Traveling on your own...
These past years, i've traveled more often alone, than with friends or my family. People around me often stare at me with wide open eyes, as soon as I reveal that I'm going to travel again... alone.
How I started traveling alone.
It could have started out of curiousity, an adventurous urge, or just the very common fact, that you couldn't find anyone else to travel with at a specific time.
In my case, I wanted to get out of here, because of a recent breakup with my girlfriend back then. I just wanted to be on my own, and leave everything behind just for a couple of days. My first solo trip took me to Oslo, Norway. To be honest it wasn't that adventurous, because I met up with my friend Martin, who I've met in Luxembourg, through couch-surfing. I hosted Martin at my home, for 1 single night, and I felt like we should meet again, and so I just decided to visit him in his home country.
I got a different approach towards solo traveling after that trip to Oslo. I really enjoyed the journey in the car, planes, buses, ... all on your own. Since it was a new experience for me, I was quite excited about it, and left all the negative thoughts behind.
The most important thing of course, was the fact, that Martin and his friends, gave me the warmest welcome I could have ever expected. I felt at home, for a weekend, in a different country, at an unknown place.
As soon as I got back home, I knew I was ready for a next trip all alone.
The benefits of traveling solo.
After my recent travels on my own, I'm convinced that I had more benefits while traveling alone, than I would have had with travel buddies on my side.
Ever heard stories, about getting into an argument with friends or girlfriends while traveling ? Well... those kind of arguments actually could ruin your trip or holidays. I went through this as well, and know how it feels like, when you feel sad at a place, where you should be the happiest person on earth. This wouldn't happen, when traveling alone.
Every single person, has his daily habits and routines. Some of those are must-dos for the concerned ones, but can get pretty annoying for your travel partner, after traveling a while together. Imagine the daily routine of spending one to two hours in a bathroom, for getting ready. A long waiting time... every morning... This wouldn't happen while traveling alone.
As soon as you are on your own, you can create your own schedule, at your personal travel pace. It may sound kind of selfish, but yes, you can do all the stuff you're interested in, and get to the places that only you want to visit.
While traveling alone, I noticed, that it's often easier to meet the crowds, travelers or locals, that you seem to connect with a first sight. Would it be a band-shirt someone's wearing, or a tattoo, ... pointing at it, and saying a couple of words, will easily lead you into a chit-chat. It's often easier to get in touch with solo-travelers as well, as with a group of people.
When I was traveling together with my best friends, it was easy to meet people, but mostly it wasn't the kind of people, who shared the same interests. As soon as I got to meet people on my own, surprisingly, we often had things in common, and it was easier to start a conversation.
Being all on your own, in a different country, will give you more self-confidence while traveling. You can't rely on other people. It's all about YOU. Booking hotels/hostels, jumping on a train, taking the next airplane, getting through different security checks, having lunch or diner on a 1 person table, going out for a drink on your own... You will get to know yourself better, and maybe you'll live through experiences, you might haven't had with a group of friends. You're gonna be out of your comfort zone, and later you'll be proud for managing that situation.
While traveling alone, you will have to talk more, in English or any other foreign language. You will use the locals basic words (hello, thanks, very good, bye) which you might wouldn't do next to your friend, because you'd feel embarrassed for using words you don't even know how to spell. You'll improve your language skills, and will get a different perception towards people.
The cons of solo traveling.
I would lie if I'd tell you now, that everything is better, when traveling alone! It isn't. As you can imagine, while being abroad for a a couple of weeks, you can easily feel lonesome. May it be at lunch time, diner, or when you go to bed.
You're outside of your comfort zone, your home. No friends, or parents to talk to. Sometimes there's no one to share your experiences or happiness with.
Of course it all depends on your journey, if you made new friends on the road, or if you're being alone for a while.
Knock on wood, I haven't been heavily sick abroad. Spending a couple of days in bed, and not being able to crawl out to buy food and water, can get very unpleasant. In emergency cases, where you'd spend days in a foreign hospital, would be the worst. No one to talk to, surrounded by a language you wouldn't understand, different standards of what you're used to in your home country. All this would be a little bit more pleasant with a traveling partner.
Remember the quote from the movie "Into the wild" ?
I gotta agree with that, without any doubt. You'll have the happiest moments, and overwhelming experiences, if you share it with friends, new ones or old ones, locals, or other travelers.
If you'd lose your wallet, or get it stolen, it would be less annoying if you had a friend or relative next to you. Imagine no ATMs in the area, no western union offices, ... nothing! And you've been left without any money or credit cards.
I could go on, and list different negative sides of solo traveling. I guess you can imagine those on your own.
I could recommend to any person, to try it once in their lifetime. If you're feeling very unconfident about it, start with a weekend, get abroad all by yourself, to see what it feels like.
However all I can tell, the further you get away, the nicer the experience will be. Being lost in an asian country, definitely feels different, than spending a weekend in London. As far as my experiences go, I'd recommend an asian country, because of its safety. Most of the asian cities I've visited, were very peaceful, and safe. There hasn't ever been a situation or a moment, where I did feel unsafe.
Last but not least, travel with a backpack! It's not because you'll look more adventurous with it, or for pretending to be an experienced backpacker, but it will make your journey a lot easier. Carrying your luggage in a city behind you, isn't fun, especially if the streets are packed with people and traffic. You will feel less mobile with a suitcase, and it will hit your nerves after a while. A backpack will make your journey easier, lighter, and faster. But in case you'd need to a buy a backpack, don't forget about the chest-strap and hip-strap! Those are VERY important, to avoid back- or neck pain.