The first time I went abroad I was traveling alone. My itinerary consisted in three countries during 25 days: Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I must say, for a person who was never outside Brazil it was quite something (Africa??). And I confess that until then my experience in traveling had been so far mostly in beaches, so, just picture it.
Three things have always followed me since I know myself as a person: my will to know the world (my curiosity is bigger than myself); the word impossible does not make part of my dictionary and; the fact that I speak English since I was ten years old. Those three facts helped me a lot and still do! I consider myself a very independent person and sometimes the best travel companion you can have is yourself.
I OFTEN hear from people: how can you travel alone? Don’t you miss someone with you? How is that you react by being in a place that people don’t even speak English? What if something goes wrong? Well…here it goes a list from what I think of traveling alone. I’m not saying I always travel alone, sometimes I travel with people I have great affinity (and that should be a very important point in every trip you plan), but I may say, that one of the best things of traveling alone is that you get to know yourself better and I know it’s sound daunting the first time, even a challenge, but here are some good reasons why I think everyone should try it, whether you’re married, single, introverted, young, on your 50’s. It does not matter.
BUDGET and CALENDAR: why planning is important
Sometimes you want to travel with someone. But not always close friends are with available time, or they don’t share the same passion or curiosity about the destination you want, or maybe don’t even are with budget for that trip at that moment. So, plan your trip and go. Don’t wait for the others. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you. I find always comforting to plan a trip whether you’re traveling with someone or alone. You begin to live it months earlier. Every day counts. By the time you arrive at your destination, everything is new but also, you get that feeling: wow, this is exactly what I was waiting for…or, well, this should be expected, or even, yep, kind disappointing.
But the thing is, you have an idea of what you’re waiting for. No big surprises in expensive neighborhoods or dangerous places. No surprises about until what time the places are open or what kind of food you will eat. Yes, to plan your trip is good. And I say that specially because you can also have an idea of how much money you will spend. How many euros, dollars, reais, whatever is the place. And this detail is really important, not to say extremely. If you go abroad, and choose some city within Europe, depending where your home is, you will have to multiply this amount 4 to 5 times your currency (Brazil for instance).
If you choose places like Argentina or Colombia, 1 to 2 times less. Plus, places like desert of Morocco or distant beaches at Greece…do they accept credit cards? Maybe, but it’s always nice to take money with you. Always. You know that extra? Bring it on. You may need it.
IS IT DANGEROUS?
We always should be careful about traveling. And if you’re alone, double the attention. I live in Brazil, so here in order to live well, I have always to keep an eye on my back. Which is good for being caution in every place I choose to travel. It does not matter if the destination is the safest place on the world. Watch out. There is always an opportunist waiting the chance to con you. Pay attention at the airport. One of the easiest places to get caught. Specially if the airport is not the most organized one.
Pay attention with your bags. Tag it with your name. Always share the information about where you are going with someone close to you. Let people know where you’re heading to. Careful with taxis on airports way out. Check for the ones that are authorized. And (this is really important), depending on how far you’re from your destination, ask how much it would be that ride BEFORE get into the taxi. Some prices are abusive.
If your choice is to take the bus or tram, read before about the right ones to your destination so you don’t go to the wrong way and get lost. That’s why, again, planning is always good. The more information you have, the more ‘safe’ you’re. And last, but not least, the travel insurance. Do it, you never know what may happen and this may come handy.
The FREEDOM of Traveling Alone
I personally think freedom is one of the best feelings a human being can ever have. Specially if you are the kind of unrestrained one. And to travel alone OFFERS YOU that feeling. Why? To begin with, you DON’T have to give explanation of whys and because to anyone. It’s your time. Your trip. Your destination. You’re the master of your time and of your freedom.
You can wake up at 12:00 pm and go to sleep at 9 pm. It does not matter. The only person you have to be aligned with is yourself. Make up your time. Enjoy every second, whether that be on nice sheets of a 5 star hotel or being in a bar until 5:00 am. I personally wake up early, because whenever I visit a new city or country, I like to enjoy at the most. Wake up early, sleep late. That’s my way to live things. And I’m also like this when I don’t travel.
So, I think for you to enjoy that part of the trip more, add a bit of discipline in your habits, you will indulge yourself with whatever makes you happy. Pick 3 days on a beach doing nothing, or 5 days within an Oktoberfest! The whole point of traveling alone is to be spontaneous, not a robot.
ARE YOU SHY? LOSE IT
Are you a shy person? If so, this is a great way for you to start not to be a shy person anymore. Actually, this can be a great exercise for you to start to get to know yourself better. I know that for some people is unthinkable to travel alone. But if you are reading this article so far, this is a good beginning. And if you think that going abroad is a bit too much, start with that city near you that you’ve always wanted to know, but never had the opportunity to. Maybe one hour from home. Or a domestic flight.
