“Hey man, have you booked your ticket to London yet?”
“Yeah, about that…I haven’t, I decided I’m not going to go.”
“What?! We’ve been planning for weeks, we’re supposed to take off in a month!”
“I just got too much goin’ on right now man, it’s just not the right time. We’ll go next time, I promise.”
I’m sure many of us have experienced this before, it’s nothing new. You and your friend (or friends) come up with this amazing trip idea, maybe to Europe or Southeast Asia, to celebrate a major life milestone, a college graduation or maybe an engagement. You spend weeks planning where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to eat. Adrenaline is coursing through your body. Excitement and anxiousness become all too familiar feelings, you’re ready to board that plane and leave the world you know behind. It’s down to the wire and your friend…BAILS ON YOU. They give you some lame excuse along the lines of, “Something came up,” or “I’m just too busy,” or even more simply, “I don’t feel like going anymore.” You freak out, you don’t know what to do. You can’t find anyone who wants to take the place of that (said) friend. Have all those weeks of planning been for nothing? Rest assured, all is not lost. You CAN still go on your trip. And you don’t need your friend to come along to enjoy it.
If I’d have waited all those times for my friends to come along, I would have never gone anywhere. I wouldn’t have backpacked my way through Europe and I definitely would not have made it to Africa. Lesson #1, if you wait for others, you’ll never go anywhere. There are so many places in this world to go and only so much time to experience it all. My bucketlist is miles long and I don’t have time to wait around and have people tell me that they’re finally ready. If I want to go somewhere, I’M GOING.
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Elliot
I refuse to wait for others. This is my dream and I won’t let anyone stand in the way of me achieving it. If you’ve been putting off your dreams of traveling because you’re waiting on others, here’s my advice to you: JUST GO. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Let the wind fill your sails and just go wherever it’ll take you. Traveling by yourself can be just as if not more exciting as traveling with friends. And once you start, you’ll never stop.
I’m not the first to say this, but solo travel can be scary. It forces you to step out of your box and out of your comfort zone. Solo travel forces you to live, I mean really LIVE. There’s no safety net to fall on if you fail. You’ll experience the ups and downs of travel. Some days will be so amazing that you’ll think that if you were to die right then and there, you’d die happy. And some days will just be down right shitty. You might miss the train from Geneva to Brig because the plane that was supposed to get you to Geneva four hours before the train departed actually got you there thirty minutes beforehand. You might have to wander all around the city at night to find a place to sleep because the last available bed in the hostel you wanted to stay at suddenly became unavailable. And as luck might have it, there’s a convention in town, so guess what? There are no beds available, ANYWHERE. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In my opinion, everything that makes solo travel scary is also everything that makes it exciting. You’ll have experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have had if you had just stayed at home. You’ll meet people that you never in a million years thought you’d meet. And you know what’ll happen? You’ll get along! And you’ll talk for hours about anything and everything as you sip on wine in the Tuscan countryside or over beer in some hole in the wall bar in Seattle. So is it worth it? You bet your ass it is.
When you travel solo, you’re on your time. You don’t need to abide by anyone’s schedule but your own, which in reality will be non-existent. You don’t need to check-in with anyone You don’t need to ask anyone if they’re okay with eating at some place or doing something that you’re interested in. No consensus needed when you travel solo; you can do whatever you want to do when you want to do it. You want to go bungee jumping? Do it. Skydiving perhaps? By all means, go for it! I did it. Maybe you want to get a taste for chapulines or chinicuiles in Mexico City or try that deep fried tarantula in Cambodia? Well you can. No one is going to tell you no, and no one is going to keep you from doing so.
When you travel solo, you don’t need to worry about actually being alone the whole time. It’s quite easy to make friends. Just learn how to say hi and talk about something interesting. This is actually my favorite part of the whole solo travel experience, meeting people, new people, and being immersed in a culture previously unknown to you. I enjoy hearing about other people’s life experiences, their hopes and dreams for the future, and what they enjoy doing in their spare time.
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” – Life Motto from the Secret Life of Water Mitty (2013)
I mean, that’s really what it’s all about in the end isn’t it? To break down barriers and get a better understanding of each other.
So if you’re still thinking about solo travel. Stop. Just do it. Go explore the world on your own, it might just surprise you. If in the end, you find that it’s not for you…then oh well. At least you can say you did it and cross it off your bucketlist. No one can take that away from you. Just book your ticket, grab your backpack, and leave any inhibitions, misconceptions, and prejudices you may have at home, and travel.
*This post is dedicated to my friends Devin Ballif, Chuck Jackson, Gaëlle Munsch, Gaël Payet, Nicola Argirò, Nic Svetman, Lena Adams, Quinn Radway, and Lalo Téllez. Traveling wouldn’t be the same without you guys.