Common perceptions of solo travel include the following:
- "Ew, you're going alone, why would you want to do that?"
- "Wow, that is brave of you, what if you die a brutal death?"
- "I read that you have a 90% chance of getting murdered over there or dying of malaria."
- "Won't you get lonely and end up dead?"
Mostly people seem to be worried about solo travel leading to death. Alas, I don't feel like these two factors correlate unless you are a drunken fool, wandering the streets alone apres sundown.
Everyone considering solo travel will likely have the same fears as I did, namely loneliness and fear of failure.*
*Disclaimer: if you hate solo travel for whatever reason, there is still such thing as a flight change and for just a few hundred dollars you may return to the homeland, although I would never recommend this (giving up is far too costly.)
For whatever reason travelling alone becomes a reality (ie. when Lauren books a flight and leaves Canada a week later and none of her friends could join on such short notice): grasp this opportunity and run with it. I can say with confidence that nothing is quite as exhilarating and terrifying as setting foot alone and making a go of an adventure in a foreign place.
Why do I think solo travel is such a valuable experience?
1. You become self-reliant and an avid problem solver.
Shit hits the fan on journeys abroad just as it does in our North American lives, but with limited resources, sporadic communication with the western world and only one native tongue under many of our belts, when tragedy strikes, our brains function with new-found efficiency. I'm talking stuck-on-a-deserted-island type shit where your brain flies into overdrive and gives you Bill-Nye solutions to any issues you come across.
2. You learn to shake things off and to laugh.
Failures travelling are the best kind of failure to experience. There is always a solution and there will always be someone willing and able to help. God knows, sometimes it feels like hell may be crashing in and you may be speaking your very final words before meeting your untimely demise, but positivity is the easiest mantra to follow and the most prevalent mind-set to come by on the road. You sure don't run into many negative Nancy's who are travelling, that's for sure.
3. You form memories in a different way.
Music becomes company to you and literature becomes a close friend. Songs I listen to now have a beautiful memory painted into their sounds; books I read en-route hold a special place in my heart. When we experience situations alone, we internalize these memories, and instead of discussing with another human being we already know, we form memories based on what is important to us, and not on what we share with others out loud.
4. You find that being scared becomes somewhat comfortable.
The "heart pounding, glancing over your shoulder constantly, about to vomit and piss yourself" fear eventually dissipates. What is left behind is a bold stride, a confidence in your knowledge and a yearning to explore deeper into foreign territory.
5. You learn to be smart and savvy.
You learn that your passport is your bloodline and without it, you will likely die. Other than that realization, you learn to barter for what you want at the price you want it. You can scope out where to eat and sleep, and judge these establishments based on the smallest percent chance of getting bed bugs, cholera or your belongings thieved by a surreptitious monkey clan.
6. You learn to trust (both people and places) and become an excellent judge of character.
You trust others based upon your intuition, and the opportunities that come from this trust are some of the most breath taking. I spent entire nights awake, chatting in the dark with foreign roommates about this and that, understanding what they thought of as their reality. I laughed my ass off, stayed up all late, ate new food, learned new skills and found friends I may never meet again, but spent unforgettable days with.
7. You learn to feel lucky.
I think I started to feel lucky when I realized how many beautiful souls I could form meaningful connections with across oceans, across countries.. it is truly astounding and I feel so thankful to have experienced the world with strangers who are now friends to me.
Along my journey through SE Asia, I was gifted the opportunity to connect with so many different people from so many different nooks and crannies of this earth. We reminisced about similarities and I learned about cultures I hadn't even known existed prior.
Longer-term travel is such a beautiful journey, because no longer are you confined to the hours restricting your day. Time zone differences render you exhausted, along with the constant change of scenery, people and places, yet fatigue in travel doesn't affect you the same as it does in the mundanity of the western work week. You are able to book flights and hop from place to place, walking with a new-found confidence in your step and with each passing day you prove to yourself again and again that yes, you can survive abroad on your own.
I think that for some, solo travel could be thought of as the bane of travel opportunity, but I strongly believe that travel of this nature is such an important building block in becoming a human that is confident and resourceful back in the Western reality. I now feel confident in myself and in my abilities to function independently in a new place. I anticipate my next bout of travels abroad will be with be accomplished with my gf beside me, but will always be so thankful for the opportunities abroad I was given.
I sincerely urge every soul considering a solo journey to book a flight and explore... chances are, you won't die.