There are a million blog posts out there on the topic of solo travel. Other bloggers will tell you how to get over the fear of traveling alone, or why solo travel will change you. This type of post has become particularly popular in the last year, especially in the solo female travel niche. While I do encourage people to try solo travel, this post is not a how-to or a why you should travel alone.
This is just me saying I don’t know how to travel any other way.
I am fiercely, stubbornly, annoyingly independent. I’m independent to the point that I don’t even know how to be dependent (or how to ask for help or how to compromise). One time a friend offered to carry my bag and I immediately shot back “what’s wrong with you?” Because you know, when someone offers to do something for you, it’s obviously an insult.
That independence seeps into every part of my life, including travel. I’ve always enjoyed spending time alone and doing things alone. Being around people is generally really exhausting to me, even people I love. I am the textbook definition of an introvert; or, rather, an extreme version of an introvert. My preference is to actually spend about 80% of my time alone (or with others but not talking), and only maybe 20% of my time really socializing.
Anyone who has ever traveled with another person knows that you would not be able to spend anywhere near 80% of your time alone. You are forced to spend so much time together, simply because you’re on the same bus/plane/car ride, you share accommodation, you eat together, and then you go see the sights together. I mean, that is the point of traveling with someone: to do things together. It’s hard for me to spend that much time with the same person, even if it’s my best friend or sister. I just can’t do it!
Traveling with someone else doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend every second together. I’ve had short stints of traveling with friends, and the right friends know and understand my need to separate and spend time apart. These are the friends who truly understand my need for independence, and usually they’re on the same page. A couple of weeks is probably the longest I would want to go traveling with someone else. Even that would be too long if we’re not close enough to be incredibly honest with each other.
What’s my point here?
I don’t know how to travel with others. I travel solo because I mostly prefer to live life solo. Some people don’t understand that sentiment, so it might sound crazy to you. Of course I am happy to have my family and a few good friends, but I don’t want to spend all of my time with them (and they understand that).
I like to take road trips alone. I like to go shopping alone. I like to walk and hike alone. I like to go to concerts alone. I like to cook and eat alone. So when I started traveling, there was never that hesitation or question of “but who will I go with?” because it never occurred to me that traveling alone could be weird or scary. I didn’t overcome some fear in order to start traveling solo, it was just the only way I wanted to do it.
I do like meeting people on my travels. I talk to people I meet at hostels or coffee shops or on the tours I join. I am not a 100% solitary creature (remember I said only 80%), so I do enjoy getting to know people and occasionally joining someone else for a tour or attraction. However, I would just as quickly go join a tour on my own or go to the restaurant I want to try and ask for a table for one.
What I really need is a lesson on how to travel with others, because that’s where I’m totally lost. I like to be in total control of my time and how it’s spent. I like to decide where to go, what to do, and when. I don’t plan out my travels in too much detail, but if another person is involved, it makes me uncomfortable to not have a precise and detailed plan. I can’t go with the flow if I’m traveling with someone else, because we don’t have the same flow. I spend too much time feeling anxious and guilty because I don’t want to ruin things for the other person if I can’t commit to their schedule.
When it comes to traveling, I feel like I shouldn’t have to compromise.
I’m just a much happier, calmer, and more free-spirited person when I’m traveling solo. Those are things I want to be. When I’m traveling, I want to wander the streets with nowhere to be. I want to hop on a bus when I decide I’m done with a place. I want to splurge on an expensive tour when I feel like it’s worth it and not feel guilty because the other person didn’t budget for that. I want to go with my instincts and make decisions without having to discuss it with someone else.
I travel solo simply because I don’t know any other way. So if you’re looking to get over your fears and travel alone for the first time, I won’t be much help because I don’t have the same fears as you, and I never did.
But maybe while you’re here, you can give me some tips on how to travel well with others.
I’d really love to hear your take on solo travel. Do you like to travel alone? Why (or why not)?
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