While solo travel may not be for everyone, I do think it’s something everyone should experience (male or female) at least once in their lifetime. You’re probably asking yourself why on earth would a woman “want” to travel halfway around the world alone when dining out and requesting a table for one is already awkward? That was the reaction I received from a few friends when they learned of my first solo trip to Cancun. But if you take my personality into account, it would be no surprise that solo travel would appeal to me. I’m introverted, reserved, socially awkward, and get my energy from solitude. Yeah, I’m the “why you so quiet” girl. But I’m a beast on Facebook (did I mention I was socially awkward in real life?). Anyway, I’ve always been a loner, so doing things alone always seemed to come easy to me. I was also an only child for ten years and grew up as a “latch key kid”. Because of these experiences and personality traits, I guess one could say that I’ve mastered the art of enjoying my own company. While my experiences with solo travel have been nothing short of amazing, there are pros and cons just like anything else.
What I LOVE
- Flexibility: What I love most about traveling solo, and I think most others would agree is the freedom to move around and not stick to a rigid itinerary. Girlfriend/group trips are great, but the freedom of doing things on your own time can be rather enticing. If I want to sleep until noon, I sleep in. If I want to go chill at the beach, I chill at the beach. If I’m sleepy and want to turn in early, I go back to my room and go to sleep. If I want to skip an excursion, I can do just that. There is no obligation to participate in anything I do feel up to. I can do things at my own will without being looked at as antisocial or the group “Debbie Downer”.
- Empowerment: Traveling solo to an unfamiliar territory boosts your confidence like no other. Some people talk about what they’re going to do, the places they plan to visit someday, but seldom ever do. You’re the exception. You had a desire, created a plan, and did it all by yourself. You didn’t wait for anyone. You turned someday into TODAY. You had fears and you we’re unsure of yourself, but you did it anyway. That’s EMPOWERMENT. And this is the kind of empowerment that builds dreams and turns them into reality. There is no greater empowerment than creating the life you want.
- Respect: Believe it or not, there’s a lot of respect that comes with traveling solo. The most common line you will receive is, “wow, you’re brave”. People have this perception that you’re fearless, courageous, and a go getter because….well because you are. As I mentioned above, you’re doing what most people “talk” about doing. Embrace it, own it, and be unapologetic for it.
- Liberation: There really isn’t much I can say about this because it’s something you truly have to experience for yourself. The freedom and liberation that comes with traveling solo feels like an intense dopamine release. It’s almost orgasmic…there’s really nothing like it. Well there are a few substitutes, but I think most of them are illegal LOL. When I traveled solo for the first time last year, I felt like a bird that had just been released from its cage. There is something liberating about being a place where no one knows you and the few days lying ahead of you to do as you please. It’s just YOU living by YOUR own rules.
- Self-reliance: It should be no surprise that solo travel increases your self-reliance. Being in unfamiliar territory forces you to rely on your senses and become aware of your surroundings.
What I HATE
- Fear Mongering: While our concerned family and friends mean well (I know they really do), the constant affirmations of what can go wrong can be overwhelming. It takes a lot of courage to travel solo. Once you make the decision to do so, you don’t want anyone raining on your parade. We can’t fault them for overreacting sometimes, especially if they are limited in their own travel experiences. And let’s face it, our media seldom shares the positive realities of our world. It never shares what goes right. We’re constantly inundated with negative news stories and the horrors of the world instead of its alluring beauty. And while I’m sure our loved ones’ concerns come from a sincere place of love, they often fail to realize is that we really have a greater chance of being robbed, raped, or murdered right in our own backyard. The best analogy I can think of is our soldiers who go overseas to fight, only to return home and be murdered right here on U.S. soil. To be frank, more things go wrong in my life when I’m home than when I’m away. That’s part of the reason why I enjoy getting away LOL!
- Assumptions: When you do the epic things that others don’t have the courage to do, people will assume the worst about your life. They assume you’re lonely, have no friends, and/or no significant other or someone special in your life. When the reality is, you just like to travel. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t mean you’re bound to die alone with 20 cats during your golden years. And even if you did, at least you saw the world and did what you wanted to do and instead of “wishing” you had. So let them assume while you keep collecting stamps. Checkmate bish!
- Lack of dope pics: This one probably irks me the most. I haven’t mastered the art of the selfie stick. And even if I did, a selfie stick doesn’t hold a candle to the full length action pics you see posted on sites like Travel Noire and Soul Society. I want an action pic of me doing a yoga pose in front of the Taj Mahal too . You can’t exactly achieve that level of dopeness with the selfie stick you bought at Walmart. Sure, you can ask a stranger or tour operator to take your picture and the will usually offer before you have a chance to ask. But I need like 30 takes to get a good picture and they just don’t have that kind of time. So until I move up in the world and staff my own professional photographer, selfies it is!!
- No Shared experiences: As I mentioned before, freedom, flexibility, and liberation are just a few of the benefits solo travel has to offer. However, I do occasionally find myself missing those shared intimate moments with someone. Whether it be a good laugh, a random intimate kiss, or just conversation with someone who really knows you, shared experiences have their place and are necessary in this thing we call life too. Even when I’m going through my tough “I don’t need anyone” moments, I realize that we do need these experiences sometimes.
- Addiction: Yes, solo travel can be addictive. While it may push you further outside of your comfort zone, it can also push you further into rejecting opportunities to travel with other people. People approach me all the time about traveling with them and at times, I want to decline. And like I mentioned before, although solo travel affords many benefits, I believe we still need those shared and bonding experiences as human beings.
So there you have it. This sums up my personal list of pros and cons to solo travel. Alone is a state of being. Lonely is a feeling (emotion). People often use these constructs interchangeably. They are not the same. I’ve been lonely by myself and in room filled with loved ones. You come into this world alone and you will die alone. Sure, you may be surrounded by people for both events, but the pre-journey to get here and post-journey after departure is all on your own. So get over yourself, get out of your way, and get over your fears. Go so some world, WITH or WITHOUT someone.