When I said to one of my friends that I was going to Guatemala, he asked me who I was going with, I told him it was just me and he was shocked. To some people, going to a different country sounds like a bad idea and will land you in serious danger.
I have done backpacking in both the Balkans and Latin America solo and for both month-long trips I had a blast and made it back home all in one piece. It always seems to be the people who have never been on a solo trip tell me all these baseless excuses about why it will be a bad idea. It also kills me when people tell me how much they want to travel somewhere, but don’t have anyone to go with, let me tell you that choosing to go it alone could be the best decision you’ll ever make.
1. Planning is Much More Simple
Booking a flight can be such a hassle sometimes, it must be even more of a hassle if you’re travelling with three of your friends. When it comes to where you want to go and where you want to stay, it makes everything easier as it is literally you who decides. For some people, planning a trip with a group of people can be too difficult and will take countless meetings to orchestrate a simple trip. When you travel solo, you don’t have to deal with this ordeal.
2. Meeting new People is Much Easier
A big fear which puts people off considering solo travel is that they will be completely on their own the whole time. However, as long as you do it the right way, meeting new people on the road can be a breeze. If you stay in a hostel it’s really easy to get to know other travellers and people from all over the world. Other travellers will be more likely to strike up a conversation with you if you’re on your own and I’ve made countless friends while travelling just from simply asking where they’re from.
Some notable experiences I’ve had with meeting people while travelling solo include being invited for beers with a Hong Konger inside of confined high rise apartment and I put DJ Badboy on the TV.
I have also met a hardcore traveller than me from Poland who has hitchhiked from his home in Warsaw all the way to Porto in Portugal and while visiting Lake Bled I made friends with a Macedonian who inspired me to visit his country.
3. It Pushes you out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s definitely true that a family holiday on the Costa del Sol will most likely be stress-free and a pleasantly relaxing. However, you won’t learn anything from just doing that and not trying anything new.
Walking through Manila’s infamous San Andres neighbourhood and making my way through a massive railway station in Beijing with nothing in English were both incredibly daunting experiences, however this has helped build my confidence in daily life. Spending extended time in airports and spending hours on busses can be incredibly stressful, but I also see these moments as character building.
4. It Makes the Experience Memorable
While both group travel and solo travel are doubtlessly memorable experiences, travelling alone can create some unforgettable memories and can create some great stories to tell your grandparents. When I went to Tulum with my friends, my memory of the silly banter we had together is much stronger than actually visiting Chichen Itzá.
5. You can Take it Your own Pace
What I really enjoy about solo travel is that you can just take it at your own pace and do things when you want to. I have taken group tours before and I have to say that they are really not my cup of tea. There’s no fun in having an itinerary decided for you like it’s a school trip. Having just a day or two to see a place and being constantly on the move can get exhausting.
Moreover, I absolutely hated the early mornings, when I did a group tour in the Outback my guide berated me in a very Australian way because I stayed an extra 10 minutes in bed when we were told we had to be out of the camp at 5AM. I think it’s better I’m booking my bus and train tickets and can decide what time I wake up.
6. The Sense of Freedom
When you’re in a different country alone, there’s a great feeling that you can do what you want, when you’re travelling with friends or family you always have to compromise. However, when travelling you are the one who decides what you want to do, see what you want to see and eat what you want to eat. It can be a hassle waiting on your friends to get ready for a trip to the beach and sorting out the bill when you’re eating out with 5 of your friends
7. It Feels Like More of an Adventure
It would take more than a bit of convincing to get some of my friends to go to some of the places I’ve been, not everyone fancies going to Albania or El Salvador as these places are not renowned tourist destinations. However, the fact that less tourists come to these places make them more interesting in my book, it’s definitely more adventurous seeing what El Salvador has to offer than getting hammered on the beach in Cancún with hordes of other tourists.
8. It can be More Relaxing
When you’re travelling on the bus or on the train solo, you can listen to music or watch movies on your phone as much as you want without feeling antisocial. If you feel like bringing a book which I personally don’t do as it takes too much space, you can read to your heart’s content, something which you can’t always do if you’re travelling in a group.
Feature Image credit: Hamish Wilson