Erratic engineeress

A personal blog fuelled by caffeine and curiosity.

“Should I try it?” – Real talk about solo travel pt. 5

This is a series of honest posts about what solo travel is really like, so please start with part 1 if you haven’t already.

YES – but you don’t have to like it

The answer to that, from me, is a resounding YES. After all of my experience with solo travel, I believe everyone should try it at least once. It doesn’t have to be headfirst diving into it like I did with my trip to Australia, but at least a trip to a nearby town or an attraction you’ve always wanted to see. I believe it is a huge learning experience and will help you assess your level of independence and push you out of your comfort zone for a bit, which is always a good thing.

However, you don’t need to like it and there’s nothing wrong if you don’t. While my boyfriend was on his student exchange in the Czech republic, he decided to visit a castle he really wanted to see by himself. Before that he always went on organised trips for students and although he is not the most social of butterflies, he found he enjoyed a guided tour with friends or strangers more than visiting the castle by himself. For him, the absence of other people to share the experience with overshadowed the experience itself. Although he generally had a good time and didn’t feel bored in the traditional sense, the experience held less enjoyment and he constantly felt like there was something missing. Afterwards he told me it was alright, but he wouldn’t do it again and he didn’t see any particular value in attempting to go on a proper, longer trip all by himself. And that’s OK!

In fact, the so praised and holier-than-thou solo travellers are generally a minority. Human beings are biologically wired to stick in groups: we like to form connections and cultivate personal relationships, because there is safety in numbers. Each of us is part of our chosen tribe of friends and family and most of us choose to start our own families. When you put us into an unknown, potentially risky situation, the survival instincts kick in and most people feel unsettled by new situations. It is no wonder then, that most people prefer to travel in organised groups, with travel agencies that safely guide and plan all there steps. Even independent travelling, where you plan your whole trip by yourself, is the practice of a minority of more experienced or more self-reliant travellers. If my mother weren’t such a person, it would’ve taken me much longer to take that step, let alone to try solo travel.

However, the adrenaline rush of stepping into the unknown is real, and a lot of people thrive in it. Whether it’s business ventures, travelling, adventures sports or more extreme risk-taking, half the people of today are adrenaline junkies in some form. The other half feels uncomfortable in such situations and prefers to play it safer, and why not? Going on holiday and travelling is supposed to be a break from your regular life, a chance to enjoy your time off. The keyword here is enjoyment, and that looks different for everyone.

A 100 people and 200 socks

So, although I’m a firm advocate of trying everything once and believe in the positive power of solo travel, you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t like it or ultimately decide not to try it. Same goes for couchsurfing, volunteer tourism, hitchhiking, backpacking on a budget or travelling to exotic zones, which social media would have you believe is the pinnacle of freedom and modern enlightened humans. The whole point of starting my blog back in the day was to show you what I like to do (particularly in terms of travelling), what the options are and inspire you to at least consider them. However, no amount of social pressure or self-help books should force you to try something you’re really not interested in, and what works for me may not work for you.

Additionally, a lot of people dislike doing specific activities by themselves, which is particularly apparent in the mentality that it’s not worth cooking fancy food for one person, even if you love cooking. While some of us may be inspired to try new things when left to our own devices, travelling alone might have the opposite effect on someone else, which will ultimately make the experience less enjoyable than travelling with companions. To each their own, right? Besides, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: travelling is not some magical activity, which will solve all your problems (here‘s my post on why travelling to find yourself doesn’t work) or remake you into a better person. For some of us it is a medium through which we’ve managed to work through our issues, while for others that can be books, sports, yoga, meditation, crocheting, mountaineering or whatever else, but it is still only a medium – you still need to do the work.

And with that we are slowly reaching the end of my real talk about solo travel posts. If you’ve made it until the end, I salute you! If you’ve decided that solo travelling is something you absolutely need to try, then I wish you all the best in the world and stay tuned for an eventual post with tips for solo travelling (the most important one is to trust your gut). If you’ve decided solo travelling is absolutely not for you, than I hope this gave you a better understanding of the topic and that it was a bit more informative than the usual drivel about how the path of a solo traveller is paved with unicorns and glitter and that you’re missing out on enlightenment if you don’t try it.

This is the long and long of it from my perspective and I’ve tried to be as honest about it as I can, which truthfully wasn’t easy to publish. I hope you liked it! 🙂

Now it’s your turn: what do you think? Have you tried travelling alone or would you want to?

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8 responses to ““Should I try it?” – Real talk about solo travel pt. 5”

  1. Thanks for this important series. What I come away from this series with is that it’s not a decision to be taken lightly but it’s also a great opportunity for the right person. If I ever do it I will refer to this series. Well, if I were seriously going to travel somewhere outside the U.S., especially Europe, I would contact you and pick your brain for advice.

    1. Haha you’d be welcome to ask anything. I mean, it is better not to think about it too much and just give it a try, because you can always go back home and you’re never really alone when you’re travelling, but I really wanted to illustrate that it’s not all good times or easy to start with.

      1. I think you did that well.

  2. One year my husband worked in Alaska and was gone for the 4th of July. (America’s Independence Day)
    I didn’t want to be home alone on that day. I knew there would be many people at Disneyland watching fireworks. So I went really early to make sure I got in. The fireworks start after dark so I had all day to find the best spot to watch the fireworks. All day long I talked to workers and asked where the best spot was to see it. Each person I talked to said a different place, until the last person I talked to told me the perfect place. So I got my place secure and had a great time. It was AMAZING to see the display that year. The perfect place was in front of the flag pole on Main Street. July 4th,

  3. See, you’re never really alone 😁

  4. What a helpful series Petra. I love how you keep it honest and down-to-earth. I have never traveled alone outside of the U.S (my home country) but have always enjoyed it. Even now as full-time-travelers I enjoy a me day. It’s great to have people to share an experience with, but I also love the freedom and introspection I have when doing things alone. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. You’re welcome, thank you for reading! I wanted it to be a guide to people who have never tried it, so they know what to expect 🙂

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