I have had many friends back home tell me “I’d love to travel with you” or “I have no one to go with”. To these people, I say “you don’t need anyone to hold your hand, you can do it yourself!” If you wait for someone to go with you may never leave. It’s fear that stops you and the only way you can overcome fear is through understanding. I can help you understand the little facts of traveling but the rest is up to you. The question is “should you travel alone?” Here are my top 10 reasons you should pack your bags and leave as soon as possible and see the world through the solo traveler’s eyes.
Fool me once…
If you make a stupid choice you must live with the consequences, but if you are traveling with someone and they make a stupid choice you could be held culpable in many countries. Some choices may not be all that “stupid” such as smoking weed, drinking alcohol, or a random hook up, but are you willing to pay for someone else’s exploits? Any of these could get you both in trouble depending on what part of the world you are in. Also, when you have a travel partner it is easy to get comfortable and intentionally/unintentionally give them more responsibilities than they are prepared for such as watching your laptop, iPad, cell phone, or even your money. If you have trust issues then traveling with a partner will be a challenge.
Because money doesn’t grow on trees!
Traveling with a partner can be four times as expensive due to the difficulty finding suitable transport, accommodation, or food. Taxi’s in some countries charge per person, plan tickets can be cheaper when buying single tickets, hotels mostly charge per person or per bed to keep up with hostels. Traveling as a couple gives the impression you are on holiday and that means you have extra money to the tourist vultures of the world so you will get hounded ten times more. If you and your travel partner don’t have the same exact taste in everything, there may be times where you will pay more for something because they “have to have” something a specific way. Traveling alone also makes it easier to use Couchsurfing, Helpx, and other cheap travel resources.
If time is money why not save it?
When you travel you already have to learn how to “hurry up and wait” but when you add someone who is slower than you, frustration will take its toll on the both of you. Try waking up late for check out at a hostel with a strict checkout policy if you are with someone that isn’t organized you will want to pull your hair out when they charge you for a half/full day for a late checkout. Some attractions allow you to spend as much or as little time as you want. You can power travel or snail travel depending on your time and budget constraints. Since you will never have enough time to see everything, time has a certain value to each person so do you really want to blow it waiting on someone else?
Poor lonely travelers get attention.
When you are alone and standing on the street staring at a map, travel guide, or your phone locals will often approach you and offer their help. When you’re a couple they are less likely due to cultural differences, they may not understand how to act towards the opposite sex. I have been offered free rides nearly every single time I start walking around outside a city center but only when I was alone. Backpackers/solo travelers are considered lonely people in a lot of tourist destinations so you may find locals that will round up a couple and show them around or invite them places.
Meet people at will.
Making new and interesting friends is much easier. The main reason for this is chemistry! Groups of people will absorb one person at a time because it is easier for them to vet people one by one. If you get along with the group leader or the local in charge then you will likely get dragged along wherever they plan to go. Also, groups have a size limit. That limit could be set by how many will fit in a taxi, bus, or someone’s car and there is almost always room for just one more.
When problems arise (and they will) you can take it!
Your flight might get delayed or canceled, PMS, you might get ripped off, lost or stolen items, get lost, the list of problems goes on for days. These things are stressors and handling them alone is hard enough, to do this with someone else adds a challenge to traveling you may not be ready for and can ruin your experience entirely. Stress is something we must deal with our entire lives but when you are traveling you have no support system as you do at home so dealing with a person who handles it differently than you do can make things worse.
Money management 101, what’s mine is mine!
I have never met a traveler that didn’t have a budget and I have also never met one that hasn’t busted their budget on multiple occasions. This means when you travel with someone and they run out of money before you do you’ll feel a sense of guilt for doing things they can’t or you will feel compelled to loan them money. I promise you loaning money to a traveler is a bad idea. Not just because they may never pay you back but also because it will make it more difficult for you to manage your own budget. Traveling is the best way to learn how to budget and adding another person to that budget when you weren’t prepared for it will be a lesson you won’t learn twice.
Confidence only costs experience.
It starts with I can do it all by myself and it ends with I did it all by myself. This is a great feeling that you cannot recreate with the crutch of another traveler. Blogs, travel guides, and other travelers may assist at times but locals will help you and gaining the confidence to talk to them is big. Navigating through some countries can be nearly impossible if you don’t speak the language so you may be forced to learn a few words, using new-found knowledge is a bit exhilarating. Confidence is something we all need yet no one can get it without experiences and can’t get experience on your couch?
Silence is golden!
With all the stresses and excitement of traveling there will be times when you need some time to soak it all in. That’s not always easy to do when you have someone with you. Some people just don’t shut up, I should know because I’m one of those people. Traveling alone helps me to reflect and absorb and since there is no one to talk to me I don’t feel the need to talk nearly as much. If I do feel like talking then I can go out to a local café, park, or monument and someone will most assuredly want to talk to me. On those lazy days when the weather is slowing down the adventure you can read a book, meditate, or write.
Do what you do when and where you want to do it.
We are all different, no matter how much you like someone or you feel connected with them I promise when you travel with them you will learn quickly that that person is much more complicated than you understood before traveling with them. When you travel solo you can splurge, change plans, be lazy, be adventurous or whatever it is you chose to do and not worry what someone else wants to do. If you learn something about a certain tour or monument that changes your mind about doing it then you can do something else without worrying that you are taking away from another person’s experience.
Everything in this article is to be taken with a grain of salt. Not everyone can travel alone and not everyone can travel with someone. The trick is to find out which one you are because you won’t know until you try it. I have traveled both ways and I was successful with both but what’s good for me may not be good for you. Traveling is a lesson in life and if you only learn how to live it with someone you’ll never truly understand yourself. You will learn more about yourself than you will the country you are visiting.