You’re so brave to travel alone”, -”It must be daunting to travel by yourself”, -”You must get so lonely solo traveling”, – “Just the thought of going somewhere by myself puts me off”, -”I could never travel by myself”, -”How do you do it?”, -”It must be so hard solo traveling!”
You’d think by now, after a decade of solo traveling long term all over the world, a solo travel website and a published long term solo travel book those questions would die down. But, no they are still asked.
So I thought I would write a post to let you all know why I love solo traveling and why I’ve been doing it all these years.
Note: This is not a why you should solo travel or solo traveling is the only way to travel type post.Of course if you get inspired to solo travel in the future post-Covid that’s great. But I am no way dictating or imploring that you have to do it. You travel however suits you (when you can)
2010 was the year everything changed, it was the year my life got flipped upside down and a new world opened up. For years I’d dreamt of traveling the world, but I had no idea how it was possible for somebody like me. I didn’t come from money and traveling the world was expensive. Well, so I thought at the time. I would say to anybody that would listen about travel, but I didn’t truly believe it, and nor did they.
At the time my life was heading nowhere, I was bored of it. I struggle deeply with normal life, being told what to do, and conforming to the norm but at the time I was stuck in a rut. However after years of procrastination, running to take the leap but stopping myself from following through with it something happened. A trigger was pulled, like a fire was lit from within. I broke free of my stagnant life and the shackles.
I did all the research and planning I could, I saved whatever I could and finally…
My solo traveling life
Ok, then, lets dive right in this solo traveling post we’re going to cover:
- How it all began in 2010
- Why it suits me and millions of others
- Why I can’t travel in groups
- The time I fell out of love with solo traveling
- What I get out of it
- What solo travel has done for me
The land down under was the birth of my solo traveling life
My friends were all becoming ‘adult’s’ and while I was cutting all my ties they were sowing themselves into responsibilities, commitments, careers, mortgages and family – There was nobody to go with, but I was not going to let that stop me – I had no other choice than solo traveling.
Australia was the destination of choice, I don’t know why but I’d always been drawn to it. With just £600 to my name I set off for the other side of the world. It would be fair to say, I had no idea how long I would last. I was full of fear, and so many concerns if I would even get in with my measly funds and if I did how long would I even last.
I did get in, and there I was sticking a middle finger up to all those who doubted me, including myself. Read about my very first day in Australia and how it didn’t go to plan.
Silly naïve newbie backpacker
Those first few days blew my mind. A dream had come true but it just didn’t feel real. I was exposed to a whole new reality and I loved it. I’d always been street smart, I knew to handle myself, was independent from a young age and knew how to survive. Those were transferable skills but solo traveling was something else. I was on the other side of the world without a safety net.
Within hours of arriving, the plans I’d spent months on creating went up in smoke. Instantly I started being educated in backpacking life. And although those first few months as a solo traveler were the best of my life it was an education. Well, I later learned it was my pre-school education into solo traveling life.
None of the research or planning had prepared me for day to day solo traveling life. And if it wasn’t for the experienced travelers I’d become friends with teaching me I have no idea how it would have turned out. But I’m thankful of going through it because of the lessons learned.
Ran out on money
The biggest education I received in those first few months were about my funds, finances and how I didn’t have to panic. That measly £600 didn’t last long at all. I was broke and ran out out money before I knew it. Of course I panicked, I felt humiliated, but I was taught how to replenish travel funds quickly. And learning that put me on a course of becoming a nomad because I learnt how to travel for as cheap as possible, replenish and carry on.
Little did I know at the time, that one lesson would turn me into a nomad drifting around the world for over a decade.
The foundations were being laid
Everyday was a learning curve. Not only about replenishing but about other aspects of solo traveling. For one solo traveling doesn’t mean being alone all the time. Sure there are occasions when it does get lonely and you are alone but in most cases there are always people around. Friends are there to be made and It’s up to the individual to make them or not. A saying that’s stuck with me is making friends is as easy or hard as you make it.
