Solo travel was once something I thought I could never do. The thought of being alone in the great unknown was simply an idea reserved for the fearless. I never would have imagined I’d become a solo traveler and now in many respects I prefer it.
A little over a year ago I was talking to a woman I met through my first big travel adventure with friends. She had traveled all over Peru by herself. I told her how I admired that and wished I could travel by myself, but the thought of being alone was kind of terrifying. I could never do that.
“Well, you’re never really alone.” She said. She went on to tell me that you always end up meeting people along the way. Being alone wasn’t an absolute truth. Somehow that had never occurred to me.
Several months later I found myself needing to get away from everything. I needed to be alone. All I had ever known was being with people. Within 1 year I had been on 2 cross country trips with friends, and although they granted me some amazing memories, I wanted to push myself into uncharted waters. I wanted to conquer my fear of being alone. I had realized that in many instances I had inhibited myself from life because I didn’t want to go out and do things without the comfort and security of another’s company.
Once I realized this is what I had to do, I planned a backpacking trip to Costa Rica. While waiting for my flight at the Airport, all alone after going through customs, my loneness felt magnified. I felt the pang of anxiety creep in as I thought about my current situation. I was going to a foreign country I had never been to before, not knowing a soul, and traveling all over the country by myself. Terrifying.
Once I became acquainted with the bus system and stayed at a couple hostels, my uneasiness subsided. I felt confident and capable. I made sure I asked questions about safety wherever I went and didn’t push my luck on impulsive whims.
I also experienced what that woman meant by never really being alone. I began to notice how often I was approached by people, other solo travelers namely. I realized that when you’re already with people, you are somewhat closed off to others and harder to approach, as if you’re in an unpenetrable bubble.
I was able to make some memorable connections with strangers that I don’t think would have ever occurred had I already been traveling with someone. Not only that but I could do whatever I wanted without worry that I was on someone else’s time. If I was hanging out with a new friend and I wanted to do something else, that was ok. I simply just did that. There was no obligation toward another person’s wants and I enjoyed that freedom fully.
There were times, no doubt when I wished I had a friend back home to share special moments with. When I’d be walking along a quiet path and feel like I was the only person on the planet. Those were times when I really felt how far away I was. I’d acknowledge that, but instead try and be grateful for this moment of solitude, because so many times this was what I had been asking for.
I feel that I returned with a new sense of independence. If I can backpack in a foreign country for the first time alone for a month, I can do anything. I felt motivated by other woman travelers who had trecked all over, and felt so rewarded when unsure travelers told me I had encouraged them to solo travel as well.
I found an entirely new support system of empowerment through solo travel. There is value in both traveling by yourself and with others. They both offer something different, however if you choose to go it alone, remember, you’re never really alone.