While it doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes (because we are basically social beings) there is a lot to be said about traveling solo, particularly backpacking alone. If you’re the adventurous type that enjoys your own company, being out on some of the world’s best trails, or even some you create on your own, can be very rewarding. It’s the perfect time for self reflection and relaxation (yeah, that sounds cliche), away from all of life’s typical stresses, giving you a chance to bond with nature and basically zone out for a while.
Travelling solo around the world has many benefits such as providing a greater degree of freedom and flexibility, as well as creating some incredibly personal and ever-lasting memories.
I do travel with friends. But, most of the time, I do it alone. Here are some joys I found in traveling solo.
For me, the top joy of backpacking / traveling solo is that I’m on my own agenda, nobody else’s. I go where I want, do exactly what I want, and when I want to. I learned a lot about myself and developed new skills as I explored the road less traveled alone.
When I started backpacking years ago, I was very naive in reading the map. I was lost many times but I always found my way to my destination with the help of locals. Asking for directions could be a challenge especially if you don’t speak the language, but somehow, I did manage using sign language. No, not the sign language you use when talking to the hearing-impaired but the one where you throw your arms in the air, mimic here and there, make a sound through your nose, or even pointing a finger in your butt to emphasize you are looking for a gay sauna in Japan. LOL…. (That was my last resort.)
We are not all born the same, and if we were, it would be a boring world indeed! The best of friends can have very different desires and needs, and in normal circumstances, this is a great thing. When it comes to travelling though, this may not be ideal. People that travel as couples or small groups will often be faced with dilemmas that one person may wish to do one thing, whereas another may wish to do something else. Being held back like this just does not happen when travelling solo, and it means that some of those life ambitions such as bungee jumping in Australia or skydiving in Africa can be fulfilled without the need to consult others.
When I travel as part of a group, I usually end up relying on the help of others from cooking to protecting supplies or even each other from wildlife and the elements. While there is something to be said for all of the above, solo backpacking taught me to respond on my own abilities. I don’t have many outdoor skills I can boast of but some: like treating blisters I got from walking / exploring a new city. If my day is going to be long and it involves walking from one place to another, I always carry with me a duct tape, not a band-aid. Believe me, this invention can help you a lot from blisters to getting rid off the dust in your black / dark shirts to covering a hole in your bag during rainy days and to securing your luggage tag.
In many ways traveling solo strengthens you both mentally and physically as well, leaving you feeling more together than you did before the experience.
Travelling solo does not mean that you stop talking to people! In fact, it presents an opportunity to become even more social than you otherwise might have done. Backpackers’ hostels are the ideal place to meet and talk to people from all around the world, and many new friendships created in places like these last throughout the years. When people travel as a couple or even as a small group, they tend to become quite insular over the course of time, and by doing so, they can miss out on a lot. Meeting new people and making friends makes the entire experience more worthwhile.
The ability to travel at your own pace is another reason why travelling solo can be a much better option than travelling with others. If you have reached a pleasant coastal town and decide that you want an extra week there, you can simply stay longer without having to consult anyone. If you don’t fancy like doing anything other than reading a book in a café all day, again, this is easier when travelling solo as you don’t have to take other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration.
Just imagine coming upon a beautiful meadow and instead of trekking through it with a group to get to the next curve on the trail, you decide to lay down, listen to the sounds of nature surrounding you, and maybe even taking a little nap with a cool breeze on your face; awesome! Any time I feel like stopping to observe my surroundings, I’m free to do it. On the other hand, if I feel like blazing the trails and challenging myself, I can do that too. Being your own boss is a wonderful thing!
Most of us live with fears that are based on imagination. Whether you’re uncomfortable being alone, are afraid of heights, or the idea of running into wild animals in the woods, backpacking solo will help you overcome your fears and safely if you learn the necessary skills to take on the challenge. In difficult times on the road, you rely on yourself more than relying on the goodness of strangers. Yes, there are good strangers out there who are willing to extend a hand or two without expecting any return. And yes, there are places, too, when you ask for help, you seem to feel obliged to give a “tip.”
It goes without saying that the point of a trip around the world or even your own country, is to find out a little more about it, to learn, to experience, and to enjoy yourself. That said, it is not just the country you will be finding out about, but it will also be yourself. You are going to learn how you react under pressure, how to plan and how to look after yourself. Perhaps more importantly though, you will also learn how to relax, have fun and enjoy yourself at your own pace, which brings us to the next point…
Finally, travelling solo is a lot easier to organise than trying to plan a trip with one or more other people. You can set your own dates for departure without having someone else change their minds, you can plan it in your own time without having to arrange meeting up with one or more other people, and when you are “on the ground”, so to speak, you can make snap decisions without the need to first confer with others. Travelling solo is simple, easy and enriching!
Solo backpackers can proudly declare, “I did it! I did it!” I can revel in my accomplishments because the successful outcome of my adventure is due to my efforts alone. There’s no better way to learn to be self sufficient, and truly learn to enjoy the pleasures of taking the road less traveled alone.
In spite of the possible risks, more and more people today are traveling solo. It’s all about developing the right mindset, learning the skills you need to travel alone, and being prepared for anything you may face along the way.