Why Solo Travel Is Awesome!

solo female backpacker

‘Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone’. The Dhammapada.

Travelling solo is an incredible experience and is one that every backpacker should experience at least once in their lifetime. I don’t always travel solo nowadays but I do still occasionally head off on my own to various corners of the world, and the majority of my long term and short term trips over the last decade or so have been solo ones. I’ve heard all the criticism and disapproving comments over the years with friends, family and even general acquaintances alike all uniting in their unified belief that I have gone insane. I mean why in hell would I go alone? Isn’t it dangerous? Aren’t I scared? Won’t I be lonely? What is wrong with me?

The thing is, I absolutely love it! Don’t get me wrong, travelling with a partner or a friend can be a great experience too, but you shouldn’t dismiss the idea of travel just because you have no one to go with.

Too many people listen to the naysayers right from the start and get it into their heads that solo travel is unsafe, boring or lonely, that they should stay at home because the world is too dangerous and no one loves them enough to go with them. This is ridiculous. Do you really want to cancel your trip of a lifetime because your BFF will miss her boyfriend too much (who she’ll probably break up with in a month anyway!) Or all your mates say they are skint? Of course you don’t!

Seriously though, none of the negative connotations of solo travel are true. It isn’t more dangerous to travel alone. It isn’t scary, or frightening, and it certainly isn’t lonely or boring. If your dream is to travel the world, then don’t let the fact that you have no one to go with you stop you from doing so! Once you have landed in your destination and acclimatised to your new surroundings, you may even find that you prefer travelling this way!

So here are just a few reasons why travelling solo is absolutely awesome, and why you should do it if you get the chance.

You can do what you want, when you want.

Yes this is selfish, yes this is self indulgent, but so what? You are on your own, that is the point! Your entire trip can be focused around you, what you want to do, what you like. No one  else has any say or input in it.

Do you want to change your plans half way through your trip? Then what’s stopping you? Do it! Have you found a tropical island that you like and want to stay on it? Well do it! Want to eat a third lunch because there is just so much choice at the food court? Then do it! No one will judge you! Fancy doing that week long PADI course or stay for a few days in an Ashram to do some Yoga and try not to giggle at the one at the back who keeps farting? Then do it! The world really is your oyster!

When travelling solo you really can just do whatever takes your fancy. Every single day can be filled with things that interest you. You don’t have to compromise your plans or miss out on what you want to do because your travel buddy is whining they don’t want to do that or they want to do something else instead. You have no one to please but yourself, and yes that may seem self-centred but who gives a damn? It’s also really liberating!

You will never be lonely.

This is one of the big worries many people have when they contemplate solo travel, but it really is completely unfounded. Thousands of people travel solo every single day, and odds are you will bump into a few of them on your own travels!

It is really common to meet new friends on the road, either on an organised trek or by sheer chance. Other travellers and backpackers always end up congregating in transit stations, long distance coaches or overnight trains, hostels or backpacker bars, and all it takes to meet them is a little bit of confidence and that amazing little word ‘hello’.

Some backpackers end up spending days or even longer together as they click and decide to travel in the same direction before eventually parting ways again, other times a chance encounter may lead to nothing more than an interesting conversation on a long coach journey or in a hostel dorm or a good night out together. The point is you will never be alone, and the best part is you can have the best of both worlds! You can enjoy the benefits of travelling solo, and have company when and if you want it. It’s your choice!

You will become much more self confident and self reliant.

By being forced out of your comfort zone and having to deal with unexpected events and unpredictable experiences, you will learn a lot about yourself. You will come to know yourself intimately whether you want to or not. You won’t need to ask yourself what you would do in a tight spot, or what type of person you are when things happen and you have to deal with them, you will know because you will have been there and done it.

Things will inevitably go wrong on a backpacking trip, from tiny annoyances such as transport delays or your mosquito net developing a tear in the jungle, to major hiccups like your bus breaking down in the middle of a desert or even worse. You learn very quickly that it is how you deal with these incidents is what matters, and how you overcome the challenges is what helps build and shape your character. You really don’t know what you are capable of doing until you do it, and solo travel builds your self confidence and self reliance to the point that you know intrinsically that you can handle anything life throws at you. You will gain the experience, the self understanding and the self confidence to know that even when you get back home, the experience and knowledge you have gained when backpacking can be applied to any situation. In short, backpacking solo will make you a better, more rounded and more confident person.

You meet more locals and see more of the culture.

Okay, this isn’t wholly true. Backpackers who are travelling with friends or partners can just as easily do this, but quite frankly when you are travelling with someone you can sometimes be quite insular without even realising it. Travelling solo removes that safety net of your friends or partner, you no longer have that comfort zone of travelling within a group, so you can often make much more of an effort to interact with the locals and immerse yourself in the culture of the place you are visiting. The benefits of which should be self explanatory really.

Yes! It is absolutely safe to travel alone!

I really don’t know enough pejoratives to describe my frustration at the assumption that solo travel is inherently dangerous. It isn’t! At all! There is so much misinformation and unnecessary fear about travelling the world, but the fact of the matter is the highest crime rates are in the places that most backpackers actually come from! The USA and UK in particular. So if you want to go on statistics alone you are actually technically safer travelling the world!  Basic common sense precautions will keep you as safe as a solo backpacker as a backpacker in a group would be. And yes, that applies to women too. To read more about solo female backpacker safety, click here.

So if travelling is your dream, if you are feeling homesick for somewhere you have never been, if you want to go backpacking but you have no one to go with, then go alone! Travel solo! You will not regret it, and you may even find you prefer it!

