You always told me that traveling alone was a good way to grow as a person but when we met I wasn’t sure you were right. Now, a handful of years later (and quite a lot more traveling under my belt), I would have to say I agree with you more. Now I might not believe that everyone should travel in the same way, but there is something about traveling alone that is very different from traveling with a buddy.
While I have also done entire trips with friends, I have found that traveling alone fits my own travel style, giving me space to breathe when I want to be antisocial.* However, traveling alone can mean one of two things for me: being ‘alone’ all of the time or traveling over longer periods of time and meeting up with different friends along the way. Either way, I don’t actually spend a lot of time alone because I am always constantly interacting with people. Let me explain how I travel ‘alone’ a bit more.
Traveling alone all of the time
For example, this past Semana Santa I planned a trip to go to Haarlem, Netherlands and Paris, France alone. The entire itinerary was planned by me, around what I personally wanted to do. However, in The Netherlands I stayed with some friends (who were working most of the time) and met up with another friend who lives in a nearby city. I interacted with my wonderful hosts when I could, but the main purpose of my visit was for me to hang out with myself and explore.
Then in Paris I stayed with a friend of my mother’s. He is very kind and we spent mornings and evenings together (aka breakfasts and dinners). He also made suggestions of places for me to see in the city and some cheap places to eat well. The purpose of this trip was for me to visit museums, something I don’t actually like to do with other people unless it is a small museum or our museum styles are really in sync. The whole trip in general included other people, but was based around what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it (aka my travel style).
Traveling over longer periods of time and meeting different friends
I am lucky enough to live in a place where a month off in August is normal, so this summer I took advantage of my time-off to travel around. I stayed with a bunch of different friends in multiple different places and countries. In some cases this transition almost overlapped as I went from one city/one house to the next, but in other moments I had extended periods of time to myself. This alone travel time allows me to reflect, think, and appreciate the time that I have.
Joining up with friends for shorter periods of time also makes me more likely to say ‘yes’ to whatever sort of plan they are cooking up. If I know I will only see someone for a few days I am usually more than happy to make a big dinner with them or go out dancing every night than I am if we are hanging out for four weeks. When the time together is shorter, I am constantly reminded of how valuable it is.
All that being said, I don’t tend to go off on big journeys to unknown places without any sort of contact (be it a friend of a friend or a couchsurfer), but when I spend the night in a new place, I also tend to meet people. Train rides, bus trips, and hostels are all places where I have met people who have evolved from strangers to friends in a short period of time. I know that there are people who like to go off into the wilderness alone for a week or who only want to travel with their best bud. This all goes back to your personal travel style and what works best for you. Consider trying out new things if you haven’t had the experience before to see how you can grow from traveling alone.
*I am also lucky because my friends now know me well enough that they don’t worry if I am reading a book while they are talking or go for a walk by myself.