Traveling Alone

There are times when one would realize that the gift of company is indeed priceless.

Take traveling for example. As much as the thought and the act of traveling and seeing the world alone paves the way to self-discovery; one must understand that sometimes, things are not always as they seem. I know this from personal experience.

When you are alone, it is already a given that you will spend most of your time in silence. There will be chatter and noise all around you, but this will only be the sounds that one would expect from a busy setting.

Bring a good book, or a music player. Let the words and the melodies keep you company. But do not lose your touch with reality. Remember that time is still moving and there are schedules to be followed.

It is not always like in the movies. You do not always catch someone’s eye and start a conversation. It is and has always been a matter of chance. It does not happen every day. Most likely, when you are alone, you will push your trolley full of your luggage silently across the large halls of the airport.

Perhaps you will make eye contact and exchange a few words and smiles with a random stranger in the line. Perhaps someone will comment on the weather, or on how in-flight food is terrible, but nothing particularly lasting.

Duty-free window shopping along with people watching can only interest you for so long.

How about sketching a scene or taking a number of photos? That would also be a good way to pass time.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have your photo taken? A candid one at that? Or how about somebody else’s candid moment? Something more personal instead of a detached photo full of random and nameless faces? At the very least, would it be nice if there was someone whom you can watch your things as you snap away?

Another lesson: If you are to be alone, taking too many things with you would prove to be counter-productive. Travel lightly — your carry-on bag at least. It enables you to come and go anywhere as you please without much trouble. And in the event that your flight is at night or at the early hours of the morn, you can find a comfortable place where you can take a nap without worrying that when you wake up, your things will be gone.

You will wait for what seems like an eternity to check your bags. You will heave a sigh of relief when you finally do. It is a load off your shoulders.

You will pass through a number of security checks. You will pass by customs and immigration. It is by luck if your officer is chatty enough to offer you several pieces of candy by his counter.

After that, you will wait to board the plane. You can grab a snack or a quick cup of coffee, or you window shop some more. You can read, sketch, take photos or listen to music as well.

Or you can do them all.

Inside the plane, you buckle your seat belt. You will not remove it during the whole duration of the flight, except when you go to the loo (which would be a rare occurrence) or when you finally land.

But still, it would have been nice if the time was spent talking and laughing with someone familiar now, wouldn’t it?

At the airport, you go through the same process but in reverse. It is one big test of patience. Immigration. Customs. Security check. You will now be able to get an empty trolley and wait for your checked-in bags to appear on the conveyor belt in silence.

You see your luggage and you try to grab it by the handle. Either you are momentarily dragged by its weight or you somehow manage to hurdle the massive bulk of mass in your trolley by yourself.

You catch your breath and heave a sigh of relief.

Then, you exit. If you are alone, you either proceed to look for your ride home or to the hotel, or if you are truly alone, you queue in for a taxi and once again, silently travel to where you should be heading.

There, you think how pleasant it would be if you had company. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock

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  • Sara

    I understand you!! I started to travel alone when I was 18, it was so exciting and I felt independent, but after a few years I couldn’t do it anymore! It is indeed a very empty feeling.
    I am happy now that I found someone to share all my trips with !

    • http://twitter.com/geegraphy Glerren Bangalan (@geegraphy)

      Wow! At 18! You must be quite the adventurer then. :)

  • http://gravatar.com/rosiemccapp rosiemccapp

    Absolutely in love with this. I frequently travel alone. Although I have become comfortable with myself, there are still times when I wish I could share significant moments with someone else. Beautifully written. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/geegraphy Glerren Bangalan (@geegraphy)

      Hey, thanks! :)

  • Wally

    Clearly, you’re just doing it wrong. I have met so many interesting people, and have made lasting friendships just cause I travelled alone. Something I wouldn’t have done if a known friend is with me cause then you’re just not as open to meeting beautiful strangers.

    • http://twitter.com/geegraphy Glerren Bangalan (@geegraphy)

      Hi Wally! I have to say, I do agree with what you just said. Part of the fun in traveling alone is the part where you get to meet new people and form, hopefully, lasting friendships! However, the point of this article is to show that sometimes, it does get lonely. The other side of the coin, so to speak. We all have those kinds of days, you know? :)

    • guest

      BHAHAHHAHAHAAHAAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAH

      I HATE YOU.

  • L

    The whole point of traveling alone is to enjoy the relationship you have with yourself.

    Not whine about how your bff is not around.

    • http://twitter.com/geegraphy Glerren Bangalan (@geegraphy)

      Point taken. It would be quite a shame if one just spent time whining all throughout the journey when there is so much to see. But then again, not everyone is used to traveling alone. :)

      • L

        You are correct, not everyone is used to it. :)

  • S

    Conclusion: if you travel alone, you will be alone.
    Thank you, captain obvious. I think this is the most rudimentary article I have ever read on TC.

    • http://twitter.com/geegraphy Glerren Bangalan (@geegraphy)

      Then my work here is done! Captain Obvious, awaaaay! :)

  • Christine

    I agree that traveling alone can be difficult, but when I originally opened this article I expected it to be TRAVELING alone, not boarding and de-boarding an airplane alone. I went to school 500 miles away, and flew about 10 times a year back and forth. I found that getting on the plane having only my personal belongings and self to tend to, to be far less exhausting and stressful than traveling with others. Once you get to your respective destination, if there is no one there, then I can understand the loneliness that comes with traveling alone. But quite frankly, who takes candid photoshoots in an airport? Even when traveling with others, the flights in and out of wherever we’re going usually consist of $10 books from the convenience store, the least horrific looking airport food, and people watching. And people watching in the airport? Not exactly like going to the theater, unless you’re looking for a plethora of businessmen and women either dressed to the 9’s or in their sweatpants.

