When I first announced to friends, family and colleagues that I was heading off to South America on my own, most people were super excited for me. That was cool to hear and I felt like a massive winner, but what struck me the most was how many people said they wished they could do something like me but they couldn’t because of X, Y or Z.
I was surprised how many people raised concerns about travelling solo, and how many of those concerns hadn’t even crossed my giddy mind. The truth is, anyone can adventure alone if they properly want to, and to prove that I’m right (being right is VERY important to me), I’m going to call bullshit on the ten most common things that people said to me when I told them about my impending trip.
“Won’t you be lonely?”
Nope. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t worried about that the first time I went off alone: I was convinced I’d spend the entire trip wandering the streets in silence. But, that just isn’t likely to happen when you’re travelling solo. Also, silence is massively underrated and I bloody love it filling my ear holes so everyone shut up for a second please.
There are so many people doing the exact same thing as you, and they’re probably having similar worries about looking like losers/loners. But, making friends on the road is a simple as booking into a shared room in a hostel and forcing conversation on your bunk-mate, or joining a group trip and talking over the guide at all times.
“It’s a good time to do it now you’re single”
Be warned, this one often comes with an accompanying pity-face over the fact that nobody loves you. Yes, I am single, but no, that isn’t the only reason I’m travelling. It was the right time for me to hit the road for loads of reasons that I won’t bang on about right now, and you definitely don’t need to be solo in life to be solo in travel.
Whether you’re in a new relationship, a marriage or a long term partnership, you can still run off and see the world. You’re still an individual, even if you’re in a relationship, right? WELL BLOODY ACT LIKE ONE, THEN.
I spent eight months in Tanzania in my early 20’s whilst in a fairly new relationship, and although it was tough at times, the homecoming was super sexy and totally worth it.
“You’re an introvert, won’t you struggle with shared dorms?”
It’s true, I don’t love being surrounded by people. But, I can easily escape hostel-hell if I get too overwhelmed by constant companionship and start to worry about accidentally committing a murder.
In fact, travelling alone is, in many ways, better-suited to introverts. I’ve gotten grumpy with a travel companion many times, simply because I needed a little alone time that I just couldn’t get. Seriously, I’m vile sometimes: any of my friends will vouch for that. With solo travel, you’re not going to have this problem, and your friendships won’t be ruined by your bitchy attitude.
“Wow, you’re so brave to be doing this”
Ok, so I suppose this one is partially true, depending on the type of adventure you’re planning. Let’s all take a second to appreciate how brilliant I am for running away on holiday without anyone to accompany me for a second. Long backpacking trips can be a bit scary: I’m writing this three weeks before I head off to South America alone for a year, and I’m definitely shitting it a little.
But, isn’t that kind of the point? Something I love about travelling is that it’s the only time my resourcefulness is properly tested. I freak out quite often and I definitely cry in public sometimes, but it’s character building probably.
I’m not a brave person (ask anyone, I’m scared of everything), so if I can do it so can you. Seriously, you should see me go about my life, it’s pathetic how terrified I am of all the things that exist in the world.
“I’d like to travel alone but I can’t afford/don’t have time for a big trip”
That’s not really a problem, because you don’t actually have to turn your life upside down to travel solo. Just fit it into your existing schedule however suits you. You do that with ‘regular’ holidays, so what’s the big difference about doing it solo?
Make the most of annual leave at work by squeezing short trips in, or pull a sicky if your holiday days at work are toss. If you find yourself with a month free from studying, use it to travel instead of sitting in your mum’s house watching Netflix and contemplating the futility of life. Even a weekend is plenty of time to get under the skin of a new destination, and you don’t even need to leave your country to experience lone adventuring. Head off into the local countryside for the day and wander around (I promise you won’t look like a massive weirdo), or just spend some time exploring a nearby city (ditto on the weirdo point).
“I’d be so scared, isn’t it dangerous?”
