Thought Catalog
July 7, 2014

7 Incredible Things You’ll Experience If You Travel The World Alone

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Flickr / mayprodrigo
Flickr / mayprodrigo

A lot of people keep asking me the same question every time I start planning my travels (“Why are you always going solo?”) and to be honest, there is no one single reason or answer. There are a bunch of reasons why I prefer to travel solo rather than a group. I don’t mind the latter, I just prefer going solo slightly more. But I finally got myself to write my 7 Reasons To Go Backpacking SOLO and why I like to travel & wander by myself.

When travelling solo you really can just do whatever takes your fancy. Every single day can be filled with things that interest you. You don’t have to compromise your plans or miss out on what you want to do because your travel buddy is whining they don’t want to do this or that, or they want to do something completely different instead. You have no one to please but yourself, and yes that may seem self-centred but who gives a damn?

1. Freedom

Usually, I don’t plan a lot in advance, I leave it to chance and let my days make its random decisions for me. So when I do travel there aren’t many friends that will just pick up their bags and say “Hell yeah I am going with you!” and that’s okay, because I’m usually the one who does this. I don’t expect to find a mate up for it all the time. Going solo gives you the freedom to just pack your backpack and go, even your best friends won’t always be as fast as you. Also, you may prefer cheap flights, sleeping on the backs of trucks, or eating cheaply to save on costs, and not everyone will want to travel the same way. In other words, you might not want to trade three affordable adventures for one expensive one.

One of the many great things about travelling solo is the fact you can do anything, with anyone, at any time. If I am travelling with a girlfriend or a bunch of friends I always worry about their choices first before mine, and sometimes I’m not that comfortable with the end results and wish that I could have done that other thing I was longing to do. When I was in Thailand, I found a way to be the laziest person ever with the best view ever!! I woke up every day past midday, sat on the beach till sundown and everyone knows that after dinner… that’s when party time starts.

2. Personal growth

When you travel solo you can motivate yourself to have the best and most amazing experience wherever you go. Being ‘on your own’ whilst backpacking is also a great test of yourself. You will have plenty of time to explore yourself than any other time. For example when I was in Sri Lanka I travelled to Sri Pada or Adam’s Peak to hike 2,243m overnight! That is one thing I never would have had the guts to do by myself before. Despite the rain, the total darkness and the awful hiking conditions (heavy rain, fog, and other dangers) me and my three hiking partners went against all the odds and managed to reach the peak in time to see the sunrise. It was amazing! It was cloudy but yet the feeling of accomplishment and happiness was flowing through my body. Alone, you become very aware of your surroundings, of the clouds forming in the sky, of any little pain in your foot or back. It is an awareness without worry. This ‘in-the-moment’ experience is truly worth having.

By being forced out of your comfort zone and having to deal with unexpected events and unpredictable experiences, you will really learn a lot about yourself. You will come to know yourself intimately whether you want to or not. You won’t need to ask yourself what you would do in a tight spot, or what type of person you are when things happen and you have to deal with them, you will know because you will have been there and done it.
I’ve grown out of my comfort zones, learnt how to drive motorbikes, trucks and old Russian cars, I’ve cleaned hostels and served at bars and restaurants. No one had to hold my hand and walk me across the road. That’s something you might not get as much as travelling in a group but it’s one of the best things you can experience as a backpacker. Throw yourself out there, swim with the sharks and beat the misplaced stereotype.

3. Meeting new people

Don’t think that by leaving home on your own you are somehow going to condemn yourself to a six month trip of solitude and loneliness. If you go backpacking anywhere in the world, you are going to meet like-minded people who are interested in travelling as much as you, who have gone travelling on their own too. You get to meet people who actively want to do the things you do rather than having to cajole friends at home into an experience they might not enjoy or be ready for. You need to be with people who are into it, not those who need to be coerced into it.

I was on a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Laos thinking that I would be alone for a while until I was supposed to catch up with a friend in Vang Vieng, but when I landed in Laos everything changed. I met two guys from Germany and two girls from (I don’t really remember) and we shared a mini-bus to the city. I was really really sick on my first day but I was lucky to meet three people who would later help me get my shit together. Those people in the picture above are Marie, Lisa (Germany) and Lewis (UK). The four of us took the long bus ride from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, and after settling in our hostel/dorms we went out for a local dinner. Not only was I happy but I was around like-minded people who didn’t feel so much different from the kind of friends you have for a long time.

4. Couchsurfing

When you try Couchsurfing you’ll find out that it is easier to find a host when you are travelling solo or as a couple, plus you can pretty much lower your standards without anyone bitching about it. I love Couchsurfing – I’ve previously blogged about Couchsurfing and how to use it and also my personal opinions and my 101 tips guide for surfers. In every country I’ve visited I’ve always reached out to the Couchsurfers in town or other travellers like me. When you travel and backpack solo you can have that freedom of choice to couch surf with anyone and everyone who is able to host.

5. You become an incredible storyteller

Who has never heard of Ibn Battuta? He said, “Travelling will leave you speechless and turn you into a story teller”. You’ll create endless memories when you tell friends stories of your travels. Because the trip was only yours, it’s a unique experience many people will love to hear about. As long as you make the most of your solo expedition, your stories will be epic accounts you’ll never get tired of telling. I was so happy when I published a story of my earlier travel experiences about how I got my first taste of travels and about the day I left home.

6. It is empowering

If travelling makes you a better, smarter person, then travelling alone makes you super-better and super-smarter. For any of you who may feel uncomfortable even sitting alone at a diner to have breakfast, taking a trip by yourself might seem daunting. Once you take the plunge and get over your fears, you’ll feel a real sense of empowerment. A successful solo vacation can inspire you to tackle even more things in life you’ve been afraid to try. While travelling solo, you can leave your grumpy, tired old self behind and start to be a new you. You can explore parts of your personality that you may not very comfortable or familiar with. When on the road, you might be challenged by unexpected factors and be positively surprised by how well you respond to them. Empower yourself by unleashing the wonderful, irresistible and intelligent person you are, but whom you’ve neglected in your everyday routine.

7. Falling in love

You might have read those posts on Thought Catalogue or Elite Daily about how you should or should not marry a girl that travels or about falling in love with a guy that’s a world trotter. Well they are true, but they always fail to deliver the punch line correctly. Everyone wants to find their better half and much is said about failed relationships while on the road. It doesn’t have to be like that! We find love when we meet someone who shares our interests, dreams, and goals. While traveling solo you’ll meet so many people from all walks of life that falling in love might just happen. Whether it will be a great summer love or end up at the altar, no one knows, but there are many people out there with amazing stories. For me, I fell in love with a country called Laos.

That’s all folks, you have got my wisdom on the topic! My 7 reasons to go backpacking solo. I hope I have enlightened your day, made it a bit brighter, drawn a smile on your face, reminded you of something or someone special, and most of all triggered an impulse in you to go and travel – pick up your stuff, shove them in your backpack and go solo. TC mark

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