During those first few months I learnt about
- Hostel life
- Hostel dynamics
- Hostel etiquette
- How different backpackers and travelers behave
- Making different types of friends
- Really opening my mind and letting go
- Communicated with different types of people
- Dealing with loneliness and homesickness
- Learning things do not go to plan
- That plans change on a whim
- The different mind sets and behaviours of those who travel short term to those who travel long term
- Was developing my own style that suited me
Why do I prefer solo traveling
The foundations that were laid all those years ago in Australia have stayed in tact, my style has evolved, I’ve matured as a traveler, the rough, the bad decisions, mistakes I’ve made along the way have helped mould me into the solo traveler I am today.
So why do I prefer solo traveling? There are plenty of reasons but the main one is a simple one. The freedom solo traveling brings me.
I am free to do what I want, when I want, how I want and to my own schedule. I have to listen to nobody else, there is no other influences in my decisions poor or bad. If I mess up, I have only myself to blame. The freedom solo traveling brings me is the most liberating feeling I can feel. Like I said at the beginning of the post, I can’t conform to normality so for me solo traveling long term, drifting in the wind, floating from once place to another suits me to the tee.
As a solo traveler, I have no obligation to anybody else if I want:
- Socialise and make friends I put myself out there to do so
- Step away from the noise I can do
- Change course I can do
- Speed up or slow down I can do
- Change my rout
An example I can give is during a trip in 2019. The plan was to backpack through Europe before Brexit kicked in. I returned to Portugal as I’d been there the year before, finished off the south and headed into Spain. For some reason I wasn’t feeling Spain as much as I thought but carried on. It was when I reached Madrid I decided to head back into Portugal, to Porto and hide out for summer as prices where getting too expensive.
The plan was to rent a place just outside of Porto and carry on once summer was over. I found a pace, didn’t like it. While looking for a new place I randomly bought a ticket to Malaysia. A week later I was standing under the impressive Petronas towers in Kuala-Lumpur. No thought behind it I just did it. Now, if I was traveling in a group or with a partner that scenario probably would not have happened. That’s the freedom solo traveling brings me.
It’s not always plain sailing
Of course it’s not always perfect, things go wrong, there have been plenty of mistakes, mishaps and things bot going to plan, even the simplest things. But that is half the fun of it. The discovery, the problem solving, figuring things out. Life isn’t perfect and nor is solo traveling. I am fully aware bad things can get because I’ve been through a lot of them, yet I’m still here doing it.
There have been plenty of occasions over the years I’ve felt lonely, got homesick, questioned why I keep doing it but it always comes back to one thing – The freedom. A friend once said I have a restless soul, I’m happy on the move doing as I want rather than what others ask of and It’s so true.
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Other types of travel is not for me
Solo traveling isn’t for everybody, many try It out and feel it doesn’t suit them and that’s fine. Everybody should travel how they feel comfortable not how others tell them.
However for me, other types of travel do not suit me. I’ve tried them in the past, I’ve traveled within groups, I’ve traveled with a partner, I’ve traveled with friends but I’m just not comfortable with them.
There are times I can travel within a group and it can be fun for a short amount of time, but I cannot do a whole trip within a group because:
- There is too much compromising
- There has to be sacrifices
- Too many group politics
- People fall out too often
- I cannot just do as I want all the time
- Dynamics shift too much
- Too many personality and ego clashes
- If something is booked as a group activity I have to be involved even if I don’t feel like it at the time
- My freedom is stifled
- Too many fall outs
- Cannot remove myself from a situation I don’t wan to be a part of
- Not everybody is on the same page all the time
- Can become unhealthy
- Can stop enjoying it
- People have different interests, views and perspectives on the same thing
- Can become too dependant on others
Traveling with one other
As a solo traveler, I arrive in new countries alone, but although I do things to my own schedule, at my own pace I tend to make friends instantly. I don’t like traveling with groups but while I’m stationary I like to have friends.
