Today I offer you something that may sound absurd to you, something that has maybe never crossed your mind. But it’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, I propose to you – traveling solo. For some who would rather go hungry than eat alone in public, the thought of traveling alone is something that would be rejected right away. However, trends are showing that the solo traveller market is growing; in the UK alone, it is predicted that 35 percent of customers are traveling solo, 58.3 percent of which are women. There is a natural tendency to be fearful, but it is the unknown journey where you do not know what to expect that makes it so exciting! Traveling solo is unlike any trip you would ever take, because it is exactly that vulnerability that makes the whole experience something so golden and so beautiful.
It is for these two major reasons that people avoid solo travel: the fear for safety, and the fear of being alone. I believe any other smaller reasons or excuses stem from these two main tenets.
Fear for safety
This is the biggest reason why people are hindered by the concept of solo travel, especially female travelers. There is no magic formula to guarantee safety, but being prepared, aware and smart in every situation is more than enough to keep you safe.
First-time solo travelers, especially women, should go to countries known to be peaceful and safe, such as Iceland, Denmark and Austria. Of course this still does not guarantee that there will be no hiccups during the trip, but it certainly increases the chances of safety when you put yourself in an environment that is known to be safe.
Preparedness is very important. Make bookings and reservations way in advance, and read up on the country that you’re visiting. For example, find out what is culturally appropriate be it hand gestures or dress codes so that you avoid angering the locals.
Constantly update family and friends to let them know you’re safe – but don’t overly rely on technology and staying connected to combat the solitude, look up, and see the wonders the screen can’t offer you.
Fear of being alone
This could refer to other’s opinion of you being alone, not having anyone to share the experiences with. Or maybe the helplessness, by not knowing a second voice in the situation and what’s the best thing to do, no one to be the pillar of support.
Society has come up with a culture that propagates the importance of building relationships and having a community. Unfortunately, this has birthed an unfounded stigmatism that comes with being alone, because people have the natural tendency to think that you’re a loser or a loner. But what’s wrong with being alone? It doesn’t mean you’re lonely when you’re alone. It could just mean you are tired of waiting for that perfect companion to come along with you, and that is perfectly okay.
Additionally, traveling alone makes you more aware of your surroundings. Having to rely solely on yourself to get around, your senses become more aware of the people and things going on around you. It’s as if you see, feel, taste, hear and smell things more intensely just because your senses have been given the chance to be more sensitive to it.
It’s not all that solo either. Friends are easy to make on the road, if you just learn to open up. Everyone has shyness and awkwardness in them to overcome, and it’s not difficult when other travellers or locals are so friendly and usually take the first step in befriending you. But, you will eventually learn to be more proactive yourself in making friendships, be it in asking for directions or advice on where to go. Talking to locals is extremely beneficial because sometimes it is during these encounters that locals can direct you to the best places to eat, shop or just experience local culture. Locals know best. It also gives you a chance to listen to the voice of that nation, here a story you may never have heard if you didn’t open up to say “hello”.
One of the best things about traveling alone is that you are the master of your itinerary. In large groups, we all have a cacophony of conflicting ideas, where everyone wants to do what they want to do, and are uninterested in exploring other people’s opinions. This gives rise to wasted time and energy just trying to come to a common consensus of how to accommodate everyone’s wants and what the itinerary should be. None of this, however, is a problem when you travel alone. You are the master of your own itinerary. The schedule can be suited to however you want it to be, and even if you run late or miss something, there is flexibility to adjust it. No complaints, no shouting, no arguments. This is a luxury not commonly enjoyed in daily life, so take advantage of it and have an open attitude to try new things and satisfy impulses. Who knows where it may bring you.
Building upon that, take advantage of how nobody will want to just be at the shopping malls or more “touristy” areas. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Venture to places that are local and be open to new tastes,sounds and cultures — allow yourself to be completely immersed in what is going on around you.
Lastly, solo travel becomes a kind of travel that is reflective because of the reliance you have on yourself. When you’re on the road you don’t have anyone to talk to (unless you make friends along the way), when you eat meals it is alone, when you do activities it is alone. In the solitude comes true reflection and brings you away from distraction and reliance on turning to others. In these moments of connecting your experiences with your personal life, you reach a deeper understanding of yourself and without putting up a front for friends or family – you are as your truly are.
You are the creator of your own experiences, however the trip turns out to be is all up to you. But I do promise that it will be rewarding as you discover the wonderful truth: that being alone is okay. Be it traveling, or be it in your hometown. True independence, problem-solving and fearlessness begin here. Embrace the adventure and take up the challenge, after all, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Feature image: mamiverse.com