The top 10 things I love about solo travel.
So, do you, like, not have any friends? (this is not one of the 10)
For some reason, people seem to think that solo travel equals not having any friends. At that point I start to pity them. Their lives will be limited by the experiences they can do as long as they have someone else to do it with them.
One of my blogger heroes, Kristen Addis of Be My Travel Muse, shared this awesome post on her Facebook 13 questions that solo female travelers get asked. It’s true – telling people that you’re traveling alone is kind of a pain sometimes. There are a lot of haters out there. Despite that, I think this list of my 10 benefits makes those questions worth the hassle.
When I went to Burning Man for the first time, someone-who-shall-remain-nameless-but-knows-who-they-are suggested that I should wait until I have a boyfriend, husband, or friend to go with me. I laughed so hard I almost puked! I’m not going to sit around and wait for someone else so that I can live my life.
Solo travel is by far my preferred method. Not that I don’t want to travel with friends – I would love to – but solo travel offers many benefits that hold more value to me than shared travel. Also, I admit, I don’t have any friends [that are into traveling].
Traveling, as defined by Zoom: An extended period of continuous movement across various destinations with the prime directive being to experience the culture and day to day life of other people and lifestyles. Not a “vacation”.
What are the benefits of traveling alone?
1. What I want, when I want it.
I know this sounds a little selfish, “I, I, I”, and it is. I’m not denying that. But guys, I think that as a society, we all need to be a little more selfish – women especially. Ladies, we need to put ourselves first a little more often. Let’s try and move away from the word selfish and replace it with “self-love”.
In our day-to-day life, it’s easy to consistently put others first – and we should often – but this is one of the beauties of traveling solo: There is no one else to put first except me. Traveling alone allows me to focus on me, getting to know myself better and just the feeling of being responsible for one. If I want to go see thing X, I do. If I want to eat at place XYZ, I do. If I want to stay at the hostel and sleep….I do. This is probably why I’m not dating material – I know what I want and I go get it.
2. It’s empowering!
When I was in my late teens / early twenties, I used to take a bus from Columbus, OH to Chicago, IL to visit my BFF. I call these times “baby solo travel” since it was within the US.
This was before smart phones, when all of the streets went uphill. Sometimes she would be able to meet me at the bus stop. Other times, I would land in Chicago and need to navigate my way around the big city to wherever the rendezvous point was – a train stop, her dorm/apartment, etc.
It was scary. I could’ve gotten kidnapped, raped, attacked, mugged or just straight up suuuuper lost and find myself in a bad part of town and shot. This has never happened to me. I’ve always managed to find my way to the destination and when I get there it’s like, “FUCK YEAH I DID THAT! ROARRR!”
I am a beast!
I know what you’re thinking, because I’m hearing it a lot: “Well Zoom, maybe you could do that, but I wouldn’t be able to”. This leads me to number three.
3. My faith in humanity grows incrementally every day.
Even though it can be hard to ask for it, and while independence is beautiful and everything, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and get help from others.
I’ve had to ask for directions from people all over the United States, and in Asia as well. I’ve had to ask to borrow a cell phone to make a phone call. I’ve bit the dust on a staircase in Chicago and been picked up by a stranger.
These small lessons in vulnerability, and the resulting positive non-rapey outcome, has taught me that humans [as a species] are inherently good. Don’t worry Mom, I’m still keeping my guard up and being smart, but in single servings like this, it’s good to know that you can still call upon help from strangers if you truly need it.
4. I get to meet new people.
Wait, isn’t the point of traveling alone to be alone?
That’s not the point. The point is to be responsible for solely myself. Radical self-reliance! By traveling alone, you are more open to new experiences because you’re outside of your comfort zone. If I were to have traveled across Asia with a friend, boyfriend. etc I would most likely have limited myself to hanging out with that person. Because why not? I know them, I’m comfortable with them, and I could completely avoid perks number 2 & 3.
