Those same old long term solo traveling questions!
“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 having long term solo traveling since 2010 those questions would die down. But, no, those are still questions that get posed to me. But It’s not just me, most long term solo backpackers I know get asked the same solo traveling questions.
So, I thought I would write a post, and cover the reasons why I like to solo travel and when I started, and why long term solo traveling suits me best over group or other types of backpacking.
This is a why I solo travel, not another why you should solo travel post!
Before we go any further though, and I know there are an infinite amount of ‘Why you have to solo travel at least once‘, ‘Solo traveling is the only way to travel‘, or ‘Ultimate guide to solo traveling‘ out there, this is not one of them. I’m not here to persuade you to start backpacking solo. At the end of the day solo backpacking isn’t for everybody, you travel however suits you best. This post is about why I and so many other do like to solo travel.
I’ve met enough people over the years who after reading posts on why they should try solo traveling, have done so, but within days have been put off it for one reason or another. So, like I mentioned, It’s not for everybody. However if you’ve got the itch to try it out, then this solo traveling post might just help you take the plunge. That first step is the hardest.
Why I started long term solo traveling in the first place
For most people taking that first step is the hardest. solo traveling is a daunting thought to begin with, I mean It’s in the title ‘solo’- on our own! Automatically we think ‘Fuck, I’ll be traveling by myself!’ And that’s before the external voices of your friends and family get involved.
Our brain plays tricks on us, first we have those thoughts and pictures of us laying on a beach, or eating exotic food, or soaking in some magical scenery and the prospect of backpacking solo excites us. But then those thoughts flip and then we think “Oh shit, I’ll be traveling by myself, I’ll get lonely, I’ll have nobody to share my experience with, what if I get lost solo backpacking, what if something goes wrong!’ – Those thoughts can override the positive ones and people decide against solo traveling.
I’d dreamed of traveling and seeing the world my whole life but growing up dirt broke, I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly do it. I knew of people backpacking but had no idea how to do it. I spent most my life before traveling just keeping it in my head as a far fetched fantasy.
Along with thinking I couldn’t afford to travel, those thoughts flip flopped in my head and stopped me from taking that first step into solo backpacking for years.
Fuck it, I’m doing it, I’m going solo backpacking!
But due to circumstances and situations in my life. I just got to a point in my life where I said “Fuck it, I don’t care how broke I am, somehow I’m doing it” – I don’t know what it was, but after a lot of back and forth it was like the penny just dropped, or I had come to terms with it in my head the decision was concrete. It was more like a fire was lit under me and I had no other thought than to start backpacking.
The decision became easy and I was going to do it, those thoughts still flip flopped in my head but I just didn’t care for them. Honestly though I had zero faith in making it last; nor did anybody I know. I was convinced I’d be back home within months. Not because I’d get homesick, I didn’t care about home, I wanted out of England, but most likely I’d fuck up or be broke.
I chose to travel by myself because simply there was nobody else in a position to come with me. It was a time where my friends were getting tied into responsibilities and commitments, while I had severed ties with all of mine and to go solo backpacking.
Solo traveling pre school
I had no idea, that very first solo backpacking trip would lead to me becoming a long term solo traveler. Like I said I was convinced I’d be back home within a few months and to be fair, within 2 months I did fuck up and I was broke. But I didn’t return home. It scared the shit out of me being on the other side of the world and broke.
I was used to surviving on nothing but I had the safety net of being in my home country. This time I was on the other side of the world in Australia and had no idea how to survive but I wasn’t just gonna go home with my tail between my legs.
Thankfully I had some good more experienced backpackers around me and it was like I was in solo backpacking Per-school, getting educated in backpacking solo life, learning how to be a backpacker. I learnt how money comes, goes and returns for backpackers.
A solo traveling learning curve
Because I was on a working holiday visa, I could replenish my funds. I was learning all this stuff that I had no idea about. None of my research or planning had warned me about day to day life, or how plans can go up in smoke. All that research showed was the pretty pictures and cool stuff I could see and do, it left out the nitty gritty.
It’s hard to imagine looking back at those first few months, struggling financially, learning the ropes of backpacker life, that I’d turn into the long term solo traveler I have. Those first few months, somehow turned into a year. That year turned into 2, then 3 – It was 6 and a half years before I returned back to England. But even that was for a couple of weeks before I was gone again. Yeah, now that I’m older, I head back to England more often, stay for longer periods before I take off again but solo backpacking is just my way of life, It’s just what I do.
Solo travel is not lonely travel!
Funny that right? Before that initial first step any solo traveler takes, one of the biggest thing stopping us is thinking we’ll be alone all the time. When in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying solo backpackers don’t get lonely, of course we do; but everybody does at points in their backpacking life. I’m saying solo traveling doesn’t always mean traveling by yourself.
Years ago that might have been the case, only certain people would attempt to go and lose themselves in the world but in the world we live in, and with all forms of traveling not just solo traveling so popular It’s just not the case anymore.
So here’s the thing, most of us conjure up images of backpacking solo in our heads. We picture going from one place to another by ourselves, discovering new places alone, even eating and drinking alone. But what we fail to think of is that thousands of other people are solo traveling to the same destinations and we’re all around each other.
