What are the best and worst parts of Solo Travel?

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel by yourself, considered it even? But then you thought it might get lonely. Or you’d rather not travel so far out of your comfort zone – firstly to a foreign country and secondly on your own in that foreign country – so you would prefer a travel buddy or buddies. But then your friends don’t want to go to the same place that you do, or they can’t afford it so you push the idea of travelling out of your mind all together.

Well heres the truth laid out bare. You want to know what its like? I’m going to tell you by answering two questions that we solo travellers get asked on the road.

What’s the best thing about Solo Travel?

The freedom Not having to wait for anyone; to finish their meal, to go to the bathroom, to do their makeup, to wake up in the morning, to make a decision, to get going. Being able to just go when you want, where you want and not having to compromise. Not having to discuss travel plans or run anything by anyone. Complete and utter choice! The world is literally your oyster – figuratively of course. Having to worry about no one other than yourself. I have seen both sides of this spectrum. There’s the person who does all of the organising and then there’s the sheep. (Don’t get me wrong I love being a sheep when given the opportunity [Thank you Elena!] But more often than not I am the one who organises everything for everyone else, or at least I used to be.) You can be who ever you want to be because no one knows you. If you don’t want to do something you don’t have to. If you want to leave somewhere you can, no one is stopping you. Also probably the most horrifying part but also a very true statement…the people you meet on the road, if you don’t like them or enjoy being in their company you don’t have to endure it. You’re traveling solo and have no obligations to this person you just met so you are free to do as you please! Don’t feel guilty, you’re traveling solo! The flexibility to change your plans on your own schedule without having to worry if it contradicts with anyone else’s plans because there’s no one else to consider. If you meet people headed in a certain direction and an opportunity arises to tag along or meet up somewhere else then do it! There’s nothing stopping you! Just see where the wind the road takes you.

What’s the worst thing about Solo Travel?

Sitting across from an empty seat at the dinner table in a restaurant – I now understand why they invented the bar! An easy cure that I much prefer doing, but isn’t always possible, is grabbing a bite on the go so that you don’t have to stop and sit opposite that painfully vacant seat. Food markets, stalls or take-away cafes can be great for being able to pick something up and keep moving, or sit somewhere else with a view. Not having someone to share a moment with. Sometimes there are just times when it would be really nice to have someone by your side to appreciate the moment together. I remember sitting at the top of The Acropolis in Athens and wishing someone was there beside me – Jake you could have totally solved this moment but you screwed up! – no matter travelling solo makes running into friends along the way all the more exciting and special. I also noticed that sometimes thoughts of certain people just pop into my head. I’ll see something that reminds me of someone specific, or just something that I know someone would love!! The most frequent intruder into my mind in this instance is my sister, but it happens with everyone from my parents, to friends. Having someone beside you when the going gets tough! You might be having an off day. Just be exhausted and home sick. Or you might be really stuck, standing in a back street of some new foreign city, in the dark, when your phone dies and you barely have any idea of where you’re accommodation is. All the while carrying 20+kg of luggage strapped to your body and realising that to anyone tempted to rob you you are shining like a bloody beacon in the sea! Not fun!! It’s moments like that when having someone by your side so you aren’t totally alone would be a welcome comfort.

So if you’re going to go with company who do you go with?

When choosing a travel buddy it is important to keep in mind a number of things:

  1. The type of people you are.
  2. Your relationship with this person or people.
  3. Whether you will be able to handle living in their pockets for an extended period of time during the trip – whether you have done this before and how that went.
  4. If you are prepared for the roller coaster ride of emotions that you will have to endure side by side and if you can be there for them or give them space at the appropriate moments.
  5. Whether your personalities will clash.
  6. Who’s the sheep and who’s the shepherd, do you alternate and can you share?
  7. Not to mention what your interests are and where you want to go.