What, more dangerous that holidaying with your mate who drinks too much white wine and starts fights with locals? This is a very common concern for friends and family when you’re heading off alone: especially if you’re a little helpless woman. But, solo trips are generally much safer than people think, as long as you’re not an idiot.
The brilliant thing about travelling alone is that you really learn to trust your gut; you’ll naturally be more cautious and aware of your surroundings, and you won’t fall into the false security of ‘safety in numbers’. Because, when you think about it, how much safer are you if you’re with another person and something bad happens? Unless that person is The Rock or someone equally as massive, of course.
If you plan ahead and think smart, you’ll be as safe as is possible (again, as long as you’re not an idiot). Basically, use the same common sense that you’d use in your home town, cut down on your white wine intake a little, and you’ll be safe as houses mate.
“Won’t it be loads more expensive traveling alone?”
I really don’t know, but who gives a shit. The beauty of travelling alone is that you can do what you want, when you want. So, if you’re feeling concerned about your budget, you can make the decision to live off dry bread for a couple of days, or downgrade to the lowest rated hostel on Booking.com until you can afford to get back to your baller lifestyle. A travel companion might not necessarily want to do that (let’s face it, who would), which can cause friction.
Also, you’re going to meet loads of people because you’re brilliant and everyone will want to be your mate, so you’ll have plenty of people to split transport and stuff with.
“It won’t be as much fun if you’re not with your mates”
Yes, holidays with friends are super fun, but solo travelling is a completely different kettle of fish (what does this saying even mean?), and both have major perks. Our friends are often like security blankets; we create ‘packs’ at school and at work, and we stick to these people. Wouldn’t it be fun to go a little ‘lone wolf’ every now and again? Seriously, make up a new persona, pretend to have invented trousers; do what you want because NOBODY KNOWS THE TRUTH.
Plus, there are plenty more mates out there just waiting to be made. Who’s to say that within a couple of weeks, or even a couple of days, you won’t be rolling deeper than you do in your home town? Unless you’re a shit human, this is definitely going to happen.
“It just seems like so much more effort to go solo”
Eugh, you’re so lazy! Yes, you’ll have to make every decision, but that’s way more of a positive than it is a negative. There’s nobody to please but you, so you’ll never have to compromise or worry that your travel companion isn’t having fun.
In the past when I’ve travelled solo I’ve been able to change my plans to tag along with fellow travellers to an outdoor film festival in Austria, vodka tasting in Russia, and a super-fun drinking session in Slovakia that ultimately resulted in me getting a lemon tattooed on my arm. If I’d been travelling with a friend or partner, they might not have been up for these adventures, and I would’ve missed out on new friendships and some brilliant memories (and a rad tattoo).
Also, if you just want to stay in for the night and see how many bags of crisps you can eat in one sitting, as a strong and independent solo traveller you can make that decision.
“Aren’t you worried you’re ruining your career?”
Nah not really, this is going to look brilliant on my CV if I ever come home and try to get a proper job again. As I’ve already mentioned, a solo trip doesn’t need to be a long, life changing journey. But, if you do decide to take the plunge, there are many positives in your decision that future prospective employers will love. Solo travel screams tenacity, courage and independence, and proves that you’re organised and can achieve your goals. Also, jobs aren’t everything, are you even happy sat at your desk all day?
I quit my dream job in digital media production to travel, and after spending my twenties working my way up in the industry it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. But screw it, I probably won’t regret it when I’m unemployed and living at my mum’s when I come home.
“I’d love to do it but I’d feel selfish”
Oh my god who cares!? This is probably the myth that gets under my skin the most, because in my experience this is the one that’s stopping so many people from travelling alone. Be selfish for once in your life, go wild!
People will bitch at you because you’re leaving friends and family at home to miss you and worry about you, or because you have a partner and/or children and you shouldn’t want to enjoy time away from them. It might be that your mates want to go on a beach holiday and you want to go trekking instead, so you’re ‘letting the side down’.
F that noise. Just go.