I have recently returned from 8 months travelling solo around Asia and Australia and well I have rarely actually been alone.
I started travelling with two friends for the first 3 weeks when I trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and then continued with one friend for another month around India. But after that I really was travelling solo. As my friend Swatee said farewell in Delhi as I hopped on an overnight train to Mumbai, I was filled with nervous excitement, a new adventure began here… alone.
After 2 months of sharing a room and spending 24 hours a day with the same person I was excited about some alone time (though don’t get me wrong Swatee was the best travel buddy anyone could ask for). I checked into my own room with a TV (luxury) and spent the evening selflessly watching CSI and the Simpsons (available worldwide) and wallowing in my own time. But waking up the next morning after a brilliant night’s sleep I instantly felt alone. Here I was in a foreign country, with weird smells, thousands of people everywhere you turn and I didn’t know a single person for miles around… the excitement of time alone had worn off already and I wanted my travel buddy back.
I checked into a hostel for my second night in Mumbai and signed up for my first Bollywood debut as an extra the next day. Walking into the hostel I instantly met more travellers and before I knew it I was on route to Goa a couple of days later with 4 new friends and heaps of exciting adventures ahead. From that day on I probably spent only a small handful of nights on my own. Everywhere I went I met new friends, other solo travellers, groups of holiday goers, locals and complete randomers from around the world. The life of a solo traveller is very rarely a lonely life. Though as with anything there are highs, there are lows and there are occasionally though very rarely days of complete misery.
Starting with the worst, there has probably been two or three days when I felt totally miserable. Nothing could make me smile, I may have been on a heavenly island or surrounded by new cultures and tasty foods but all I wanted was a hug from mum and dad and to sit on my best friend’s couch with a big mug of tea and set the world to rights. I didn’t know anyone, and those I did ‘know’ I didn’t really know past the usual formalities of where are you from, where are you going, etc.
It could be anything that bring on these moments of sadness, something happens back home and there is nothing you can do to help it, you get sick from dodgy Asian food or you lose your passport and all you want is your home town people to convince you everything will be alright.
But these ugly moments… they only make you stronger! Don’t jump on the first plane home, stick it out, a new day will bring new changes, new positive adventures, new friends and in the grand scheme of things nothing is THAT bad and you WILL get over it!
Travelling alone is expensive and most of the time more expensive than travelling with a friend or group. This is something to bare in mind when budgeting. The cost of a room is generally the same for one as it is for two and you are less likely to get good deals on tours and transport as there is a lot more bargaining power when you are buying more than one.
But don’t let these bad moments make you spend all your money… as I said you are rarely actually alone and are likely to find other solo travellers everywhere you turn who are probably having the same financial problems and willing to bargain with you or even share a room (safety first though peeps).
The Good… or the Great!
Good or even great, doesn’t really describe the infinite amount of pleasure you get from going it alone. For one you are free, truly free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You may have planned to stay somewhere a week, but decide you want to move on after two days… well you can. If you were with a friend then they might want to stay and then you have that awkward compromising situation when neither are really happy.
On top of the freedom to do what you want you are also free to meet whoever you want and then dump then whenever you want… not meaning to be mean… but… you can easily change your plans so as to not have to continue with ‘Miss moan’ or ‘Mr really crude jokes’ constantly tagging behind you. You owe them nothing, upsticks and move on.
Ok so perhaps that seems a little harsh, the truth is I have never really had to do that as just about everyone I met travelling has been a pleasure to be around, I have learnt new things from them, had many laughs and formed new friends who have already lasted long after my Asian travel adventure ended.
Travelling solo certainly has its ups and downs… but then travelling with a friend, a partner or family will have just as many if not more highs and lows. It isn’t for everyone and it is always worth testing your solo self out on a small weekend or week-long trip before embarking on something more long term.
For me I know I made the right decision and definitely now look at travel differently … If I want to go somewhere I don’t need to wait till someone else has the time off, the money or the hunger to visit a certain place… I can just go and DO IT.