Siblings might stand a better chance than some friends. This is because siblings have probably travelled together in the past and have lived together for the majority of their lives. Therefore they already know each other inside and out so there are less likely to be any surprises. Siblings also know that if they fight it won’t be the end of their relationship and they will get over it because that’s just what siblings do. (My sister and I have had some phenomenal fights where our parents have sworn never to take us on holidays ever again because of how ungrateful we were by fighting. On the other hand some of our closest moments have also been travelling together, memories of our first overseas holiday to Thailand and our time in London come to mind). Siblings also know how to give each other space and are happy to do so without being offended. Moreover your sibling has tolerated you for their entire life and knows you, therefore they know what to expect if they travel with you. Apologies to all those only-children.

Your Best Friend hmm well this could be great but it can also be terrible. I have travelled with my best friend several times and I think it heavily depends on the destination. Firstly do you have similar interests? If yes, great! That’s a great start…if not, well you should proceed with caution. You might ask how it is possible to be best friends if you don’t share the same interests? Simple. I love history and architecture and wandering around exploring whilst my best friend hates history and architecture and would much rather go and do an activity of some kind. She would pick a tropical destination – Sure I love the idea of laying on the beach, with cocktails, reading then going swimming and relaxing – no, no, no, that’s okay with her for an hour or two and then she wants to go and do something. See the problem here? People are different and that’s okay, but just bare that in mind. Also in this scenario I think it is very important to have the sheep and the shepherd part figured out! Or be two free souls that are happy to go and do your own things at times, or go with the flow and do what sounds good to the both of you if you’re easy like that.

The girls (or the guys). How many of you are there? Is it going to be political and cliquey if there are too many of you? Will it fraction and be horrible and tense. Is it your best friends, those girls that are all like your sisters who you have known forever? Girls you know you won’t have any issues with because you’re so alike and all want the same thing out of the trip so nothing could go wrong? This has the potential to be absolutely amazing!

Your boyfriend or girlfriend could be said to be an obvious choice. If your dating then you should be able to handle an extended period of time with them and if you can’t well then its either early days and you haven’t yet had the opportunity or you need to reassess the longevity of your relationship. Going on a holiday with your partner is also a highly recommended relationship test before taking anything to the next level. Can you live with them? Do they have habits you somehow never knew about that you cannot stand! Do they call mummy if they can’t find where she packed their socks – ALARM BELLS HERE!! – Are they independent enough to handle being out in the world, or just away from the nest, on their own. They always say traveling with your partner with either make or break your relationship.

A parent? This is an interesting one that people might not think of. Both me and my sister have travelled alone with our mother (Sorry Dad but I am yet to have the opportunity, although I would love to and hope to!!) The one on one relationship with a parent can be quite different when separated from the family dynamic of other siblings, the other parent, and the general intrusions and occurrences of every day life. You’ll notice as well that your relationship with your parents changes as you grow up and become a young adult. Someone who now can relate to them and have conversations with them about things as an adult to an adult, rather than a child to a parent. I am especially looking forward to spending time with my parents when I eventually see them again. I have changed, and grown up and been on my own out in the world now for 8 months and I know they are proud of me. But it is more than that. I feel that with the life experience and stories I bring back, these are things they don’t already know about, things they didn’t watch me do under their minding eye. During the younger years of a persons life parents know nearly everything about their children, or at least mine did. This is because they raised them and nurtured them and were right there dropping them off at school, picking them up from school and activities and tucking them into bed at night. My dad said something to me once that seems suitable for this moment. He once said to me that these young adult years are some of the best of a persons, someones child’s, life. That it is the fortune of the parent that they get to see their child spend these years. See the person their child becomes and be able to spend these years, for some part, with them. He also said that he felt sorry for parents whose children take off for these years. That it was such a pity that after nurturing their children into these flourishing young adults, these same young adults then take off and are not around for their parents to witness who they choose to become and their transformation over these vital years. Particularly that parents are unable to share in any fragment of these precious years. I once worried about this, worrying that that made me selfish for doing exactly that. But I know that I am only away from my parents temporarily and I cannot begin to express how excited I am to spend these years, and many more to come, with my parents when I return! I am excited for the relationship the me I am today and the me I will be when I see them will have with my parents both at home and on future travels with them!

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