I told you all why I love (and sometimes prefer) traveling alone. As we all know, or should know, for every opinion there is an equal and opposite opinion.
That is how that goes, right?
One of my life skills is playing devil’s advocate. (it’s right behind writing toasts to people, falling down without hurting myself and remembering absolutely everything about a person, except for their name.)
I never wanted to travel alone. I don’t generally like to be alone in new situations. I’m serious. I make my mother come with me when I join a new gym because I hate walking into an unfamiliar place alone. Call it co-dependency if you must; I prefer to think of myself as inclusive. The reason I started traveling alone? I got tired of waiting for my friends to be ready to go with me! After no less than 84 planned trips that were cancelled once they got to the booking stage and people had to actually commit financially; I was sick and tired of letting my life depend on other people. The week immediately following my breakup with a boyfriend who flat-out refused to travel with me, I booked my first sort-of solo trip. I flew to London to spend a week with Stephanie, James, Belle and James’ lovely family, then I flew to Berlin to do a two-week Contiki. Not the epitome of solo, but you’ve got to start somewhere. These are the worst bits of traveling alone and, mind you, they’re not bad enough to deter most people.
1) You WILL get lonely.
Spending anywhere from 10-40 hours in transit is boring when you have someone with you… when you don’t? It can be grueling. I need to talk to people. My vital organs start to shut down after about 2 hours without conversation, so that leaves me wandering around the airport, looking at groups of people with envy, searching for someone to talk to. I can usually find someone, but there will be times when you will go 15 hours without having another human so much as acknowledge your existence. I won’t lie to you: that part is tough and a bit discouraging.
2) Like it or not, there are some places that are unsafe.
I. Am. NAIVE. I encountered gypsies multiple times in Berlin. If I hadn’t had Liam there to remind me that I cannot, in fact, read English, I might have ended up without any form of ID, bank card or cash. Some guy tried to snatch my purse in Prague. In Newcastle, Ashley and I ended up in a relatively scary situation, lost in the less safe end of town. Even if you aren’t naive like me, some places are not safe, even for street smart women, like some areas in Egypt, India, Russia or Indonesia. Not even having another girl with you will make a huge difference in places where there are huge discrepancies in gender equality.
3) Sometimes, there are experiences that are so incredible you really want someone there to understand the magnitude.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis. Walking the path to the ovens or mass graves in a concentration camp. Riding a camel past the Pyramids. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat. They’re experiences that words fail to describe. It is an incredibly intimate moment to share something that Earth shaking with someone, even a stranger. In that moment, I always find myself thinking, “I wish XXXX was here to see this too.” It is very overwhelming to experience something like that alone.
4) Getting sick.
Getting sick when you are in a hostel dorm with 20+ strangers is a freaking NIGHTMARE. I ate a bad cheese steak in Philly and found myself driving the porcelain bus for about 6 hours. No one was going to bring me any medicine, so I had to drag myself 4 blocks to a Walgreens for Sprite, Pepto and Excedrin. I ended up sitting on a stoop with a guy named Victor, sharing my peanut butter crackers, on the verge of tears because I felt so bad.
5) You are responsible for EVERYTHING.
Did you remember to buy travel insurance? Arrange for tickets to that booked solid attraction? What if you roll over on your phone and don’t hear your alarm on the morning you have an early flight? There is NO ONE to pick up your slack and save you. You can’t even get mad at anyone for screwing something up, it’s all you! It can be a heavy load to carry when it comes to important things like visas, immunizations, or local laws.
That may seem like a daunting list, but it truly has not put me off traveling alone. You learn to prepare for anything you can and just have faith that you’ll figure it out if something unexpected crops up. Each thing on this list helps you develop a new skill, or precaution. You get really good at making new friends, judging situations for risk factors, journaling and photographing things you want to share, keeping the most necessary first aid items on hand and keeping track of everything that needs to be handled.
Do you have something that you hate about traveling by yourself? Or is there something that scares you so much it’s keeping you from getting out there?