“We got a lot of hope and the best intentions
Stuck inside of our own conventions
There’s nothing I could say to you
That means as much as what I do
Oh woah oh
Where you wanna go oh
It’s about that time, that you and I
Ditch this town, start living right”
~ Wanderlust by Nick Gallant
(In Part 1, I detailed the apprehensions and thoughts I had prior to undertaking solo trips. Ultimately, all my trips had turned out fantabulous and the worries were always for no reason!)
This is Part 2, and now, I shall try to explain the merits of travelling alone and why it is so addictive for me. Of course, solo travel is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes (or more like rarely), you might wish for someone to be around you and I will also pen this down.
So, let’s get started. First off, let’s try to understand why I love to travel alone!
- Flexibility: To put it nicely, I regard myself as an independent person. In a less favourable way, it might also mean I am selfish. And travelling alone allows me to be selfish. It grants me the flexibility to do whatever I want, whenever I want. There is no need to compromise on the transportation options, choices of accommodation, places of interest to visit, activities to engage in, type of food to indulge in and so on and so forth. In that sense, I feel liberated when I travel alone. Solo travel allows me to feel truly free – and freedom is so enticing!
- Meeting people: Okay, this probably sounds like an oxymoron. Don’t solo travellers travel to be alone? To some extent, that is not wrong. However, at the same time, we do meet so many more people in doing so! While travelling with friends allows you to hide in the company of each other, being alone challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and to interact with other people. And after awhile, you begin to realise that it isn’t too hard. After all, a solo traveller naturally gravitates towards other solo travellers. And trust me when I say that – for I am an introverted person, who tends to feel uncomfortable around strangers.
As a result, I have met so many people, that I otherwise would not have met if I had travelled with friends. And for me, that has been really great! Together we have shared and bonded over the best and worst of our travel experiences. The most important part of all, for me, is that we get to understand and know each other’s personal stories. Whether it is a short vacation from work, a gap year after graduation, a yearlong work-and-travel holiday or an indefinite sabbatical from the humdrums of working life – it does not matter, as wanderlust and passion of travel unites us together. What matters is that we find solace in each other’s like-mindedness in pursuing a nomadic lifestyle. And very often, it reminds me on how inadequate I am living my own life and it spurs me on in the pursuit of living a better life (as defined by my own terms).
- “Me-Time”: With all the distractions in the world today, “me-time” is becoming exceptionally rare. Solo travel compensates these “me-time” back to you in abundance. Stripped off your technological gadgets, it allows you the opportunity to introspect, to wander amidst your own thoughts, to take stock of life, to find your inner peace or just simply, to relax and not worry for a moment. As a result, I found I have grown more comfortable within my own skin, by acknowledging myself for who I really am as an individual. There is nothing wrong in being alone, and I am now more confident in doing things alone. Furthermore, more often that not, I find that we need not worry about what other people think. People are often too self-absorbed in their own activities to even take notice of the people around them.
Solo travel is not fine and dandy all the times. At times, it could prove to be demoralising and dampening. Based on my experiences, these are some of the times when I longed for people to be around me.
- Falling sick: I enjoyed binging through the street delicacies of Malaysia; but unfortunately, the foreign food I ingested did not agree with my body and I fell ill at Malacca. Vomiting and having diarrhoea in a foreign land alone – it’s just terrible! Even when I could muster up enough energy to walk to the nearby food court to buy some lunch, I instantaneously felt nauseous when the smell of food invaded my nostrils and my stomach became queasy. With a still empty stomach, I trudged slowly back to the hostel, stopping on the way back to buy a meagre quantity of bread. And after that, I pretty much spent the whole day feeling terrible on bed, only getting up to visit the toilet (puke and shit!), or to the nearby provision shop to rehydrate myself on ice-cold 100-Plus!
- Stress situations: Unfortunately, the Eurail pass I purchased proved to be more of a hassle than a boon when I tried to book a train ride from Paris to Madrid. To cut the long story short, I had to scour high and low for alternative travel options, before settling on a 17-hour long bus ride departing at 2pm and arriving at 7am the next day. What a torturous bus ride alone!
Furthermore, sometimes, two brains are better than one. In Penang, I had arrived at the bus terminal 15 minutes early to board my bus to Malacca. I had found the right bus without much hassle, but it was unattended at that moment. Hence, I decided to sit a short distance away and while waiting, I proceeded to filter the photos on my camera. Engrossed in the activity, it was only through the corner of my eyes that I noticed the bus had driven out of its bay, and was heading onto the main road! The result? A 50 Ringgit taxi ride to catch up with the bus at the next bus terminal, and I was left to rue on my own stupidity during the 30 minutes journey.
- Group activities: I guess some activities are meant to be completed in a group. I remember strolling through the cobbled streets of Porto, and noticing many locals having a splash of a time (literally) – by jumping from the Luís I Bridge into the Duoru River! I was really eager to join in, but with my valuables and passport on hand, I lack the spontaneity to dive headfirst into the river.
In another instance, I was at Hollywood. I am definitely not a party animal, but I believe very much in immersing in the local culture. And in Hollywood, there’s no better way to do so than to visit the Sunset Strip clubs, as Hollywood is all about the glitz and glamour, ain’t it? However, without company, I decided the experience would be infinitely more awkward than fun, so I decided to forgo the experience.
In the end, there are always bad days when you travel alone. Likewise, there are always bad days when you travel with company. Hell, there are always bad days in life. Hence, instead of focusing on the negatives of solo travel, my opinion is this: Relish, savour and appreciate the unforgettable and best moments. As for the bad times, at that point in time, you might frown upon the experience. But in hindsight, you will probably look back at the moment fondly and find it bittersweet, just like I do :)
I am aware that there are many “7 reasons why you should travel alone” articles floating around the internet these days. And I fully agree and resonate with the points made in these articles. However, my personal opinion is that these articles could be a bit presumptuous at times – by suggesting that solo travel is the best way to travel. After all, don’t people have different preferences to living life, to having different passion, hobbies and interests? Similarly, don’t people having different travel inclinations, likings and styles? Hence, while I continually rant about the positives of solo travel, I recognise that solo travel might not be for everyone. Ultimately, I think the crucial point that I want to make is this: If you think that solo travel is not for you, don’t do it! But if you have the desire to travel alone but are bogged down by your apprehensions, just ignore your worries and do it! I am certain that you will find the experience invigorating and perspective-changing! If not, at the very minimum, I think you’ll find the experience interesting and different from what you have done so far!