What if I told you there was a therapeutic confidence-booster that’ll change your life, improve your mental health, and see the world?
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it actually exists; it’s called solo travel!
“Isn’t solo travel dangerous?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
“Does socialising really take that much energy out of you?”
“Do you just hate the sound of the human voice?”
“Who takes your photos on your solo trips?
I’m often asked why I love, and even prefer, solo travel. While the human voice only bugs me in the early hours of the morning, I’m not a hermit! I’m way more extroverted and I love socialising. I love travelling with friends; whenever I talk to my Croatia Roadtrip friends, the conversation always turns around to unexpectedly stumbling upon Montenegran fjords, or when we hiked through the emerald green lakes of Plitviče. Also, I ask someone to take my photos or I use my beloved self-timer + tripod.
There’s almost a stigma to solo travel; my friends think I’m weird and my parents fear, without exaggeration, that I’ll get sold into a human trafficking ring. However, solo travel is neither strange nor unsafe; in today’s post, I’m going to dispel the myths of solo travel and discuss why I love to travel alone.
I Go On My Own Terms
By far the hardest part of travelling with friends is the scheduling. Especially as a uni student, my friends and I have really, really different schedules. Maybe my friend can leave earlier than I can, or maybe I can come back later. And even if our schedules work out, maybe the friend will plan something else, or just simply not want to go. However, travelling alone means if I want to go to Amsterdam from Edinburgh tomorrow, I can!
If I waited for friends to join me on my adventures, I would have never been able to hold a $100k falcon in Qatar, or sneak through Victoria Peak to climb to Hong Kong’s tallest radio tower. In fact, if I didn’t travel alone, I wouldn’t have been to 90% of the places I have been to! If I had a dollar for every time a friend cancelled travel plans with me, I’d have enough money to pay for their trips. If friends cancel or can’t go somewhere that I can go, I’m going by myself, simple as that.
It Builds Confidence
Solo travel really makes you fearless; there’s a certain swagger and confidence people get from travelling alone that’s hard to attain. After I started travelling, even my family has told me that they notice a difference in my confidence.
I can read maps, navigate a foreign city, pick up a foreign language when needed, and get myself out of sticky situations, alone. When you say that out loud, it sounds really cool! Realising you can do things you thought you couldn’t do, on your own with no one to help, turns into a sense of accomplishment which in turn, becomes heightened confidence. I thought I had gotten all I can from solo travel when my life turned around during my 6-month solo stint in Italy, but I continue to surprise myself! When I was in Doha, Qatar, I navigated the city, got lost, and found my way back just from street signs, three Arabic phrases, and my own intuition. Also, in Croatia, I talked myself out of a parking ticket in broken Croatian; sure it was embarrassing, but I did it!
Travelling alone is a time of self-realisation. Solo travel has made me realise that I can take care of myself in strange, foreign situations, pick up a new language very quickly, and be willing to embarrass myself without caring what others think. Solo travel forces you to use nothing but your own wit and this allows you to put yourself out there more. Eventually, this translates to trying new things and seeing what you really love without the influence of others.
When spending all of that time by yourself in a foreign land, you learn to become your own best friend. You become more comfortable with your thoughts and desires and become comfortable in your own skin. This helps you on your journey to self-discovery which even improves your mental health! I actually used to have severe anxiety and travel almost eradicated it. This is the number one reason why I love to travel alone; I’m always growing as a human being through solo travel.
I May Travel Different Than My Friends
I’m a very ambitious and intense traveller. As soon as I book a trip, I open up a million tabs on what to do so each day is packed with activities. At the same time, I’m very improvisational. Although I know what I’m going to do, I have no set schedule; I do everything on a whim. This is best encapsulated with my trip to Tokyo; every day I’d get up at 7 or 8 in the morning, and not come back to my hostel until midnight. My friends may not be as intense, or they may be more! Also, in Croatia, I felt bad for stopping the car so much to take photos. Yep, I’m that guy; I like to take photos from every angle since now that I have a mirrorless camera and like to think I’m a professional. When I travel alone, I can be as intense or relaxed as possible, and do whatever I want at my own pace.
Putting on a Facade
Let’s be real; no matter how close you are with your best friend in the world, there will always be some pressure to be “on,” always talk, or put on a facade. For example, because I am a loud extrovert, I’m expected to always be talking and social 24/7. However, my mind runs a million miles an hour; I’m always thinking, therefore I can be quieter than my friends expect. I’m always thinking about everything at once, though mainly fearing about the future. Sometimes, I just need to go somewhere to express my thoughts to myself, free of any outside influence.
The Underrated Beauty of Silence
Sometimes, when you’re travelling with a friend, all you see and hear is them and your conversation. When travelling alone, you absorb your surroundings much more. You eavesdrop on conversations in the native language, you hear the street food sizzle. You’re able to meditate on the details of the landscape. Conversations, as much as I love having Something To Say, often distract me from really taking in my environment. Overall, travelling alone is often a more immersive experience. I know for a fact that while in Tokyo if I walked through the Meiji Jingu forest with a friend, I wouldn’t have had one of the most beautiful and tranquil evenings of my life.
Myth: Solo Travel is Dangerous
This is simply not true. When solo travelling, the only thing you need is common sense, and if you don’t have common sense, it’s probably best that you don’t travel. I also should acknowledge that since I’m a man, it is inherently easier for me to solo travel since I have never suffered from catcalling, sexual harassment, etc., so here’s a great guide on solo female travel. Overall, remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. For example, I drink less, and never get drunk. I also always pat my pockets to make sure I have my possessions, and I never put anything in my back pocket in the event of pickpocketers. I always look at solo travel as navigating my own hometown (LA), but just in a different language. Basically, I take the same precautions everywhere I go that I do in LA, and I’ve been just fine. Just have common sense and avoid obviously dangerous places like Syria, and you’ll be fine.
Myth: Solo Travel is Lonely
In fact, the opposite is true.
Since I’m not being social 24/7 with a travel partner, I have more of an incentive to socialise. Solo travel has actually made me realise how many people there are in the world! If I bring someone, I feel like I’m bringing my bubble in Edinburgh with me. But when I’m alone, I’ll go to a bar or market and meet new people! For example, in Portugal, I met 4 people in my hostel and we went bar-hopping, and I’m still in contact with them. I’ve met many more people while travelling alone than with friends; those are people who I’ll remember for a lifetime, even if I never see them again. No matter how different we are in culture, we all have certain things in common like jobs, relationships, etc. If anything, solo travel makes me feel less lonely and more connected to the world.
Also, I’ve done enough solo travel where I’m comfortable with my own thoughts for days on end, so I never feel lonely. I look at each solo trip as a chance to reflect and learn, and meet new people too!
Solo travel is immersive, therapeutic, and relaxing. It builds confidence, takes you on a journey of self-discovery, and it’s simply better if you want to do everything on your own terms. That said, travelling with friends is also amazing and before I book my next trip, I always ask friends if they can come. I only then book my ticket if no one can come. Solo travel is like sushi; even if you end up not liking it, it’s something you must try at least once. Thankfully, sushi is my favourite food and I love travelling alone!
Don’t limit yourself if you want to travel. If a friend can’t go on that trip to Thailand with you but you still want to go, book that ticket now. If I had waited around, I’d still be desperately seeking a friend to go on a trip, that I took last year, that would never actually happen.
What’s one place where you’d love to take a solo trip? Let me know in the comments below!