Solo. Coined from the word ‘solus’ in Latin which translates as ‘only’, or more specifically ‘being alone’.
To some people, the idea of travelling alone may seem like a terrifying one. We’re supposed to be social beings, doing things together, aren’t we? Scientifically as a species, we’ve evolved to live in social communities and groups, and co-operate to provide security, knowledge and a sense of belonging.
The thing is, when you solo travel, you’re not really alone… Your community consists of all the travellers currently on the road, and your ‘family and friends’ are the interesting people you meet along the way.
On the road you bond quickly with others, especially if they are travelling alone too. You exchange helpful advice, share stories, and you talk about travel, world issues, life back home, and realise how linked we all are. All in all, each little social experience on the road provides you with knowledge, understanding and a sense of belonging. Not just to a social group, but to humanity as whole.
Ok wowww. We got pretty deep there. But it’s true. Travel opens your eyes to a wider picture of the world.
Although the ‘want’, or curiosity may be there. There are a number of factors which may hold us back from solo travel. Whether it’s from too many responsibilities at home, a lack of confidence, funds, knowledge, or even thinking you should wait for someone to go with you. But solo travel doesn’t have to be a round the world adventure, you don’t need to be gone for months, you don’t need a huge pot of savings. It can be as simple as visiting the beach by yourself, hiking a mountain on your own (safely of course), or spending a weekend away in that city you’ve alway dreamed of visiting. You’ll still feel that sense of thrill, and will still notice the benefits.
Below I’ve summarised 5 of the most beneficial factors or reasons for heading out alone on the road, whether it’s for one day, or one year. To sway you towards giving it a go. Just incase you were sitting on the fence 🙂
1. You are in complete control
This might sound scary at first (and as someone who once googled how to find the exit at an airport… I’m with you). But just imagine… No arguing with a travel buddy over what to do that day, whether its wanting to have a lie in or choosing a restaurant “what do you want to eat?” “I dunno, what do you think?” “I don’t know thats why I’m asking you” *internal scream*.
No blaming each other if a plan doesn’t quite work out, or disagreeing on ridiculous things, “why are you parking here? That space over there is much closer” “do you want to drive?” “no, no it’s fine, you carry on”. Ok, I’ll stop with the painfully true dialogues. But having the ability to change plans at a moments notice to suit what YOU want, and at your own pace, is so liberating. Even close friends or partners can disagree whilst travelling together.
So if you find you often miss out on hitting the museums as your friends would rather lounge on the beach. Try a trip by yourself! Or even just take the afternoon for yourself while you go separate ways. Your capability will likely surprise you.
2. You really will learn a lot about yourself
You might find yourself discovering passions and likes that you didn’t know you had. As every single activity, conversation, meal, hostel/hotel/campsite, was chosen by you, and not influenced by your bubble of friends/family. For example, your best friend might hate camping, so you never give it a go. But on your solo travels you might book onto a tour that spends a few nights camping, and find out that you absolutely love the connection to the outdoors that it brings.
I personally discovered a love for diving that I might not have found before travelling solo. No one I knew had ever dived before, so on trips together it would never come up as a possible suggestion to do together. However I was curious… and during a solo trip, I booked myself onto an open water course to just experience it. Turns out, I’m one evolutionary step away from having gills. And would probably not have experienced the magic of this underwater world otherwise.
3. It will develop you as a person
A lot of people discover qualities and abilities they didn’t realise they had when alone on the road. A big one is confidence. Shy travellers (I present myself as exhibit one), develop their confidence and realise they are capable of so much more than they assumed. Another huge boost is independence. When you’re alone you have to handle the booking, the problems, the ordering. And with each time, it will feel more natural for you to be able to depend upon yourself.
For some, the idea of eating alone, let alone the actual journeying, is a major put off for travelling solo. But you’ll find ways to make it work, and soon you won’t even blink at the idea of eating alone. Picnics, eating street food on a harbour wall, tiny cafes with bar seating; You won’t spend every meal sat alone facing an empty chair at a table for two! (I’ve done this often and honestly, with a phone/book/friendly waiter, it’s always been perfectly fine too!).
When you’re not with your usual group of friends or family, you can’t rely on other people to do things for you. As an example I would always secretly hope someone else would be the one to go up and order at a restaurant or talk when checking into a hotel. But when you’re alone on the road, you have to do those things. And you begin to realise you Can do them. I definitely unlocked a new level of confidence.
You’ll also learn SO much. From language phrases, cooking ideas, clothing styles, different lifestyles, tips. Without your usual friends or family to converse with, you’ll mix with locals and other travellers outside of your usual bubble who will open your eyes to things which will enhance your life.
4. You will never experience a feeling of freedom quite like it
Waking up alone in a brand new destination fills you with this incredible feeling of freedom. No one here knows you. You could become a completely different person if you wanted to, and you can do whatever you want. Butterflies flutter throughout your whole body.
It will make you feel small, but in that good way, like when you look up into the night sky and your mind wanders between possibilities you can’t quite comprehend. When you’re alone the world feels immense, but also close. Like everything is at the touch of your fingertips.
5. You’ll feel a deeper connection to other travellers, locals and the destination
This is an important one. It essentially heightens your experience, as you’re experiencing everything through your own eyes, thoughts and feelings. You’re not influenced by who you are travelling with. It’s all you baby. As an example, I came across a few couples or groups of friends travelling together who were just lost in their own little bubble. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, as that’s just their travel style. But when you have each other to fall back on for conversation and company, you’re less likely to reach out and connect with others. And will maybe even be a bit distracted from really absorbing everything around you; From people watching to really taking in the scenery.
You’ll also find that you get onto deeper subjects. When you have fleeting meetings with people and other travellers, you tend to glaze over the small talk. You’ll probably only know this person for a day or two, and likely never see them again. So you are able to loosen the fear of judgement you may usually carry when meeting new people in your home town or at work. No one knows you here, and you’ll subconsciously feel bolder because of it. You’ll discuss world topics, the history of your countries, philosophy, grief, injustices, your goals, dreams. Nothing seems off limits, and it’s so incredibly freeing.
So, are you considering going somewhere solo for the first time? Or if you’ve already given it a whirl, where did you go, which country?
My first solo travel experience was driving myself down to Woolacombe beach in the UK (it was a beautiful day, no one else was free, and I wanted to go!). And my first solo travel experience to a different country was Sweden!