkok, I sat in the lobby of the hostel planning my day. A french woman (also solo traveler) of similar age saw that I was sitting by myself, approached me, and asked if I wanted to go to the market with her. I of course said yes, and we spent the remainder of the day together, exploring the city, going to the museum, and eating dinner. We even met up again in Chiang Mai!
In A Group: On a day trip to Ayutthaya, there were at least 30 other people in my group. At lunch, I talked to everyone I could, and found a great friendship in a Turkish solo traveler. We ended up spending two days together and still text on the daily.
Talk To The Locals: Don't let language be a barrier (or an excuse!). Befriending locals immerses you in their culture more than you can experience by going to a temple or monument.
Don't let fear inhibit you from crawling out of your shell and making new friends, even later in life. Have an open mind, and explore the untold stories and friendships ahead of you. You're one step closer to creating a network of international friends who are bound together by one thing: a love of exploration.
Explore Who You Are
Every solo trip I've embarked on has brought me closer to an understanding of what I am capable of in life. I've pushed my boundaries countless of times, I've explored and challenged my limitations, I've made mistakes, and I've succeeded at what I never thought I could succeed at.
At home, we segment our lives into work, play, and family. What you excel at at work is different than what you excel at in your hobby of choice. But traveling solo develops and strengthens qualities that can and will affect every portion of your life—something that is difficult to achieve at home.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to locals strengthens your ability to communicate your ideas at work or your tactics on the playing field. Booking your own trips and troubleshooting transportation issues affects your overall organization and ability to react effectively when things go wrong. Even walking around and getting daily exercise while exploring new cities affects your stamina at home. All of these qualities, abilities, and more are cultivated on your trip.
Everything I've ever learned on my trips, I've brought back home with me to New Jersey. You become different, and you'll always be morphing into something new—for the better.
What Are You Waiting For?
Take the plunge. Do it alone. Explore aspects of your personality you never knew existed. Learn how to be self sufficient. Learn how to step out of your comfort zone. Learn how to do it alone.
Make this opportunity about you, your health, you devolving capabilities, and your drives.
Being alone isn't scary; it's exciting. :)