One of the main reasons people don’t travel alone is, well, because they’re afraid of being alone. Do I never get lonely by myself? The truth is: I am hardly ever alone when I travel solo. The difficult thing is actually finding ways to get some me-time. When you are somewhere by yourself, you are more approachable to, say, other travelers. You would rather approach someone who’s alone too, wouldn’t you?
Of course, I am sometimes worried about feeling lonely too. I travel alone to get some me-time, but I’m also not keen on being alone with my own thoughts quite often. There are some simple tricks I use to solve this dilemma: I coursurf or airbnb and I join meet-ups. Sometimes I’d rather discover a city with someone by my side, but prefer to be alone in my room afterwards. Sometimes it’s the other way around.
Even at home, the thought of being somewhere, friendless, is more terrifying to extraverts than it is to introverts. I believe that three is a crowd. The more people join the conversation, the more I disappear into the background. That is why it is no problem for me to be alone for hours at a time when I travel.
The hard thing is, as it is for all introverts, to go against our natural urge to shy away from strangers. I had to learn this and have grown as a person because of it. Extraverts, on the other hand, can use the alone-time traveling to get more in touch with their surroundings and connect with their own thoughts. See, there’s an upside for both groups!
Traveling alone has made me bloom, grow and socialize. When I first went away by myself almost two years ago, I started small: walking around cities where I was staying during language courses, then taking the train to other cities nearby, and finally, my first solo-trip by plane.
On the one hand, I thought I’d meet people everywhere and make friends for life and locals would be showing me around. Those are some of the stories my more experienced friends told me and it’s what you see in movies like Eat, Pray, Love.
It didn’t happen quite like that. My first trip was to Sevilla in Spain. I stayed at an AirBnb, also for the first time, but as my host was a tour guide she didn’t have time to show me around anything else but her apartment. So I turned to the Couchsurfing website, where I found another Belgian girl, who invited me to join her and two friends to a festival and another student in the city who didn’t mind showing me around (as I would do for you if you ever came to visit my city!). I had to make the effort myself, but I did get to meet people!
Later on, when I traveled alone, I always met at least one other person that I’m still in contact with thanks to the fabulous thing called Facebook. I didn’t always spend a lot of time with new people. When I traveled around in Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Andorra, I wandered about and had lunch mostly by myself and also my evenings and dinners were spend in solitude. What did I do with my time? I walked. I observed. I read.
The thing is: there are so many benefits to being on your own. For one, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Of course, sometimes people look at you weird. I’m quite certain that when I went to Jamie’s Italian in Greenwich, they thought I was a reporter because I was writing the day’s impressions in my notebook.
The main thing you learn is: if you’re alone against your will, it’s because you’re afraid. And you know what you should do with your fears. You gotta conquer them in the best way you can. Being extravert while I’m a true introvert is tiresome. I usually return more mentally tired from a solo-trip than when I left, but I feel enriched as well.
The reason why I even considered traveling alone – and believe me, I have considered it for a loooong time and maaaany years – was because I was just so tired of having to count on other people to do the things I wanted to do. My friends don’t wanna travel with me? They don’t want adventure, new friends, new experiences? Fine. Fine! I’ll go by myself. Greatest decision of life! I still can’t do my own laundry, but I became experienced and independent in so many other ways.
The more you practice traveling alone, the easier it will become. A lot of people, even introverts and women, travel solo these days. People like us, you and me. Do it while you’re young and unattached. Do it now that you’re afraid, because you will become stronger because of it.
If you gotta start somewhere, start small like I did. Talk to a foreigner at a place you know well. Show them around your town. Then go on a day trip, be open to conversations with strangers. Meet up with someone through sites like Couchsurfing. Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to meet someone like you! Then go have lunch and dinner at a table for one.
It will not be easy in the beginning, but it will become easier with time. I promise. After a while, people will come to you.
There is no thing more wonderful, than the moment you realize you can do this. You are independent and you have earned a new experience. No one can take this away from you. Besides, you’ll be able to scratch something of you’re bucketlist, whether you call it “traveling alone” or “do something brave”.
Just remember: even though you set off to a destination alone, you are never alone on the road.
“Traveling solo doesn’t mean you will be alone.” – Travel blogger Nomadic Matt