Think about it as an adventure! Because it is! And it’s exciting. Very. A massive way to start to talk with people you would never imagined to and live things you also didn’t realize you wanted to. Begin slow…step by step, you will make it. And when you realize, to travel alone will be part of your life.
NEW FRIENDS (IF YOU WANT)
There’s always the chance when traveling alone to meet someone or not. It depends on your will. I find interesting to get to know people from other cities and countries. I may say that today part of my friends live abroad. Traveling alone can be a trip with new friends or a trip completely solo. It’s up to you.
People from other countries usually love to meet Brazilian people. We have this happy and contagious vibe and we’re easy going. We’re nice people Plus, a lot of people out there also travel alone and long to meet new people and make new friends, and maybe, you can even fall in love … love is everywhere
Some people don’t care about showing in pictures. So, if you’re the kind the travels alone and only care about photographing the place, or, don’t even care about it, that’s cool. But nowadays, I would say almost EVERYONE likes to show up in pictures. Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp profile pictures, you name it. And if you travel alone, that can be quite an issue depending of your point of view. You can ask that tourist over there to take a picture of you. Or you can have that stick that will follow you everywhere.
Also, we have the super cameras, iPhones and Androids with splendid selfies (or not). But there’s nothing like a person you know taking a good shot of you. The right spot, the right angle, the perfect moment. Unless you have someone traveling with you that don’t take good pictures at all … But if you love photography as I do (not only selfies), you will spend a huge amount of time taking pictures, because you can. You have all the time in the world. It’s a pleasure. It’s a discovery. It’s a moment you will remember every time you look back to that picture. It’s a new feeling.
It’s your emotion completed channelized in your picture. With no one there to stop you. No distractions. Only you and the camera. It’s magical.
you can do things solo
You have yourself. So no, you’re not alone. It’s time to discover things about yourself. To go solo in a trip makes you wonder so many things that you don’t have time to feel alone. This time will make you learn how to be alone on a stranger land on your terms, and this fact will help you for the rest of your life. You will understand that you miss a lot of things back home and you will appreciate it even more.
Once you realize you can do things solo, you realize you can do anything that you want. You become a different person. If travels with people we love makes us better persons, than traveling alone makes us super-better persons. Out of the comfort zone, you will understand your individuality. Give yourself a chance.
YOU’LL BE A BETTER TRAVELER, NOT A TOURIST
Of course if you’re traveling the first time to places like Rio de Janeiro you will want to go to the 10 top places like Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Copacabana Beach, etc (even if you already know), because these are places you have to go, even though they’re touristy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to be up to it, because in places like that, Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, etc, you will always have to be prepared depending on the season you travel, for the long lines to get to it. It’s touristy, it’s nice and everyone wants to get a bite of it.
BUT, apart from the known places, I think that to get to know the city you choose from a different perspective is always interesting. And that’s why I’m sure planning is always good. I don’t know about you, but I love to explore the city. The night, the restaurants, bars, food, street market food, supermarkets and even drugstores. I love maps. For me to take a map, whether on cell phone or paper, it’s a pleasure. To take the wrong street and discover a new place you didn’t plant to, can be exciting, and adventure, a bliss. Sometimes things go completely different from our plans, and still feel soooo good.
Instead of judging people, you will realize you may need them. To be patience and kind in a foreign land is the key for a successful trip. You’re the master of your destiny. Make it worth it.
YOU SEE THINGS IN A DIFFERENT WAY
One of the reasons I wrote this article is because I believe EVERYONE SHOULD travel alone at least once in their life. You feel nostalgia about places you’ve never been before. You start to pay attention in little things that in your everyday life you don’t have the chance to do it. Things like the chirping of the birds, a kindness gesture of the person next door, sunsets and sunrises, the flavor of that ice cream suddenly never felt so good. And why is that? It’s an empowering moment in your life. Out of blue everything is about you and only you. Your decisions, your wants, needs, feelings. All the actions in this solo trip will be meaningful and they will last longer.
The way you interact with people will be different. You will pay more attention in things, be a better observer. You will learn so much more about yourself, and will face new challenges every day. Take risks, talk to strangers, try to learn new languages, go to operas, walk and sleep at the parks, sink your feet in the snow, go swim naked, explore the night, take the bus, go to museums, get drunk, kiss, experience the local culture, and kiss again. All the things that you thought you were not able to do, you are able to.
Live the moment fully. And, don’t let anyone step on your way. You can do it. Everyone can. Once Anaïs Nin said: “The unknown is my compass”. I make her words my own.