Travelling solo

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The past couple of years I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own. I moved to Hong Kong for a year for work, and while I was there did most of my travels around Hong Kong on my own, also exploring neighbouring cities unaccompanied. Last year I made the move to Brisbane, where again I travelled and explored the place solo. Whenever people ask about travelling on my own, I am always met with the same questions and comments – “aren’t you scared to travel somewhere on your own?”, “don’t you get lonely?”, “what if you get lost, or get stuck with something, don’t you get worried about dealing with that on your own?”, “I’ve sometimes thought about travelling on my own, but I’m too scared to do it!”. Honestly, none of the above comments or questions ever run through my mind when I travel alone. I’m quite an introverted person, who values freedom and am very content in my own company, so travelling solo is actually my absolute favourite thing to do in life.

Below are my top 5 reasons for travelling solo:

1. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. No compromise or negotiation is needed. You have complete and utter freedom. You can choose where you want to travel, where to stay, for how long, what sights you want to see and what activities you want to do. When I went to Singapore last year, I would wake up whenever I chose, got a nice breakfast every morning, went sightseeing, and on my way back, if I saw a shop I liked, I would just waltz right in without out having to ask anyone if they would mind. When you’re travelling alone you have more freedom to act on your urges and impulses as you don’t need to negotiate with anyone, or follow a schedule. And that really is the best feeling, going to a new place and knowing that it is your oyster.

2. Travelling alone gives you a sense of achievement and accomplishment. On all of my trips, I have encountered “travel challenges”. For instance, a few months ago I had planned to go down to the Gold Coast from Brisbane, only to find that all of the train services had stopped working that day. I then ended up catching two busses, a train and a taxi just to get there. Yes, it can be a little frustrating, but these travel challenges end up giving you a huge sense of achievement when you manage to get from point A to point B all on your own. Also, I tend to see these travel challenges as positives rather than negatives. I run my own schedule, so a little mishap isn’t actually a setback. It gives me a way to see more of a place that I hadn’t planned on seeing. It’s quite exciting, not really knowing where you are, what to expect or what you will see around every corner. I take in these unplanned experiences just as much as I would a planned experience.

3. Being alone with your thoughts. This is one of the things I love the most about travelling on my own. The constant solitude and freedom can present you with prolonged opportunities to reflect on life and the world around you. I think these moments of freedom and solitude are so important. Personally, they are the times where I can really engage in a lot of reflection, organize my thoughts, gain clarity and come up with new ideas. For instance, a few months ago I was in the Gold Coast and decided to sit on the balcony, overlooking the ocean, watching the documentary “Before the flood” on my iPhone. The sun was setting, and it was such a memorable moment, looking out into the distance and reflecting on the information I was gaining from the documentary. The setting and solitude really acted as a trigger for thought provocation. I then spent half an hour recording my thoughts and ideas (which I actually posted on this blog, several blog posts down). Such moments of peace, solitude and quiet when travelling can really help you to learn, to grow as a person and make sense of yourself and the world around you.

4. Travelling alone allows for better absorption of your travel experiences. When you travel on your own, you don’t have anyone around to distract you. Not having a distraction allows you to pay more attention. And because you are able to pay more attention, this also means that you’re senses will be heightened. You will be able to better take in your surroundings, what you smell, hear and see. I have been on several walks and nature trails where I have had a companion with me and always found that I would become distracted from everything around me. I would be engaging in conversation, and constantly having to be aware of the other person with me. Whereas when I go on walks on my own, I feel like I gain a lot more from them, especially in terms of taking in my surroundings. I believe travelling solo allows for better absorption of places and experiences, cultures and life around you.

5. Travelling alone changes you for the better. This links to all of the above points. The responsibility of organising your travels on your own, encountering travel challenges, being alone with your thoughts, and being able to absorb your experiences without distraction, all lead to personal growth. You may become more self-aware and more confident in the process, which in turn, should benefit you in the long run. Travel really does change you for the better and that sense of freedom when exploring is a feeling I really can’t put into words.

As with almost everything in this world, there are always cons that come along with the pros. Nothing is perfect. There is one major downside to travelling solo, and that is a lack of companionship in certain situations. Even though I enjoy my own company, there have always been moments during my travels where I wish I could have had someone accompanying me. Moments that would have been enriched, if they had been shared with another person. However, there are ways to make up for this to some extent. You can join meetup groups or even use social dating apps like Tinder. For instance, when I was in Singapore last year, there was one night I wanted to go out for a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant, but didn’t feel comfortable doing this on my own. I jumped on Tinder and made arrangements from there. We went to Lantern bar, an amazing rooftop bar in a really fancy hotel. The bar was beautifully decorated, with a large pool in the middle surrounded by jacuzzi’s, it overlooked the river and you could see the Marina Bay Sands in the distance. My date was great, good chat and good company. And on top of it Maria Sharapova ended up playing in a tennis court beneath us while we sipped our wine and discussed our lives. It was a moment that really added to my overall experience of the trip. A moment that definitely required company in order to be enriched.

If you are someone that doesn’t want to travel alone, and would rather travel with another person, just be careful who you choose to travel with. I would advise going with someone that you know well, someone you click with, someone whose personality you like and understand. If you go with someone that has a very different personality to you, or someone you don’t completely click with, it will most likely impact on your travels and experiences in a negative sense. I once travelled with someone briefly around Australia several years ago. We stayed in crappy accommodation and I was constantly being pushed into social situations I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t click with the person I was travelling with, we had different goals, and it really put a ‘downer’ on my overall experience there.  So if you are going to travel with someone, just make sure it is someone you know will enhance your experience rather than hinder it.

I can’t advise enough what an amazing experience it is to travel solo and how much you can gain from it. Yes I was alone in my travels, but I was never lonely. I don’t regret these solo explorations for a millisecond, and definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon! It is such a valuable experience and I could not recommend it enough.

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