The Advantages of Traveling Alone

People often ask me why I travel alone. But when I travel alone, I always meet people along the way. So is that really traveling alone? Even when I do meet people on the road, sometimes it’s not an ideal experience.

So if you’ve been wondering whether you should travel alone or with a friend, here are a few things to consider.

First, ask yourself what is the purpose of the trip? If you are you looking to gain a specific experience or learn something, then I highly recommend going alone. Perhaps you’re visiting a non-profit or learning something like a new language that may be a difficult experience to share with someone who doesn’t have the same goal in mind. So if the trip is goal-oriented, focus on what it is you want to achieve and whether you can do it with another person.

For example, when I traveled to Bali, I wanted to learn to free-dive, so I went there with a specific frame of mind to accomplish this. While I was there, I met like-minded people and made some friends.

If your travel partner has the same mindset: to achieve a goal. Then, go for it! But make sure you agree on how you will allow each other to achieve his/her goal or you might return home feeling disappointed.

Often when you go on a journey, you’ll meet people along the way. Then the question becomes: should I tag along with this person or continue on my own? This is a tough decision to make.

When I was in Indonesia, I remember meeting a girl who was about to return home after six months of travel, with four of those months spent hanging out with a guy in Thailand, rather than ticking off the countries she wanted to visit. Eventually, they broke up and she continued to Indonesia. She told me that she regretted the decision as she’d missed out on the travel experiences she really wanted.

If you are traveling to learn about yourself or have some time away from others (such as an ex or an old job), it may be best to kindly pass up the opportunity to hang out with another person. Take time to figure out what you are trying to accomplish, which may be revealed through personal experiences such as climbing mountains, making new friends or other experiences like yoga/meditation.

The best way to make your mental state worse is to add a serious “relationship” into the mix. Focus on yourself and where you want to be at this point in your life. It may be one of your only chances to enjoy such freedom.

Also, keep in mind that asking a stranger who might be from a different country to tag along is going to bring with it a lot of other challenges that you might not foresee. So unless you are willing to open up this pandora’s box, I highly recommend going alone.

But if you think you’ve developed a special connection and are open to inviting someone onto your path, then here are a few rules to follow:

  • Don’t pick the first stranger you meet. There are a lot of people traveling, so take it slow and don’t jump in head first, as you may have little idea about who this person really is.
  • Make sure you set expectations upfront about what you want to do and achieve.
  • Try a few days together before planning a long trip, call “time-outs” to take space, and have an “out”. That means that if you feel uncomfortable or don’t like how it’s going, you can both leave at any time.
  • Lastly, let someone else know who you are hanging out with and leave your details or post regular updates about your location. Not to alarm you, but lots of bad things happen in foreign lands. I can’t tell you how many guys I met while traveling through Southeast Asia who had one goal, which was to meet girls.

When I decided to travel to Africa, I wanted to achieve my goal of visiting 20 countries and various non-profit organizations. I met a lot of people along the way – some were great, others not so good. I made a few mistakes by moving too quickly with people or trying to find friends but quickly learned to chill out. I also realized that I needed to gauge them, learn how others felt about me, and decide whether to stick around a bit or keep going.

You’d be surprised about the preconceived notions people have about Americans, so you have to be careful. Remember that people are coming from different places and cultures, so you need to take the relationships slowly and in your stride. Luckily, I met some dear friends during this trip who I’ve remained in contact with and feel that it’s these non-romantic relationships that last the longest and are one of the best aspects of travel.

At the end of the day, traveling alone or with someone else depends on your objectives and mindset, and is a decision that only you can make.

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