    I applaud the idea of an article about traveling alone, but I think focusing on solely the airport portion of traveling alone is really just barely the tip of the iceburg.

  • http://twitter.com/CatWitches Sophie Cat (@CatWitches)

    Im 15 and I travel alone to france twice a year *yay for divorce*
    It’s not that bad…

    • K

      Because you have someone waiting for you at both ends…

      • Alice

        Exactly.

  • kaya

    “It is not always like in the movies. You do not always catch someone’s eye and start a conversation.”

    This is reassuring. I traveled alone for the first time last year at 19 and although my flights were short with only an hour connecting, I still felt somewhat empty. I’d look around at people – couples, families, friends – and wish I had somebody by my side. There’s something about being in an airport that exhilarates me and it was strange for the first time not to have someone to share that buzz. I can only dream for enough more flights in the future to encounter strangers from all walks; just like in the movies.

  • http://jeveuxtout.wordpress.com jeveuxtout

    I am in Berlin alone and this made me feel it a little less, thanks.

  • http://gravatar.com/erininireland2012 Erin B

    I just got back from a semester abroad, during which I did a fair bit of traveling on my own. So this article definitely felt very fresh and relatable to me. I think traveling alone is what you make of it– I personally did not mind some peace and quiet, time to do and see what I wanted to do and see; still, there were some moments when having a friendly face around would have been nice. I think you have to go into the experience of traveling alone knowing what to expect.
    Like many things in life, you get out of the experience just as much (or as little) as you put into it.

  • H

    I’d rather travel alone than put up with people moaning about being bored or not knowing what they want to do.

  • Fernando

    When I was 19 I did a eurotrip by myself for three weeks. I actually enjoyed the traveling alone process, but the destinations would have been better with some company

  • KEK

    This is so very far from my experiences traveling alone. I was expecting this article to talk about all the great people you meet and serendipitous experiences you encounter traveling alone. Clearly I was very wrong. I don’t think anyone particularly enjoys the airport experience alone or with a friend, but once you get out there you have to take chances and create your own adventure. Traveling with people often comes with the stress of making both parties happy and cramming in everything everyone wants to do. Alone, I make my own agenda. I end up meeting locals who show me places I’d never find. Never has a trip gone awry, and I always come back with great memories and often new friends to visit from all over the world. Traveling alone makes me learn a lot about myself, and I actually enjoy getting some time alone to watch the world around me.

  • guest

    TRAVELING ALONE IS LIKE TRAVELING THROUGH LIFE ALONE FMLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL AND YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

    “puss puss” -gagaggagagaaaagaagagagggagag

  • kate

    On my travels, I met someone traveling for 6+ months who had had his iPod, iPhone, and iPad stolen. Clearly the worst part about this to him wasn’t the monetary loss or lack of connection to the world, it was that it left him with no way to listen to music. It really stuck with me, the idea of being forced into that kind of quiet. He said he had a completely new understanding of silence.

  • Joe D.

    And that’s why I travelled by train.

  • Quagmire

    I spent a whole year traveling alone through Europe and even though the experience as a whole was the best time of my life, there were also definitely some times that got lonely. I ended up cutting my originally-planned trip short because of this empty feeling. But I often found relief in taking the train or bus or plane because it meant that I was moving on to a new destination… it was the stagnancy of staying in a city too long that made me feel alone. Movement was fully welcome.

    I also CouchSurfed a lot, it’s definitely recommended to all of you other travelers! I met some wonderful people who made foreign cities feel like home.

    • MissT

      Steve?!
      I met a guy in Edinburgh through CS that traveled for a year and had similar feelings about traveling alone as you. x

  • MissT

    99.99% DISAGREE! I traveled alone throughout The UK and Europe for six months last year and loved every second of it. I met people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. I rediscovered my love for writing. I learned how to forgive. I didn’t have to listen to the constant and meaningless “insight” from a travel buddy (“oh my god that’s sooooo cool!” “oh my good I’ve never seen anything like that before.”–yeah, no shit, it’s the Milano Duomo. Of course it’s cool and of course you’ve never seen anything like it before). I was able to soak everything in, in silence. I ate where I wanted. I slept where I wanted. I moved on to the next city/place that I wanted to go to. I got lost on purpose.

    I’m going again this fall just to get away from the same old routine and meet more new people!

    The 0.01% that I actually agree with out of your post is the candid photo bit.

  • KittyLuv

    Traveling alone as a woman (first young, and then not so much) is a different experience. I did have lonely times, of course, but I spent a lot of time fending off “company” that I didn’t want. That, my dear author, is the definition of travel-weary.

    However, those 16 years of solo travel were the defining moments of my life. They made me who I am. Now I have a husband and it is a joy to have company on trips, but it’s by no means as free-and-easy. Life: one compromise after another….

  • Sophia

    disagree.

  • http://twitter.com/nebulalawrence Nebula Lawrence (@nebulalawrence)

    I travelled alone from Toronto-New Zealand (and back) last year and didn’t have such a terrible time. It was definitely strange to not speak at all for almost 24 hours!
    I rarely get to be alone so it was kind of nice..(the fact that my seat was upgraded on the longest leg of my journey probably helped the experience immensely though)

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