“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” Henry David Thoreau
Travelling to some far flung corner of the world where they don’t speak you language can be a daunting process, especially if it is your first time travelling and I think that most people would admit that they would rather have a companion than not but I’m going to tell you why solo travel is so good and why you should give it a go.
My first experience of proper travel abroad (outside of family holidays) was when I was 18 and had just finished school. I flew to Nepal with the plan of doing some mountaineering in the Everest region before travelling round the country with a Christian charity called International Nepal Fellowship for a couple of weeks. The only thing I had booked prior to departure was 2 nights in a hotel which also included an airport pick up; over the next 3 days I was thrown into the deep end of negotiations with tour operators (for a guide and the wage I was going to pay him), taxi drivers and street vendors. The climbing didn’t quite go to plan and I nearly died (that’s a story for another day) but when back in Kathmandu and exploring the city I think that was when I fell in love with solo travel.
Having returned from Nepal just a week later I flew out to Vietnam with 2 school friends with the intention of backing round SE Asia for 4 months before heading off to university (and Sandhurst for me). The first couple of weeks were fine, I was the ‘experienced traveler’ so took the lead but after 3 weeks we started to have disagreements and I started to do day trips on my own, eventually by week 4/5 I decided to cut my ties with the lads and meet up with them 3 months later at the airport. This was probably the best decision I have ever made.
For the rest of the trip I was my own boss, I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and for however long I wanted. There was always a spare bed at hostels for 1 person whereas had I even been in a pair they wouldn’t have had room (the same goes for buses etc). But the most important thing was that I met so many people. If you’re in a group you can stay isolated in it with no need to talk to anyone but if you’re a solo traveler you ‘have to’ talk to people. Virtually everywhere I went I made new friends who I would spend a day or two with before parting ways and then the cycle would begin again at the next hostel, occasionally you would bump into people you had previously met and the whole time I never felt lonely once.
When discussing our trips when we met up again it was obvious that I had visited many more places than my two friends and the reason for this was that I woke up each day and decided what I wanted to do, there was no need to discuss it with anyone and I was never going to fall out with someone because they didn’t want to go there. I had complete control and complete freedom over my life, which in this day and age is a rare quality, and I loved it.
Since my first foray into travelling I have road tripped and Interrailed with friends both of which I thoroughly enjoyed but having just returned from solo travelling in Central America I am once again convinced it is the best way to travel.