It fills the blog posts and magazines dedicate entire issues to it. It’s the hottest travel trend of the moment. Traveling solo. Every good traveler has done it, and shared the best posts they could find about the “top 10 reasons to travel solo.”
After briefly attempting it (though admittedly not to the best of my abilities), I don’t think it’s necessary. Is it popular because people are truly “finding themselves” alone on the road? I doubt it. Perhaps it’s because people are having a harder time finding someone to travel with, as we delay serious relationships and use social media to fill in fake relationships. Perhaps it’s simply the only way they can travel.
If you have to travel solo, by all means do it. Don’t let waiting on a friend or significant other stop you from traveling. But don’t believe it’s the holy grail of travel, either. I would much prefer to share my travel experience with the right person than to go it alone. (And I would much prefer to go it alone than travel with a miserable person.)
Here are my thoughts on the most popular reasons that you “must” travel alone:
“You find yourself.”
I didn’t “find myself” traveling alone. I find out more about myself when I have to share my daily experiences with someone who sees first-hand how I react to things and holds me accountable to my reactions.
“Traveling alone makes you more responsible.”
Unless you’ve been traveling with your parents, I sincerely hope your travel partner isn’t washing your clothes for you.
“You’ll get more relaxing ‘me time.’”
I had time alone, sure. But it’s hard to truly relax in a café when you’re the only one who can watch your things. Every trip to the bathroom requires packing up your bag and risking losing your table. I relax more when I’m with someone I trust and I can feel safer.
“You make more friends.”
Some people are way more social than me, so I’m not a great standard for this. But I’m not sure why it’s on every list of reasons to travel solo: if the point is being alone, why is everyone trying to make friends? Rather than a friend, the only person I really met during my solo travel was a guy who tried to follow me back to my hotel.
“Your experiences are more meaningful.”
Supposedly if you’re not sharing it with someone, you can reflect more on your experiences. I find talking about what I’ve seen that day to really help cement it in my mind. My evening wrap-ups and laughs with my travel partner(s) have always made the day mean even more.
“Traveling alone boosts your confidence.”
I already knew I was capable of travel. I have taken an active role in every trip I’ve taken. I’ve even led trips for others. I plan my trips, watch the map, check bus schedules and handle currency. In fact, I’d highly recommend against taking your very first trip solo. Having a partner my first few trips helped me build the confidence to go it alone.
“When you travel alone, you can do what you want.”
This is a valid reason. You can do exactly what interests you, nothing more and nothing less. However, rather than enriching your trip, I’d say it’s quite shallow. I’ve never had much interest in architecture but my husband loves it. He’s taught me about various styles and time periods. He’s taught me to look up when I’ve been focused on the street beneath me. I’ve seen more beautiful churches, homes and buildings than I would without him.
“You’ll know you can do it.”
If you want to travel alone, this should be your main reason. It’s the one thing you’ll never know otherwise. I had to try it, if only for a few days, to see if I could do it. I answered the question. I realized I can do it, though I prefer not to. If you have to answer the question for yourself, then do it.
If you’ve been feeling the pressure of all those “real travelers travel alone” types of posts, maybe you should answer the question for yourself, if only so you can disagree. Enjoy your travel partner. Or enjoy your solo trip. Enjoy your travel however you can. After all, it’s “better to be alone than in bad company.” And I believe it’s better to travel however you can than to wait for the perfect situation.