I love to travel alone.
I love the freedom and autonomy, the option to change plans at a moment’s notice, and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I figure things out or overcome a challenge on my own—these are a few of the reasons I love solo travel. But solo travel might not be your idea of a good time. Yes, there are many challenges to traveling alone, but even if going it on your own seems scary or boring, I hope that this post will encourage you to give it a try.
Here are the pros of solo travel, as I see them:
1. You are free to do whatever you want. You can go where you want and change your mind to suit your whims. Because of this, you’ll learn more about yourself, what you like, and how sharp your coping skills are—especially when you’re in the no cell signal zone. Without the ubiquitous connection you have when you’re at home, you will be left to your own devices—and the results can be surprising. With just your thoughts and desires guiding the way, where will you go, next? Your road atlas (get an actual atlas, not just map apps) will seem overwhelming when you aren’t sure where to go next, and the lines will start to blur together. But trust me, you’ll be okay. Being forced out of your comfort zone is a good thing. You strengthen your resiliency and likely learn some new skills, too.
2. Traveling alone is a major confidence-builder. Building on the first point, above, solo travel will give you a serious confidence boost. The day-to-day challenges of finding potable water, food that you can stomach, or a place to sleep for the night all count as mini-victories when you’re on the road (and especially when in tiny rural towns). You become a better navigator, and learn to read weather systems just by watching the sky.
3. You’ll meet more people. When you are part of a couple, people are reluctant to come up to you. When you are on your own, you are more approachable and more inclined to approach others. Whether traveling by van through Colorado or on foot through a small village in Europe, I always make new friends. When traveling with a friend or sweetie, not so much. There’s just something about being a duo—people aren’t as likely to approach you. Not to say that it never happens, but it’s less frequent when you are on your own.
4. It’s easier to cook for one. This may not be the case for everyone, but when traveling in a tiny van, with a small cooler, having just enough to make a pot of soup or stew or whatever for one is a much simpler proposition. Of course, there’s always the chance of meeting a travel companion, for the long or short term, and this presents an excellent opportunity to make collaborative meals.
Some of the challenges you might encounter while traveling alone:
1. You might be bored. Yeah, so what. Traveling alone, especially when driving long, dry, dusty stretches of road (I’m looking at you I-15 south from Las Vegas to San Diego) can activate boredom like nothing else. It’s okay. Being bored is not the end of the world. Plan for this by queuing up some books on tape and podcasts (like this one, or this one) you’ve always wanted to check out. The time you spend alone can be enlightening and enriching—you’ll be able to see problems in a new light and learn more about yourself (see #1, above).
2. You might get lonely. Like boredom, loneliness is not fatal. Loneliness is not a state of solitariness or absence of another human; it’s discomfort. I won’t get all philosophical, here (at least right now), but loneliness is a sign of discomfort or inability to be with one’s self. Do it long enough, or often, and you will get over it. Spend some time getting to know yourself and learning how to enjoy your own company—because, ultimately, you’re the only one you’ve got!
3. Terrifying things might happen. It’s possible that something frightening might happen while you are out in the world. But, news flash: something horrid can happen to you at home, too. Most of the awful things are statistically unlikely (Zombie Apocalypse, Jason finding you in the woods, etc.), but things like getting a flat tire while driving 10 miles down a forest service road as a storm is rolling in and the sun is going down, can happen.
Be sure you have a person, or persons, with whom you share your whereabouts. When I know I’ll be out of cell range, I’ll text a friend and drop a pin or give them the campground/area name and number of days I plan to stay. Before you hit the road, you can prepare for flat tires and other automotive situations. Know how to change a tire, have your vehicle serviced, and sign up for AAA or similar roadside assistance (don’t expect them to follow you down that forest service road, though—especially if you are out of cell range and can’t make a call).
Don’t let the fear of what might happen stop you from going—the benefits and joys far outweigh the possible or imagined things that could go wrong. Oh, and a final note—something, several things, will go wrong, but most things are not Jason-level scary. It will be okay.
I could go on with many more pros and a few more cons to solo travel but in the interest of keeping this post semi-concise, I’ll stop here. If you have more ideas or want to share your solo travels joys with me, drop me a line at hello (at) averagewhitevan (dot) com.