Give me a minute to myself!
While we do leave our homes, seperate from our friends and family, from the moment we walk through airport security we have the opportunity to meet fellow travelers.
In hostels, couchsurfing, volunteering, in shared rooms, on buses, trains, trips, tours, excursions, trips, that ‘secret hidden gem’ the lonely planter told us about there will be people solo backpacking all around us. You might make solo travel friends instantly, and choose to travel together, you’re not alone.
Sometimes all you wish for while solo traveling is a minute to yourself. I’m not saying this is always the case, but a lot of the times it’s hard to actually be alone, especially staying in hostels.
However, feeling lonely as a solo backpacker, well that’s different. I have a full post on feeling lonely backpacking solo.
Why I like to solo travel
I might sound like I’m contradicting myself from what I just wrote. But while there are other solo backpackers and travelers in and around me most of the time, at the end of the day I leave home alone, I am traveling by myself. I might make friends, I might do certain things with others but It’s my choice to do so or not. As a solo backpacker, I am under no obligation to do anything I don’t want to.
And, that’s why backpacking solo suits me – the freedom it gives me.
Solo traveling lets me do as I wish, when I want, what I want, at my own pace, dance to my own tune and to my own terms. If I choose to join up and travel with others I can do, if I want to go for a coffee alone I can do. If I choose to stay in a place longer because I’ve met an awesome group of people I can do or if I want to go see something by myself and have that moment I can do; It’s my choice because I’m traveling by myself.
Traveling in groups just doesn’t work for me.
Doing certain things within a group isn’t always an issue. I enjoy them sometimes, especially if we have the right dynamics but actually traveling with a group I can’t do.
I’ve done it before and it just doesn’t work. When you’re a long term solo traveler, you make all the decisions, you chose when and when not to do something. You choose to do something or not. However traveling in a group, the dynamics shift, there is compromise, sometimes sacrifice, especially if things are pre-booked. One person in a group might want to do something that another doesn’t, sure that person can sit out but then tension builds. The longer you’re in this environment, there can be fall outs, arguments, and you stop enjoying it. You might not all be on the same page, so that’s another reason why I solo travel.
I’m not saying this is always the case, but It’s more likely to happen in groups traveling together than backpacking solo or just with one other person.
Traveling with just one more person is ok but still not ideal for me
There have been many occasions over the years, where I’ve met another solo backpacker, we’ve got along and decided to travel together for a period of time but even that gets too much after a while.
Ok, I’m gonna put this on me, because with pretty much everybody I’ve traveled with no matter how much we get along at some point I just become irritated by them. Everything can be great at first, we get along great and bamm just like that something just pisses me off about them. It’s not like I don’t like them, or have a fall out with them, I just get irritated. So that’s another reason I like to solo travel.
I’ll be brutally honest, there are times when I’ve been traveling by myself, that I start getting pissed of with myself. Yeah that makes me sound all kinds of fucked up. But I know this.
Long term solo traveling is easy for me
To carry on the theme of how fucked up I sound here’s where I give you a little insight into my fucked up way of thinking at times.
So I like to socialise but I like to distance myself and be alone. However I can’t be alone for too long and need to be sociable and make friends.
Long term solo traveling is easy for me, because I can be seeped deep into a social surrounding but easily just step away and be content to be on my own.
To give you an example, I can become part of a group in a hostel, meet some cool people, learn off people, be inspired by them but then I just go off and do my own thing. The longer I’ve traveled the more I prefer sightseeing, or doing in an excursion, being in a picturesque setting alone, drinking in the moment by myself but then return to the hostel and slip right back into the group.
Even bus and train journeys, I prefer doing them alone, for the simple fact, when I’m moving to one place to another I don’t like being sociable. I don’t like talking to others while I’m on the move. That is me time, for my thoughts to get out there, manifest if they want while I stare out the window take it all in or just fall asleep. But once I arrive in my new destination I’m happy to talk and socialise once more.
Told ya, fucking weird right?
Long term solo traveling got me in touch with my zen
Amongst the many, many things long term solo traveling has taught me over the years one of the biggest things is to calm myself and have the ability to drink in and appreciate the moment I’m experiencing at that precise moment.
Now, I fully understand what I’m about to sound like, and you can judge in any way you want but It’s like I’ve found my zen. Long term solo traveling, through the years has kept teaching me, relaxing me, making me calmer, to this point where sometimes It feels like I can feel the universe at times.
The longer I’ve been solo traveling by myself, I can be sitting on the side of a cliff, watching waves crash underneath, be up in the mountains, on a beach, in a desert and I will feel such calmness. It’s like I’m one with my surroundings. Like I said before you are free to judge me as you wish at this point, but I fucking love that feeling. There are times I’ve stood or sat somewhere, my eyes and thoughts have drifted into the distance and It’s like I can feel the energy of my surroundings. And no, before you think it, none of these times have I been high. Well I have but It’s been a natural high.
Solo traveling suits me & will always be my preferred method of traveling.
Who knows what will happen in the future, never did I once think when I started solo backpacking that I’d still be on this incredible journey of mine. I never thought I’d turn into a long term solo traveler, or by traveling by myself I’d find this inner peace that I have but solo traveling will always be my preferred way.
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