Solo travel may not seem appealing at first, but it is actually one of the most liberating feelings you can get. What backpacking alone gives you is invaluable. Not only will it be the experience of a lifetime, you will grow into a better person as a result.
1) It will push you outside your comfort zone.
While solo travelling is exhilarating, its not exactly comfortable. It can be completely nerve-wreaking to think to yourself, “I am completely on my own!” But being by yourself pushes you to go outside your comfort zone. Even the very act of going alone is being outside your comfort zone. And doing this is really good for you. It makes you into a fearless person who is ready to take on the world. You’ll learn how to be more outgoing, how to take risks, and how to really go for the things you most want in life.
2) You will meet more people
Why? Because you have to. There is no safety of a travel partner whom you always have to talk to. In fact, having a travel partner will just make you ignore the people around you more. When you are alone, you will be itching to make friends, so you will actively talk to people around you. On the flip side, many backpackers will also be more likely to talk to people who are by themselves. It is actually one of the unwritten rules of being a backpacker. So if you see someone who is sitting alone at a hostel, say hello. One day you’ll be in their shoes.
3) You don’t have to compromise with a travel partner
Your travel partner may be really into hiking, but you hate it. Yet you find yourself going through the jungle and sleeping in tents anyway because you had to compromise. But when you are going somewhere alone, you can literally only do things you would enjoy. If you are in love with beaches and only beaches, then you could spend your entire trip on a remote island and not have to listen to a travel partner complain about not going anywhere else. It truly is exhilarating to plan a solo trip. I remember planning mine to SouthEast Asia a couple months ago. I was reading Lonely Planet and writing down all of the things that I wanted to check out. Never had to do anything I didn’t want to do, or go to a place I didn’t care to visit.
4) You can be your true self, or whoever you want to be.
I find that when you travel with your close friends, then you have to live up to your role as “their friend”. What I mean by this is that your friends expect you to act in a certain way, respond in way they would expect, and be basically who you are back home. I find this rather limiting, as who we are back home is not necessarily who we actually are. Back home, we have responsibilities, jobs, school, bills, etc. So who we are in those moments are filtered by things that we may not necessarily want to do. When you are travelling, you virtually have zero responsibilities, so there is no filter. But your friends will look at you weird if you are very different than who you are back home. So sub-conciously you will act in a certain way that your friends expect you to. Travelling alone, you are surrounded by strangers, so there is no one to really judge you for being you. If they do judge you, who cares, you will never see them again anyway. And then there is this notion of being whoever you want. If your true self is someone who is shy, but you want to be someone who is outgoing, then you can be that person while travelling. Why? Because no one knows who you are back home. Travelling is a great way to re-invent yourself to become your best self, and in order to do that, you have to strip away your old qualities that you dislike. It’s nice and easy when you have a clean slate to work with.
5) You can be more spontaneous
Want to stay a few days longer in Chiang Mai? No problem. Want to grab dinner with people you just met at the hostel? Sure, why not. Met some cool people who are heading to this hippie mountain town and invited you to join along? Don’t mind if I do! But, if you have a travel partner who does not want to do any of that stuff, then there is a dilemma. Either they do what you want to do, or you do what they want to do. But if you are on your own, you can make on-the-spot decisions without having to consult anyone. Now that’s freedom!
6) You will learn a lot more about yourself.
What solo backpacking does for you is actually quite amazing. You see, when you are alone, you are forced to be with yourself. This is something that many people avoid constantly, whether it is through being with friends, watching TV, or surfing the web. For some people, the worst thing they can think of is being completely alone. And I admit, it is uncomfortable.. at first. But what you gain from it are revelations about your self that you were never conscious of. It allows you to see how you’ve been living your life, how you want to live it, and what you will do moving forward. If you are lost in life, taking a solo trip is the perfect way to find direction.
7) Travel when is best for you
You can go on your trip whenever is good for you for as long as you want, as you don’t have to wait for the perfect travel partner. Many people I met along the way, I had asked how long they were travelling. The response was “only 3 weeks”. When I asked why, it was because their friend they were travelling with could only leave for 3 weeks. When I asked how long they would like to travel for, they said around 2 – 3 months. Had that person travelled alone, they would’ve been able to go for those 2 or 3 months and whenever during the year that was good for them. Besides, waiting for the perfect travel partner who has the same schedule as you could have you waiting forever!
8) Couchsurfing becomes easier.
Its so much easier to travel long-term when you have places to stay for free. As a couch surfing host myself, I always give preference to solo travellers. Why? Well for one I only have one extra bed, and also I feel more at ease with just one stranger in my home, rather than many. So backpacking alone will give you a lot more opportunities to couchsurf!
9) You could easily fall in love and give it a fair shot.
Of course you can fall in love with someone you meet travelling whether you are with a travel partner or not. But here is a story of my own that explains giving it a fair shot. During a trip to SE Asia, I met this incredible girl. She was beautiful, blond, spontaneous and with the best sense of humour. I quite literally was taken by her. We hooked up pretty fast, as people do in the travelling world, but it was all taken away so quickly because of her travel partner. The girl she was travelling with had a plan for them to leave the next day to the south to explore islands. Had she been travelling solo, she wouldn’t have had an obligation to a travel partner, and we could’ve explored our new found connection. Instead, it was harshly taken away and I never saw her again. Moral of the story, the more people that travel solo, the more opportunity for spontaneous love to take place.
10) It will change you in the most amazing ways
How will backpacking alone for the first time make you better? Well just look at all the reasons listed above. On top of that, you will be more independent, lead a life that you want, go for what truly matters, have a wider perspective of the world, be more cultured, and will have literally hundreds of incredible stories to tell. I also tell people to go on a solo trip to find themselves, as cliche as it sounds. But its true, you will come back more as you than you ever were before. And it will be a you that you actually like!
So I hope these reasons inspire you to go backpacking alone. I promise that you will not regret it, and it may perhaps be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.