Feel free to tell me about your own solo travel experiences below, or whether you prefer travelling alone or travelling with someone else? Has this article eased your solo travel fears or inspired you in any way to get out there and explore on your own, then I’d love to hear about it so leave a comment.

Related Articldes

Is Solo Travel Ever Truly Solo?

Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Top Tips For The Solo Traveller.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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25 comments on “Why Solo Travel Is Awesome!
  1. Paul says:

    Really enjoyable and well written article. I am really enjoying this website, keep up the good work and I’ll look forward to your new posts!

  2. katiej28 says:

    Wow! This is fantastic! This is exactly what I have been planning since my friend dropped out of our travel plans. I’m a little nervous about it though and I’m not sure of how to plan it all. I mean what about safety? Is it safe for a woman to travel alone?

    • Thanks KatieJ. I’m glad you found the article useful. Don’t worry, that happens much more often than you think, and there are plenty of people travelling solo for that exact reason. And yes it is absolutely safe for a woman to travel alone, basic common sense precautions will usually be more than enough. See my tips on basic travel safety in the travel tips section for more information. Enjoy your travels!

  3. Karla says:

    What a great & insightful post!

    You sure have explained it very clearly why solo traveling will benefit you in the present and in the long run!

    Solo travel may be intimidating and many people let fear stop them from going out and explore this beautiful world.

    One must be fully prepared of course but then again you have to trust & let go!

    The purpose of traveling is to learn more about the destination, its history, culture, people and so much more!

    You also discover yourself even more, it pushes some buttons but you learn valuable lessons ;) It makes you appreciate where you come from!

    Safety comes first of course but you will come back home stronger & wiser.

    Keep up the great work & safe travels ;)

    Karla

  4. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    I have been really worried about this exact thing, especially with all my friends and mum and dad saying it will be too dangerous all the time! This is really helping to ease my fears a little! I’m going to show my parents this page to make them see travelling on my own won’t be that bad!

  5. Khai says:

    What you said is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Haha.

    My first solo travel was in 2011 to Bangkok, overland from Malaysia. I was nervous, I kept quiet and I was on the losing side. Time passed and I gained confidence.

    Fast forward to 2013, I went on a solo travel to Bangkok again, but this time proceeded to Vientiane, overland. And the result? Just as what you said above! No doubt! ;)

  6. Krokro says:

    I can’t tell you how much everything you wrote is how I feel about solo backpacking! I have always been bored of friends telling they would love to travel but…always this BUT! Life doesn’t need to be hard: you want to visit somewhere? Then don’t think twice, and just go! It is not lonely, it’s on these trips that I met amazing locals always happy to tell me more about their country and the interesting place to see (like this so lovely woman in Geneva who had the same interests as me about books and advised me on a must see museum!) I will solo travel again in two weeks time and can’t wait for it.

  7. Shane Dallas says:

    Great article – well done for putting in writing what solo travellers know from experience! I often tell people that being alone is not the same as being lonely. The secret is to be comfortable with yourself as a person. I reckon introverts are less likely to be feel lonely during solo travel as they are used to occupying themselves with their own company. So if you are shy, you should feel more confident knowing you will be fine on the road!

    Re the danger aspect of solo travel, any destination is unsafe if you don’t use common sense. I’ve travelled solo to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somaliland and there were no safety issues at all because I researched each place before I arrived and used the same rules for keeping safe as I would back in my home country. Only take advice on the safety or otherwise of a destination from travellers who have visited or people who live there – ignore the rest.

    • Thank you Shane I completely agree! I am as comfortable in my own company as I am in the company of others, and I think I have become so over long periods of time travelling solo. I have traveled through those same regions and many more and I agree with you on the safety issues too, people don’t need to worry as much as they do. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Yummy Planet says:

    Reading your article, I think I would really like solo travel too. The fact is, my partner and I have found the perfect balance to travel together without having to compromise. For example usually spend one or even sometimes a few days apart during a trip to do what we want. And we both love to travel and always agree on the choice of the destination. But, we’ll maybe get to experience it one day if one of us has an opportunity to travel and the other can’t join.

    • Travelling with a partner is great too, it really isn’t an either or thing, people find the way that suits them best and that’s all good! People tend to have a lot of misconceptions about solo travel though, if you ever do get to try it one day embrace and enjoy it. You can always go away with your partner again on another trip. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

  9. Manouk says:

    Well written article Mike! And I agree ;)! However, for short trips I prefer to travel with friends just because you’re less flexible and can’t really afford roaming around. But longer trip I always did alone and just joined people wherever I met them and then traveled together :)!

    • I don’t know, I’ve enjoyed plenty of short trips and weekend breaks alone too, so I don’t think time is a barrier. But there is certainly nothing wrong with travelling with people too, both ways are fantastic ways to travel I just hope people won’t be put off by travelling solo when they get the opportunity. :) Thanks for the comment.

  10. Craig says:

    The best thing about going alone is you do exactly what you want to do, exactly when you want to do it. No waiting around in places you aren’t interested in visiting, no missing a bus because your friend was late, etc.

  11. lruthnum says:

    Fantastic post :) so glad I stumbled across this blog! I’m heading off travelling by myself next year, leaving all my mates, family and boyfriend behind – noone could go when I wanted to and I refused to put my trip on hold – so glad I stuck with it as you have completely eased any niggles of worry at the back of my mind :) bring it on!

  12. Agreed with this completely. I was really unsure about taking my first solo trip and was worried about feeling lonely, but I am so glad I just went ahead and did it anyway. It was the best experience ever, and it was all my own. I came home feeling more confident, independent, and more “connected with myself” if that makes sense.

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