Since returning back home I have shared stories from my travels with friends and acquaintances alike, and while they all are amazed at the things that I have done, a lot of them tend to raise their eyebrows when I tell them I opted for solo traveling rather than an organized tour. Those who have been solo traveling know this look well. These looks and the questioning of my sanity started long before my return, however, they started at the beginning when I started telling people that I was planning on traveling to Australia by myself for (what was originally supposed to be) 9 months. Solo traveling is definitely one of the best things that I’ve done and I highly recommend it to everyone – even though I realize that not everyone thinks that they can do it.
As with everything, it has it’s pros and cons. I am going to take the following post and discuss some of these.
Pros to Solo Traveling
You get to do what you want to do when you want to and you don’t have to compromise for others. Very simply, you don’t need to make concessions for anyone else, you don’t need to accommodate anyone else, you are the boss and can do everything you want to. If you want to be up and early first thing in the morning to explore a city, you don’t need to wait for your buddy who likes to sleep in to wake up. When you’re traveling by yourself, you have all the freedoms in the world – you can change your travel plans on a whim and not have to check in with anyone else to make sure that its okay with them. This is the ultimate perk while traveling!
You Make More Friends
This may seem ironic, but you tend to make more friends when you’re a solo traveler. You’re more open to starting up conversation with others, instead of sticking with your buddy. Trust me when I say, when the options are sitting there by yourself or striking up conversation with people around you? The choice is simple… most people are willing to get over their petty fears of talking with strangers and bite the bullet. In my own experience, I made way more friends traveling alone than I ever did traveling with others. The first time I ventured to Australia, in 2009, I was with my friend Kate and we had spent 4 days in a hostel in Brisbane. In this time, we were friendly with a few other girls in our room, but we never got their names and surely didn’t keep in touch with these fellow backpackers after our travels. In fact, my first hostel experience ever, Kate and I were in New Zealand and I don’t even think we said two words to the 6 other people in our hostel room and stuck to ourselves. On my most recent trip back to Australia and New Zealand, I was making friends left, right and center – solely because if I didn’t put myself out there and be a little bit extra friendly, it was going to be a lonely 4 months. And heck – now I’ve got friends from all over the world. It’s fantastic.
Awareness of your Surroundings is Heightened
When you are traveling by yourself, you don’t have anyone else looking out for you. You’re not as keen to simply drop your bag down with your friend and run into a store – you take extra caution with your belongings. You suddenly are more aware of everything going on around you. This is definitely a good thing, because nobody’s there that has your back.
Even the best of friends have their bad days – when they just don’t get along. When you’re traveling by yourself, you don’t need to worry about getting into arguments with your buddy. If one of your new travel friends is pissing you off – you feel less guilty about telling them like it is, or simply leaving them. I know for myself, my best friend of 21 years and I went on a week-long all inclusive trip to the Dominican last year, and we have honestly never fought a day in our friendship – until we went to the Dominican Republic, that is. I think spending every waking hour with someone else can be a bit trying. It was very petty, and really a big misunderstanding, but there we were on our last morning literally screaming at each other. We both apologized and made up within an hour or so, but that didn’t take away the fact that the argument had occurred. When you’re by yourself, you don’t have to worry about such petty behavior.
Cons to Solo Traveling
It Can Get Lonely
Yep. Nobody likes to admit it, but there are times when even the biggest and baddest solo-traveler of them all gets a bit lonely. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like putting yourself out there and meeting people at your new hostel, because you’re sick of the same three questions “Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? Where’ve you been?” Some people will feel lonely more often and the degree to which it debilitates your travels depends on the individual. For myself, I found myself returning to Sydney after a wonderful month in New Zealand. When I had left Sydney to go to New Zealand, I had left behind a cute boy I had been seeing, and numerous friends. Leaving New Zealand, I was leaving not only my old friends from home, but all the new friends I had made on my tour bus. I had come back to Sydney with a head cold and the weather had turned crappy and seemed to be raining every day. Very simply, Sydney – even though I loved it – was not the same as when I had left a month before. I found myself reluctant to go out in the rain to wander the city, and even found myself hesitant to even open up and make friends in my hostel. After a few days I told myself to snap out of it and to make the most of my time there. The other time I felt really lonely was when I was stuck in the hospital in Melbourne for 5 days – but I think given the circumstances, anyone would feel lonely. 5 days in the hospital with no visitors (well I was lucky to have one visitor for about a half hour, when Vanessa came to bring me some of my toiletries and a change of clothes) and being so far away from home definitely was a pretty lonely time for me. Alas, the loneliness all subsided once I was discharged and allowed to be reunited with my backpacking brethren.
Safety in Numbers
There is something to be said for the safety that does come in numbers. After dark, I know that even in the safest parts of Sydney, I never felt truly at ease and had my guard up if I was alone. When you have a travel buddy, you are looking out for them and they are looking out for you. It’s a pretty simple concept really, and I don’t feel needs a lot of explanation. (I bet my mom’s really proud of me for putting this one, and saying to herself “I told her that!” Thanks mom.)
It Can be More Expensive
When you’re traveling by yourself, it can sometimes be more expensive. You’re not sharing the cost of everyday things, like groceries. If you want to buy a car, you’re in it on your own and that’s a big expenditure. Not to mention, if you want a night or two of peace – getting a single room in a hostel is very pricey—and sometimes just as much as getting a cheap hotel room.
You become the King or Queen of the Self-Portrait
Yup. It seems as though 90% of the pictures you have of yourself, while on your vacation, are all the same pictures of you craning your right (or left arm) out in front of you and you’ve generally got some sort of awkward smile. At least I know I do. I always tried to spice it up by doing really cheesy faces. I digress, the self-portrait will become a staple in your photographic memories. A small price to pay, if you ask me.
As I’ve stated in previous posts, I absolutely love traveling by myself. I actually almost prefer it. It’s hard to imagine doing such a large trip with anyone else alongside me. I highly recommend solo traveling, but do realize that it is not for everybody. No need to be scared about it though, cause you’ll soon find that many of the other people around you, are in the same boat as you. What are you waiting for? In the words of my best friend, time to nut up, or shut up, people!