Many of us don’t want to wait for the perfect travelling companion to come along before grabbing cheap flights and setting off in search of Instagram-perfect travel experiences.
But what’s it really like to sling a backpack over your shoulders and set off solo? If you’re considering taking off to chase your next sunset alone, there’s a few things you should know.
1. The isolation can be confronting
Solo travel isn’t all Instagram-filtered beaches and cocktails in coconuts, although you wouldn’t know from looking at most travellers’ social feeds. Sometimes it seems closer to the feeling you get when you accidentally turn on your front camera – shocking and ugly.
Some days are harder than trying to sit through another pointless meeting; others more isolating than staying home to save money on a Friday night. There are stints of going day after day with no conversation past “hello”. There are weeks without affection, where you quickly learn a hug from a loved one can be craved like your mum’s home cooked roast.
This isolation can be intense, but it can also be reflective. Between brunch with friends, working nine to five and catching up with family, it can be hard back home to dedicate time to being alone.
By reconsidering the days spent alone as days spent getting to know yourself, the loneliness subsides and instead you find yourself asking, “What it is I want from life?” – a luxury no money can buy.
2. Be prepared to get personal
“Do you have a husband?”
“Why are you travelling alone?”
Solo travel, especially by women, is extraordinary to many – both backpackers and locals alike. If your travels stray from the western world, you may find yourself travelling alone through countries where women rarely leave the house, never mind jet across the world.
Just as you are likely to be intrigued by an ancient burial ritual, your solo travel can produce culture shock and inspire a torrent of personal questions.
If you find yourself uncomfortable answering such questions, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming up the perfect partner and pretending they’re waiting for you at the next stop.
3. You’re going to gain some new skills
With no one around to rely on if you can’t fix that flat tyre you got riding to the back beach, and no one to help you read the map to Rome’s Best Gelato, you’re bound to pick up some new skills.
By its nature, travelling alone requires bucket loads of independence and problem-solving – not bad things for a CV when you return home.
4. There’s no time for introversion
Unless you’re happy to spend all your time in self-reflection, you’re going to have to get comfortable around strangers.
A need for a conversation unburdened by buffering Skype connections aside, letting go of your introverted tendencies can also help you save precious travel pennies.
By sharing the cost of a room or transport with another solo traveller, you can save money and make friends globally.
5. Ultimately, the world is kind
From the backpacker outside the Louvre who took 20 photos of you without you having to ask, to the local who walked you to your hotel after you stumbled aimlessly around the main street wishing you’d splurged on data as your suitcase gets heavier by the minute, the world is kind.
While this is a sentiment experienced by many travellers, solo travellers tend to rely more heavily on the kindness of strangers. It may be as simple as a smile that crosses language barriers after weeks of isolation or the sharing of a local Arak on a street corner, these moments are priceless and remind you why it is you travel.