The amount of times I’ve heard these two questions spoken in conjunction is astounding. People are always in awe about the fact that I travel solo, so I’ve decided to dedicate a whole post to explain its benefits.
To travel the world has always been a goal of mine, and I started to whittle down on the list of places at what I consider an early age. I began travelling by myself when I was 19 years old and spent a semester abroad in London. I have always been one with few close friends and it wasn’t any different there. I studied alone, I went to museums alone, I dined and drank coffee alone. Some consider this unusual but for me it isn’t. College was a time that I really began to enjoy my own company.
I watched as my classmates planned trip after trip with their friends and was weary of going anywhere myself as I didn’t have a group to go with, but I finally made the leap when I went to Dublin for my 20th birthday. Yes, alone. Without going into too much detail (mostly because the hostel noticed my birthday on my passport and paid for my way onto the pub crawl…there were a lot of nice Canadians buying me birthday drinks and I definitely walked home in the daylight…), it was one of the best weekends of my life. From there on out, travelling alone has been a cinch.
What I’ve discovered over the several subsequent trips is that by travelling solo, I have been able to learn so much more about myself than ever before. Without a companion, I can explore new things without question or criticism; I have no one else there that I need to run things by, I simply do what I want to do when I want to do it. By breaking free of companionship, I have also been able to break free a bit from the societal shell that we are all so often born into. Instead of abiding by all these rules that people place on me (family, coworkers, friends, significant other, etc.) I can reflect on what my own ideals are away from anyone else’s influence; it’s a truly freeing experience.
But aren’t you afraid?
At first? Absolutely terrified (as opposed to the word weary I used above). I looked over my shoulder at every turn and didn’t want to talk to anyone at the restaurant I stopped to grab a bite at, but I learned very quickly that my being frightened only made things worse. There is a difference in being afraid and being cautious. I will always encourage travelers to be cautious, whether they are alone or in a group. After all, you are in a new place with new people and there are dangers everywhere. There will always be pickpockets and there will always be dangerous people on the lookout for outsiders; conversely there will always be good people looking to lend a hand. Something I like to tell my father regularly, I could just as easily get hit by a truck here in my hometown as I could anywhere else in the world. Travelling afraid – living in fear – limits you. The second I opened myself up to speaking to my bar stool neighbor was the instant my experiences became better. If you don’t interact with the locals, in my opinion, you’ll never have seen the real city simply the tourist town.
So, when you ask me if I travel alone? Really? The answer will always be: Yes! Absolutely! And I will almost always recommend that you try it, at least once, for yourself.