Because of those concerns, until two years ago, I didn't even think about traveling solo. It was out of the question. Danger, lonesomeness and being broke in a new place sounded like a miserable time, not the adventure I wanted. So friends and I would make plans. And those plans literally always fell through. Sometimes because my friends couldn't take the plunge. Other times I landed a cool job. So, despite a very real desire to go abroad, I stayed rooted in the States.
And then one day, walking through New York, a friend said "If you want to travel so much, why don't you stop talking about it and just do it?" Sounds kind of rude doesn't it? Except this was said in my best interest. Because for years I was talking about how much I wanted to travel. And I was waiting for someone to actually stick to the plan we made. Because of that tough-love question, it dawned on me, that if I, and I alone, didn't stick to the plan, I was never going to make it abroad. I had to stop waiting for someone to be my partner in crime. I had to be my partner in crime. Me, myself and I, or my passport would never get another stamp.
So I took the plunge and moved to China. Then I tested the waters further and went to Hong Kong by myself. Then I traveled all over China. And with that experience under my belt, I now have no concerns about going to Thailand by myself next month. All those things I worried about? Here's what I've learned:
- Danger- Traveling alone is as dangerous as you make it. Your street smarts keep you safe at home and they'll keep you safe abroad.
- Being lonely- Last August I spent two weeks backpacking alone through five different cities in China. I stayed at hostels and ended up meeting tons of incredible people. So many that I literally couldn't get a second to myself. You actually have a better chance of getting time to yourself if you're traveling with someone.
- Expenses- Traveling alone doesn't have to be expensive at all! Choose to stay in hostels and it's actually cheap! And don't worry, it's not even roughing it. As more and more people board planes in search of adventure, more hostels open, increasing competition and therefore, amenities. There are shockingly nice hostels like this one in Bangkok. I've only ever stayed at one not-so-great hostel, and that was because there was literally no other option in the entire city I was in.
Through my solo trips, I've discovered that traveling alone is unbelievably rewarding. Sure, you depend on local strangers and that's nerve-wracking. But locals will see that you're flying solo and they will amaze you with their kindness. They'll send you a local meal they think you should try. They'll help you get a taxi. They'll make sure you catch your flight. You'll literally be taken care of by people you'll never see again. People whose language you don't even speak!
And then you'll get to your hostel and make the most amazing friends. You will belong to a mini UN; I went to the Great Wall of China with people from England, Zambia, and Zimbabwe; I traveled around Hangzhou with new Dutch, Brazilian and Chinese friends. When you travel alone, you're more open to the world around you and then it seems like the whole world opens up to you in return.
That's why I travel alone. And why I suggest you take the leap into solo travel as well.