Traveling alone is probably on most people’s bucket list. It had been on mine for years until I finally plucked up the courage to pack my bags and go.
The thing is that this experience is as scary as it is exciting. But the reward at the end makes it all worth it. So in case you are considering setting out on a journey on your own or if you have already done it and want to share stories, here's what I’ve learned from my year as a solo traveller.
You get to know yourself like never before: traveling takes you to extremes; there are times (most of them) of great joy, but also moments of nervousness and anxiety. As scary as this may sound, the truth is that putting yourself in these situations and learning to deal with them by yourself will grant you a level of self-sufficiency and knowledge that you cannot find elsewhere.
You make your own route: a great thing about being on your own is that you shape your plans according to your own interests and nothing else. There’s no need to compromise or do things you really don’t want to just because the group decided so. Each step will be made on your own terms.
You meet wonderful people: there’s something about solo travellers that seems to attract people. When you’re travelling with a group you’ll usually be doing your own thing, but both locals and other travellers seem to be more comfortable approaching someone who’s alone. This gives you the chance to meet amazing people that would’ve otherwise just passed you by.
The need to share: humans are social creatures, we need to share and connect most of the time. A downside of being on your own is that you might miss basically talking to others about what you see. Even if you are constantly making new friends, you’ll spend a lot of time immerse in your own thoughts without really sharing what you experience with other people. If you’re a social person like me, don’t be surprised if you start talking to yourself after long periods of solitude.
One problem means double trouble: although rare, issues might come up during your journey and it’s in those times where you might feel the need to have someone to share the burden. Any problem seems less serious if you divide the stress with your travel partners.
Budget issues: on a more basic level, traveling alone can be more expensive; especially if you’re hiring tours and activities and have to pay for them yourself. Luckily, as we said, humans are social creatures; so you’ll rarely be doing these things on your own as you can always find a fellow-traveller to tag along.
Be safe, but do not overdo it: it’s important to stay safe, be careful with where you go and who you talk to, but don’t get paranoid to a point that might prevent you from having good times. Keep both your eyes and your mind wide open.
Plan ahead, but leave room for change: a big part of travel safety is planning ahead and doing some research on the places you’ll visit so as to prevent bad surprises. But, as we said before, traveling alone allows you to make your path as you go, so leave some room for changes of plans!
Enjoy the unexpected: yes, it is very stressful to miss you train or to get lost in a city; but try to find the good side of bad situations. Missing a train may allow you to a change of schedule that takes you somewhere unexpected. Being lost in the city means you’ll find places you didn't know or that you’ll talk to people you might have never met.
Repeat: try to find a moment to travel on your own every once in a while. There’s always something new you can get from it!