You’ve probably met at least one person in your life that’s gone traveling around on their own: South-East Asia, India, West Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, or somewhere else you would never think of going on your own. They’re the lucky ones, right? The ones who have the guts, willpower and charisma to go and make it back alive. It’s a scary, dangerous world after all.
Well, you’re dead wrong. And it’s about time you accepted the facts that there are many thousands (and the number is quickly rising) traveling the world on their own, and not getting mugged, killed, or locked up in jail. Some are even blogging about their adventures for the world to see.
If you’re wondering how and why people enjoy traveling alone to begin with, read my article on that topic here.
I have a friend who explored Europe on his own for a few months. I looked up to him because I couldn’t imagine myself taking on the herculean task of navigating through unfamiliar territory with no one to confide in and nowhere to hide from myself. I looked up to him because deep down, I knew I wanted to give it a shot.
I enjoyed traveling and meeting people and getting lost with friends and family, but never alone. I was a mostly introverted guy who preferred 1 on 1’s to meeting whole groups at a time (honestly, I still do), would get shy when talking to pretty girls and would get irrationally intimidated by strong and confident (but pleasant enough) men. While I’m not a complete party animal and center of attention today (who wants to be that?!), I’ve realized a natural confidence and ease in myself that was missing, despite the education, upbringing and dashing good looks. 😛
If you ever want to gain more self-confidence and lose a decent level of insecurity in yourself that has nothing to do with your body or mind, but everything to do with your soul, go travel on your own and see what happens.
Here are some myths about traveling solo that will keep you at home instead of out exploring our beautiful world:
1. Traveling alone is boring
Nothing could be further away from the truth. Regardless of what type of person you are, one that prefers to spend quiet days lying on the beach with a book or the type that enjoys the company of people to listen and be heard, the beauty of traveling alone is:
The only thing you have to do is whatever feels right at the moment.
So if you can entertain yourself at work, at home or anywhere in the city, you can definitely entertain yourself away from everything familiar.
Bonus: You learn more about what you enjoy rather than always riding on with what other people do.
You also meet awesome, inspiring people along the way. Traveling alone doesn’t mean you’re alone all the time. It just means you’re not with someone 24/7, and you have the freedom to choose to be on your own or to make friends.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ― Jawaharlal Nehru
2. Traveling alone is scary
Fear, as you might have noticed, is an irrational emotion that surfaces when we foresee undesirable consequences. Fear, indeed, has gotten us to survive longer as a species, but today, it has over-reached its survival boundaries and invaded our minds to the point of neuroticism. We go through practically our whole lives breathing fear in and out – spreading and sometimes magnifying it as we interact with others.
If you are a fearful person, then whatever you do outside your comfort zone will be scary.
The good news is, it sometimes only takes one leap to banish your fears and spread the limits of that comfort zone for good. Ever hear the advice: “Do one thing everyday that scares you?” Go figure.
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. Joybell C.
3. Traveling alone is risky and dangerous, especially for women
As I’m not a woman, I have no personal experience to share to help allay your fears. But I have talked with many women from the Philippines, South East Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, who have traveled alone taking planes, buses, jeeps and boats and stayed in hostels, gone camping and hitchhiked with no incident.
First of all, it is always best practice to do a lot of research ahead of your trip. Some cities and countries are reputedly not as safe for solo female travelers (or sometimes any kind of traveler) as others. The internet allows us all to share our experiences with each other through blogs and social media, and reading personal detailed accounts will point you to the right direction. Do not listen to your colleague, grandfather, local news anchor or president: do your own research and find out for yourself.
Once you’ve chosen a place and know which areas to avoid, petty crimes can and will still happen to you if you’re not vigilant. There are some general strategies to observe when traveling alone to avoid being targeted by would-be muggers and thieves:
Dress and look plainly, don’t attract attention to yourself, and be at ease.
A scared, agitated or anxious person can be seen from a mile away, and even more so by people who are looking to victimize someone.
There might be some malicious people on your route, but if you keep a strong face and no nonsense attitude, without looking and feeling so lost and helpless, they will leave you alone and find easier targets.
Always keeping watch on your things, not showing money and gadgets openly (unnecessarily) and blending in are key to an uneventful and peaceful trip across any country.
Generally, I like to choose my own buses, taxis and the like. I hardly entertain the drivers that approach me, no matter how friendly they are. I met a guy last month who was robbed in Tanzania by his taxi driver and his cohorts. It turns out, the one who was robbed is a travel blogger too! Read about his incredible experience in his blog.
Do not wander about on your own at night. Make a friend or two at your hostel if you want to experience the night-life. (This goes for guys as well as girls)
Generally though, there is a lot of bad press and negative impressions about many places that are simply unfounded. The world is a friendlier and safer place than you think.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley
4. Traveling alone costs a lot of money
False! In some places, it’s cheaper to split a room between two friends, but in recent years, with the rising popularity of hostels that have shared dormitory-style rooms, traveling alone can be even cheaper than traveling with a friend (a friend with expensive taste, at least).
If you’re more the adventurous type and don’t mind roughing it a bit, you can invest in a tent and go camping in all sorts of places for a small fee or even for free!
If you’re being stingy about money, maybe spend less on material things and more on experiences. As studies suggest, doing just that has a deeper and longer-lasting effect on our happiness.
5. Traveling alone is tiring
While it does take a lot out of anyone to travel for several hours in a day, there are things you can do to help relieve some of that stress.
Break up your traveling to get to your destination in two or more days, instead of just one.
Spend a night to recharge in whichever city or town is on the way to where you’re going. I do get tired, but I take my naps seriously and nap on buses and airports whenever I get the chance; I prefer to save money and sleep in transit. Who knows, in five or ten years, my preferences might change to match my already-ageing physique.
Don’t bring more than 10kg
After having a harrowing time with too much baggage in the past, I’ve decided to adopt a minimalist travel mentality. Less clothes, less things – basically, if I don’t need it, I leave it. With 10kg, I can walk comfortably for kilometers without much difficulty.
Have a healthy mindset of accepting that which cannot be changed.
In your travels, no doubt you’ve come across nightmarish experiences of missed flights, broken down buses, flat tires, stolen wallets and the like. A lot of our energy gets wasted as we wallow in misery, swim in regret, bathe in blame and seethe with frustration. Once the initial hurdle has been passed:
Accept and adapt to new, unpredictable circumstances.
If there is one trait that would differentiate a good traveler from an average one (uhh, a tourist?), it would be one’s adaptability. If you can adapt to whatever the situation calls for, nothing will faze you – in travel, or in life.
Now, if you were more cause than victim of the mishap, reflect on why it happened and take note of how to avoid a recurrence in the future, and then let it go without any deprecation – towards yourself or otherwise.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” Jack Kerouac
At the end of the day, regardless of what is stopping you from traveling, be it money, fear, expectations or obligations – people have done it with much less money, much more fear, much less expectations of themselves and much more obligations to their families. Perhaps that is precisely what pushed them to take that the reins and steer away into the unknown.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Did you really believe any of these myths? Or were you just living as if they were true without actually researching and thinking about them?
Leave a comment below and tell me what you think about my article, if you want to share other myths you have debunked, if you want to get into a heated online debate or just to say HI! Thanks for reading!