By Hannah Silverman
For years philosophers have asked if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Therefore, can the same be argued that the impact of travel is lessened if there is no one around to share it? Well, pessimism is the language of the damned and while sharing travel can create incredible memories, we should never disregard just how profound exploration can be alone. Sometimes more so. If you believe you’re nobody until somebody travels with you, you need to read this post immediately if not sooner.
I’ve had several chats with several fabulous women who are so independent they would make Beyonce proud. But some of the most mind blowing discussions come from those who tell me they could never travel alone. If I can do it, they can definitely do it. And so can you, too.
Many of my trips have included at least some aspects of solo travel, and while I’m not going to say this is the best and only way to explore, it’s certainly a brilliant opportunity to lose yourself and find yourself within the same oxymoron of an adventure. In any case, you’re never completely alone when you travel anyway.
Here’s a list of why YOU should and totally CAN give the travelling solo thing a go…
1. DIY Itinerary: You can make your own itinerary and be as selfish and as gloriously indulgent as you like. Want to walk through the Museum of Archeology all day but know your best mates would be over it by the first fossil, do it. Want to cram back-to-back activities while your boyfriend would rather have a pint or three at 11am, go for it. Or, if you just want to people watch in peace, enjoy it. Do it your way.
2. Upgrades do happen: Not that it’s happened to me, but we see it in films so I know it must be a thing. Plus, maths and logic would suggest that it’s easier to move one person than two. Theatre tickets to shows for one also make it easier to get closer to the action as you fill the scattered seats. This means even if you leave your purchase to the last minute, you can still score a great view. Any more than two or three and you can be pushing your luck.
3. Ditch the food envy: If your friend orders an Italian pizza with extra cheese it’s hard not to have a slice. Dining with others can almost become like competitive eating – not in a Man V Food kind of way, more if you order a salad while they order chef’s special paella, you know you’ll decide later you ordered the culinary wooden spoon. If you’re watching your weight or keeping an eye on your finances you are more likely to be savvy in the purse and on the plate, too.
4. Guilt free sleep-ins: if you want to sleep until noon, you sleep until noon. No one is going to shame you for not rising early, that’s what the working week is for after all. You tune into your body clock and do what makes you feel great. Naps during the day are also completely acceptable, especially if they are in a hammock and involve piña coladas. Travelling in groups can bring on a case of the guilts if you feel your extra slumber will slow down your tribe.
5. Your new friends want to meet you: It’s far easier to make new friends and be fleixble enough to include them in your plans and vise versa without having to answer to a travelling companion. On a solo trip to Cambodia in my early 20s I sat at the hostel bar for happy hour and found the nearest solo traveller to befriend. Before I knew it there was about eight of us going out for a night on the town. Be safe, use your judgement and all that jazz, but be friendly!
6. The power of one: Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t say ‘hey I’m going to eat, pray and love with a bunch of groupies’. The point was she went on an adventure of self discovery with no idea where she was going to end up. The sense of empowerment in knowing you have travelled alone is gratifying and completely underrated.
7. Let the mind wonder and wander: That elusive zen place people talk about is a lot harder to find when there is a lot of chatter going on around you that warrants a response. Shut down and open yourself up to the theory of mindfulness by being aware of your surrounds and letting your thoughts flow freely. You’d be surprised where inspiration can find you in this uncluttered state of mind. Hey, it worked for J.K Rowling, she was a train by herself when a certain boy wizard popped into her head.
8. Group tours play together, stay together: I’ve experienced group tours alone and with a friend and while eventually you all merge into one big blur of a happy travelling family, it’s easier to mix and mingle as a single. Otherwise you become comfortable in the conversation with your travel buddy and could potentially miss out on new friendships. I also recommend group travel with a friend (a story for another time) but particularly if you’re flying solo this is a great option to get social and feed off the ideas of others.
9. Holiday flings, ca-ching!: Imagine if you met Mr Right Now and he asks you out for a coffee or a swim, but you are forced to decline because your mates are expecting you. Open yourself up to meeting new people in a way that encourages romantic spontaneity, not stifles it. Dates are so much more fun, and surprisingly more intimate, as a twosome.
10. Project You: Whether you’re itching to pen a best seller, committed to losing a couple of kilos or if always wanted to pretend to be a pirate in Somalia, this is you’re time to shine. Possibly the best thing about solo travelling is tapping into that thing that makes you tick and finally saying, hey, I did that. I like to think there’s something endearing about a solo traveller, milk it, the world is your oyster and you’re proving what a pearl you are.
Have you traveled solo? Tell us about your most exciting travelling experience.