There have been plenty of occasions over the years, I’ve made friends been on the same wavelength as others and started traveling with one other.
With traveling with just one other I still retain my freedom to step away whenever I want. There isn’t much of the issue as traveling in groups.
And although I enjoy the company, I do have somewhat of a complicated personally at times. I like to be around others, but I need my own space. I do not need to be in another’s pocket all the time.
When you travel with just one other person, naturally you tend to start doing everything together.
For me that starts to become an issue after a while. I don’t know what it is but I start to get irritated, annoyed and frustrated with the other person. It’s all well and good to step away for a while but those issues are still there when you travel together.
I take full responsibility for this, It’s on me not the person I’m traveling with at the time. There always comes a time when I reach this point I just have to say goodbye and head off on my own.
When the unthinkable happened
Six and a half years into my nomadic life something happened. It hit me like a ton of bricks, shook me to the core and it was the one occasion I couldn’t get back up. Yes, homesickness came with all It’s might and finally got to me.
Through the years I’d had light bouts of homesickness, but I always got over it, but not this time. It started in Colombia, where I saw myself getting annoyed at little things. I got to point where I just couldn’t stomach packing, unpacking, and packing again, I stopped being sociable and reclused myself. I did the worst thing possible and that was hide away and let it eat at me.
I didn’t just quit though, I tried to fight through it to begin with but by the time I reached Bolivia six months later it was getting stronger. I felt alone, the internal demons I thought I’d banished were dancing around and I felt lost. The final straw broken when I wasn’t impressed with the Uyuni salt flats. I know crazy I felt like that about something so mind blowing.
At the time I was so far detached from my old reality, I was not in tune with my new reality and I needed to go home. And I did.
Thankfully it turned out I was just burnt out; I needed a prolonged rest from traveling. Most people take a sabbatical from their lives to travel. I needed to do the same but in reverse. After 8 months away from traveling I was recharged and refreshed and was back out in the world. (Only Covid has put a pause on my travel life since then).
What solo traveling has done for me
Due to my home-life growing up I’ve been very independent from a young age, I’ve been a survivor and that has helped with long term solo traveling. It is also why I have somewhat of a complicated personality.
However, apart from the freedom solo traveling long term has provided it has also given me a platform, the time and space to go on multiple internal journeys.
Here’s how messed up I used to be. Although I’ve always preferred solo traveling, needing my own space I couldn’t be alone for too long because my internal demons would come out to play. When I started traveling in 2010, I couldn’t stand my own company.
However over the years, the more internal journeys I’ve been on which have been afforded by the space, time, environments long term traveling provides after countless internal wars I got to know myself. We still have out spats but we get along and most of the time are in-sync (I understand this makes me sound a little crazy)
- Solo travel has led me on a journey from the day I started in 2010 to where I am now.
- I’ve grown up through solo travel
- I’ve matured
- gone from a hot head to calm
- learnt so many things along the way
- learnt to relax
- to let go, not to overthink
- To lose inhibitions
- To gain internal confidence
- New skill sets
- Learnt to take things in my stride and not to force it
- I even found my zen and utter internal peace along the wa
It’s become my life – cant do it any other way
Never did I once think back in 2010 I would turn into a long term solo traveler drifting around the world but it did happen. I don’t take multiple short trips like others do, mine are long can last for years. It’s just my normal life now, It’s what I love doing.
Who knows what will happen in the future, maybe I will fall out of love with solo traveling again and prefer to travel with others but for now, long term solo traveling it what I do best.
There you have it, that’s why I do it, as mentioned at the top of the post, this wasn’t a why you should solo travel post but if along the way you resonated with my reasons or if it inspired you to solo travel in the future good luck with it. If you want any help, advice or tips don’t hesitate to get in touch or scroll down a little further and take a look at my long term solo travel book.
You, Yourself & the World covers and answers 100+ of your fears, concerns and questions to traveling alone long term.
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