Solo travel: What a lot of people don’t tell you (and I will)
A German girl is telling me the story of how she made it as a fulltime backpacker. Slightly distracted I take sip of my tea. I’m in the bar in one of the best hostels in Sucre in Bolivia, surrounded by other travellers from at least 10 different countries. Usually I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories, but today I don’t feel like asking questions at all. I return to my room feeling sad and lonely. My dream is shattered. Isn’t solo travel supposed to be great?
Solo travel gives you the an indescribable feeling of freedom. It is an enriching experience for your development that forces you to step out of your comfort zone. Any solo traveller will have dozens of stories to tell you and an Instagram feed filled with impeccable shots of hidden gems wrapping their arms around random people.
But solo travel is not all about meeting great people and visiting awesome places. Sometimes there are sad and confronting moments. And there is nothing wrong with this at all. It is part of your travel experience. In this post the negative side of solo travel and teach you how to deal with this.
You never really travel alone because there is no way you will not meet other travellers along the way. I was especially lucky because travel destination South America is blessed with the most friendly people on this planet. It is safe to say I had nothing to complain about regarding social companionship during my travels. But even with all these people around you, it may just be that you start to feel lonely. It is an inexplicable feeling that you never see it coming. It comes in waves and tends to sneak upon and surprise you.
You don’t feel lonely because you don’t like the people around you. It is because you have no history with these people. Even if you connect easily with someone, you miss a connection with the ‘new’ people around you. This lack of connections may lead to loneliness.
To get a deep connection with people during your trip, it might be an idea to travel with people you meet along the way. It is also an option to stay in one place longer or occasionally do a group excursion. And lets not forget there’s Skype, Zoom, Facebook and so many more video call platforms. Don’t be ashamed to ring your mom if you are craving a familiar voice.
(LACK OF) SAFETY
Depending on the travel destination you may feel less safe than in your home country. In South America, for example, it is strongly discouraged to go out on the street alone in the evening. And I don’t like to admit it, but solo travel is more challenging for women in some destinations.
The best way to deal with this is to accept that you get a lot of freedom by travelling, but in return you also give up a little freedom. Take care of your belongings and use your common sense. Don’t go out alone on the street in the evenings and leave your valuables in your accommodation. Travelling this way there is little chance that something will happen to you.
People often think that making the first step to your solo trip is the hardest one. I do not entirely agree with this. In my experience, coming back is perhaps even more difficult than leaving or being on the road. When you return from your solo adventure you feel like a new person. You have experienced the most special moments, met people from all over the world and got to know new cultures.
Maybe you’ve been solo travelling for a month, or even a year. A time in which you have developed yourself. In that same time it feels like life back home stood still. Maybe your friends have a new relationship or job, but in general terms you will find your social circle as you left it behind. When you come back from your first trip you are like a Hollywood star and everyone is dying to hear all your stories. But after the first weeks you are no longer shining. This may make you feel like a stranger in your own circle of friends.
Deal with this. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Try to talk about it with the people you are close to back home. Often it also helps to meet like-minded people to talk about your experiences and how you feel back home.
Finally, there is a good chance that you will return with an urgent desire to travel again. Its a kind of travel hunger that can only be satisfied with a (not very sustainable) flight ticket. I would have liked to be warned in advance, wouldn’t you?
I never regretted my solo adventures. Not even for a minute. Before my big dream trip to South America I lived in Madrid for half a year and I already got very excited about travelling alone. I also believe I’ve always felt the need to explore the world solo. I just wasn’t fully aware of it up until a few years ago.
I love to travel alone and I wouldn’t want things to be any other way. However, solo travel does come with drawbacks and negative consequences, Yet still, I would like to encourage you to embark on your maybe even first solo travel to experience what its like.
SOLO TRAVEL IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
Are you afraid that travelling alone is not for you? If so, give solo travelling a try before you make any big decisions by having lunch alone somewhere. Or go out for a day in your home country by yourself. Who knows, you may be surprised with how much fun you have discovering new things alone.
You might realise you do not enjoy spending that much time alone. That is possible, because travelling alone is not for everyone. This does not mean that you don’t like yourself. It means that you just like to have your dear friends and family around you.
Most of travel should be a positive experience that makes you happier. Therefore, do not feel obliged to travel solo because ‘it’s what everyone does’, if you actually prefer to share experiences with someone close to you. Its important to do what is good for you.