As I mentioned in “Why You Should Travel With Friends,” there will always be benefits and drawbacks when hitting the road on your own or with a group. This Top 5 list outlines some benefits of solo travel enjoyed by those of us that head out by ourselves from time to time (or all the time, if that may be the case).
I do what I want
While this phrase makes most people laugh as a result of a certain South Park/Maury Povich episode, it is the solo traveler’s motto. One person would happily tour every church, mosque, and temple in town while another would rather sit by the harbor drinking a beer while journaling and people watching (which is exactly how I spent yesterday afternoon). Both are great ways to enjoy your hard earned travel time, but it’s unlikely that either person would be happy doing the opposite activity day in and day out. When you head out solo, you can do whatever fits your fancy and there is no need to compromise to fit someone else’s idea of a “perfect day.” Super interested in the International Cat Museum down the street? Get it girl. Meow.
Thankfully, no one saw that
Mistakes and wrong turns go hand-in-hand with international travel. With the right attitude, it’s all just part of the adventure. During the two hours spent looking for my hostel in Pucón, Chile I met the coolest local tour owner and had the most kick ass ice cream ever. Yes, ever. Would it have been different if someone else was there stressing out because we couldn’t find the pension? Yes. Do you want someone else’s fate to also be affected when you mix up the ferry dates and can’t leave a small island for another week? No. Sometimes, it’s good that you’re the only set of eyes around.
My budget, my decisions
International travel costs money; potentially lots of it. But while some folks work through $200/day, others get by on $25 (as I did while in Bolivia). Preferences regarding the quality of lodging (hotel room versus hostel bunk), food (sit-down versus take-out), drink (bottles of fancy wine versus crappy beer), etc. are 100% up to the individual traveler—until you’re with a buddy (or buddies) with different tastes. Trying to strike a budget balance is tricky when there are two parties involved, and even more so when you bump to three, four, five… As a “party of one,” you will never feel pressured to spend more than what’s comfortable, or to compromise on quality in the event that you’re the one who likes to splurge. Your money, your call.
What comfort zone?
Need directions to your hostel? Don’t speak a word of the local language? Normally not a very assertive person and feel uncomfortable talking to complete strangers? Too bad, you’re on your own—and that is awesome! There are few things more satisfying than navigating your way through a tricky situation in a foreign land. There’s no one to lean on but your dang self, so you get all the credit that comes along with every day’s successes. Good job, you.
Hello new friend!
Unless you’re a hermit (which you’re obviously not seeing as you’ve decided to have the adventure of a lifetime), you will get lonely at some point while traveling alone. Without the comfort of a friend by your side, you’re much more likely to approach the two Scottish girls at the bar and ask if you can join them for dinner. And who knows, you just may end up spending a few days together, staying in touch, and celebrating Christmas with them and your family back at home (shout out to Lisa and Steph!). From my experience, travelers are a very open and social sort, so the more that you befriend the better (and, the more couches you have to sleep on).