When I was younger, I never dared to travel solo. I had my designated travel buddy and we went everywhere together. Traveling solo was something for the dare-devils in this world and I definitely didn’t consider myself to be one of them. I think traveling solo seemed such an audacious option because of the bad reputation it had and still has among inexperienced travelers. It’s often associated with being lonely, expensive, boring, asocial and, most importantly, dangerous (especially if you’re a female traveler).
Out of pure necessity, I was forced to take my first solo trip in 2014. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I really wanted to go travel but couldn’t find anyone that had the time or money to join me. I was too stubborn, too determined to let this stop me, though. So, I gathered all my courage and went on to explore Europe on my own. I had the time of my life and here are the reasons why.
Traveling solo does not equal traveling alone
This is probably one of the questions I hear most often when I tell people that I travel by myself.
But doesn’t it get lonely?
I won’t lie, it can get lonely. But 99% of the time, you will be too busy meeting new people and enjoying life with your fellow travelers to even feel a shred of loneliness. It usually only hits me right at the beginning of a trip, when I’m so exhausted that the only social interaction I can handle is checking in at my hostel (I can never sleep on planes, so after staying up for 30+ hours, you could use me as an extra on The Walking Dead).
Choosing the right hostel plays an important part in avoiding loneliness. Do your research and find out what other solo travelers thought of the hostel. I usually check the comment section on Hostelworld before I book any hostel. In my opinion, it’s definitely easier to meet people in smaller more homey hostels than in hostels with 100+ beds. Also check for activities such as group meals, bar crawls or walking tours.
If you do your work and choose a great hostel, you’ll be anything but alone. You will get the chance to see stunning places and experience incredible things, all while getting to know some of the most interesting people on this planet.
Traveling solo will make you a better person
I’m not a social butterfly, quite the opposite actually. If you look up the definition of wallflower you’ll probably see a picture of my humble self. But traveling by myself forced me to come out of my shell and actively approach other people. If you’re scared, just remember that you’re all sitting in the same boat. No one is going to bite your head off for saying hi. You’ll most likely be welcomed with open arms and a cold beer.
Traveling on your own makes you incredibly independent, too. When you’ve managed to find your way from the airport to the hostel in a country where you don’t speak the language or can’t even read the letters, you’ll realize what you’re actually capable of. Traveling means having all sorts of unpredictable situations thrown at you. Successfully handling them on your own, makes you feel like nothing can stand in your way of achieving your dreams.
You really get to know yourself
Traveling means constantly stepping out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s being crammed into a room the size of a shoe box with 10 complete strangers, eating food you can’t pronounce (and you’re not sure you want to know the translation) or spending hours in a subway train because you can’t figure out the train map, you’ll learn more about yourself in one week of traveling than in 10 years of staying at home.
You find out how well you handle stress, how much time you need on your own, what things you can’t live without and what’s (quite literally) unnecessary baggage, you’ll learn to trust other people as well as your own gut instincts. Traveling solo lets you test your absolute limits and makes you realize that what you called “comfort zone” was, in hindsight, nothing more than a small fraction of it.
Traveling solo is the most social way to travel
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against traveling with friends. It can be just as much fun. But I also think it’s a very asocial way of traveling. How can traveling by yourself be social?
It’s quite simple. When you’re traveling with someone else, you don’t need anybody else. You have someone to talk to, to cook dinner and explore the city with, someone to take awesome pictures of you and someone to help you find your way back to the hostel after a fun night out. Whenever I traveled with a friend, I rarely met anyone else.
As a solo traveler you’re always on the lookout for new people to spend your time with and you’ll quickly realize that almost everyone you meet is also traveling solo. Couples and groups simply keep to themselves. And that’s absolutely fine. But as a solo traveler you’ll make ten new friends a day. That doesn’t just look impressive on social media (if that’s what you care about) but it will also leave you with a network of friends that spans once around the entire globe.
You’ll have a place to stay wherever you go
Solo travelers tend to stick together. Even if you know each other for little more than a day, the things you experience and the time you spend together will create an unbreakable bond. This doesn’t mean you’ll skype everyday or even see each other regularly. But they will all become part of your ever-growing travel network.
These are people you trust (for heaven’s sake, you probably climbed a volcano together or something!) and if they ever come to your country, you would offer them your couch in a heartbeat because you know they would do the same for you. And what’s better than having a home wherever you go? Exactly.
What do you like best about traveling solo? Do you prefer traveling with friends?
Let me know in the comments.