Lots of people travel alone – women included. It’s natural to meet other solo travelers and have single-serving interactions with them. If you’re headed to the same place or traveling in the same direction, your paths can merge for a short period of time. While the interactions may be in singles, the relationships built are long-lasting.
For example, in Bangkok I met a gal named Olivia who is very practical – like myself. We enjoyed a great day together exploring Bangkok, bitching about the heat, and being photo buddies. I left the next day to go to Chiang Mai, and she was going to follow a few days later. We met up again in Chiang Mai and had more fun!
The perfect blend of alone time and socializing.
5. Personal growth and development.
Unless you’re a complete twat sandwich, you probably are fun to be around – even with yourself. The human mind is infinite and can be explored for our entire lives. Getting to know oneself and becoming self-aware is one of the biggest benefits you can give yourself. Don’t you look back sometimes and think “oh god, I was so young/stupid/ignorant/naive” etc. You’ve grown and changed since then, right?
Traveling solo allows you to kick-start your personal growth through new experiences, challenges and perspective. You will never grow in your comfort zone. Sorry [not sorry] to be so blunt, but I think you know that deep down.
6. Learning that all you need is you.
Okay, I admit it, I reallllly miss playing video games and watching cartoons for hours on end. I kind of want to be shoving pizza in my face, getting ripped, and playing the Sims, Fallout, whatever RIGHT NOW….but I’m not.
Through my solo travels, I’ve learned to entertain myself with me. (Not like that you sickos!), but in my own mind.
Louis CK says it perfectly:
7. Building resilience
When you travel by yourself, there are some rough times. It’s not all fun in the sun over here ya know. There are some sad and rough times too.
Even while I’m sitting in my bed stewing because my friends back home haven’t messaged me at all, and I’m feeling angry that its just so easy for them to let me go, this is still just a moment in time.
It’s up to me to recognize that I write a blog that tells them everything I’m doing. It’s up to me to work through the issue that I am not THAT important that they would need to message me on the reg. I have to understand that I’m the one who lost the routine while my back-homies are still rocking theirs. I have to remember to refer back to number 6.
8. Time goes slower when you’re by yourself.
When you travel alone, the extra energy that is generated by another person isn’t there. “Let’s go here, see this, stop there!” While that vibe is enjoyable, I find myself getting caught up and not stopping to smell the roses – literally.
When you’re with a friend, you have to be respectful of their time, too, and it’s rare that you always want to do the same thing, at the same time, all the time. This happens often at Burning Man. One part of the group wants to spend forever at a bar, and the other part of the group wants to go see a burn. Granted, Burners are generally comfortable enough to split off, but if you’re in another country with your friend, you generally stick together.
If you want to sit in a temple and watch the monks polish Buddha for half an hour, you can do that if you’re alone because you get to make your own schedule.
9. No one is there to watch you fail horribly.
I’ve managed to get my own term created by my friends: “An Amberly Walk”. This means that we’re going to go out, I’m going to insist I know where we’re going, and then we’re going to get lost and end up walking 15 miles while I keep saying “Yeah but isn’t this fun? We’re exploring!” I always end up getting lost…on purpose or accident.
No one can rage at you for accidentally turning down a one way street or missing that exit. If you’re late and miss the tour, you’ve only affected yourself. If you’re low on money, you can eat cheap, shitty food all alone until you get paid again. I’m sure you’ve had your share of faux pas you wish no one saw 😉
UPDATE: 5/2/16 Spent at least 10 minutes struggling to turn on my motorcycle before the Tuk Tuk driver who was watching me struggle took pity on me and came over and put my kick stand up. Voila! Derp.
10. Homecomings are so much more wonderful because EVERYONE missed you.
If you travel alone, everyone is missing you! Just that many more people at your welcome-back party 🙂
Okay, okay, I know this one is weak, but my OCD can’t stand a 9-item list!! Also, it is so good to see everyone when you get back. Really makes you appreciate the faces of your friends.