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You want to go to backpacking through South America in a few months. You’ve asked three of your closest friends, your siblings and cousins, and even your parents, and everyone has turned you down. Some people might consider postponing their adventure to accommodate schedules, and others might just cancel it altogether. So, here’s a solution for you: go alone.
On the surface, solo travel might sound terrifying; travelling into the unknown with just your backpack may sound like a disaster waiting to happen. But with some planning and an open-mind, travelling alone will allow you to learn more about yourself and the world than ever before.
No group trip is complete without an argument about where to go next. Sally wants to go to the aquarium, Bobby wants to visit a museum, but you want to bike along the beach. When you’re travelling alone, every item on the itinerary is completely up to you, which means maximal opportunity to cross as many things off your bucket list without worrying if Sally and Bobby will enjoy it too. At the same, you’ll find what kinds of activities leave you fulfilled and most happy. If you’re not enjoying a museum and want to leave after 20 minutes, you can. If you want to spend hours taking in the view at the top of the mountain, you can. The choice is always up to you.
Travelling alone doesn’t mean being lonely; in fact, it’s the opposite. While travelling with a familiar face is comforting when visiting a completely unknown city, it can also hold you back from befriending hostel bunk mates, friendly locals, and fellow solo travelers. Interacting with locals will not only give you the best recommendations around town, but you might even end up making a lifetime friend. Even if you consider yourself to be one of the most introverted people, chances are you’ll be forced to make conversation when you share a room with 7 strangers, need a restaurant recommendation, or get turned around in the train station.
It’s true; travelling alone will make you feel like a total badass. Nothing screams “I can do anything” than travelling through rural parts of Vietnam with just your backpack, or camping alone on a 6-day hike in New Zealand. Without the safety net of friends, it’s all on you to tackle challenges like cancelled flights, hostel mix-ups, and lost IDs. It might sound intimidating, but you’ll be left feeling more independent and confident in yourself than ever before.
When you’re required to do all your own bookings, planning, and navigating, you tend to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. You might be used to someone else finding the best accommodation deals and cheap eats. But travelling alone, you’ll find yourself relying on locals, fellow travellers, and your own resourcefulness to make the most of your trip. Most importantly, you’ll develop the most crucial trait to successful travels: decisiveness. Any trip laced with indecisiveness is bound to fail, as you’ll spend more time deciding what to do than doing anything. This skill will stick with you throughout your future adventures, and you’ll be thankful for it when your friends can’t seem to make a decision.
No one stands between you and your destination. There’s no family discussions, Instagram photo shoots, or group bucket lists to distract you from the unique culture right in front of you. Instead, you’ll get to immerse yourself in the little things, from observing the nuances in a crowded market to listening to the sounds of a public park. Eat at that hole-in-the-wall restaurant your parents would despise, strike up a lengthy conversation with your favourite market vendor, and take your local friend up on their invite for a home-cooked meal. With your undivided attention on the destination, your solo travel will provide you with some of the most vivid experiences and memories.
Sounds a bit dramatic, right? But travelling alone might just ignite your motivation to travel to every corner of the world. From personal experience, travelling with family or friends doesn’t always give you the most authentic perception of a city or its culture, as you tend to focus on the tourist attractions and “must-sees”. When it’s just you, you have the freedom to visit, interact with, and prioritise anything and anyone, which inherently leads to a more meaningful adventure. And once you’ve seen what you’re capable of experiencing as a solo traveller, chances are you’ll never want it to end. Not to say you’ll never take a trip with loved ones again, but the travel bug is likely to hit you hard and might even have you considering full-time travel.
Words by Anisha Nallakrishnan | GIFs sourced from GIPHY
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