travel

OPINION: I travelled alone for a year. It's completely overrated.

So, I didn’t love solo travel. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it like everyone else who’s done it seems to. Contentious, I know. But I’ll explain.

Last year I spent the whole year travelling. I’d been living in Australia 10 years (I’m American), had just hit 30 and was itching for a change. So, I hit the road.

My ‘finding myself’ adventure started off in Bali – my eyes are rolling too – and then I made my way around the US, Cuba, Mexico and Europe before I headed back to South East Asia.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by sangeeta (@sangeetatatiana) on

Though I often met up with friends or family along the way, and did a few group tours, I often found myself alone. In a foreign city. Totally and completely on my own. And it felt… lonely.

Don’t get me wrong – there were times I felt incredibly alive too (not to mention grateful). Walking the narrow cobblestone streets of Split, Croatia at dusk. Or sitting in a dimly-lit coffeehouse in Vienna, Austria sipping alcoholic coffee and watching Sunday life unfold.

But then I’d have lunch or dinner by myself, explore the city by myself and head back to my hotel or hostel – by myself – and really be craving some company.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by sangeeta (@sangeetatatiana) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Solo travel can give you total freedom to do whatever you please. It’s touted as a major life bucket list item, a rite of passage into adulthood. But, to put it simply, I just don’t think it’s… necessary. Here’s why.

You have to plan everything on your own

Trip planning. Yes, it was fun and exciting browsing accommodation online and reading up on destinations, picturing myself there. But it was also a lot of work.

Plus, as I realised from the times I travelled with friends, there was the collaborative element I missed too when planning for myself. No one else was as invested in the research and trip as I was.

In Cuba, I went to an amazing cave called Cueva De Saturno that the friend I was travelling with had heard about. In Indonesia, I went to Belitung, a remote island the friend I was with then had found on Google. Had I not been with others, I would probably have missed both those incredible places. Or, if I had heard about them, I would’ve been less inclined to venture there on my own.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by sangeeta (@sangeetatatiana) on

ADVERTISEMENT


The thought of sorting the logistics was too overwhelming.

In fact, when both friends left and I stayed in the countries a little longer, I spent my days – and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this – either in my hotel or room, or eating at the same places I’d already been.

You have no one to motivate you 

Which brings me to my next point: when you have no one around you motivating you, you can get away with being as lazy as you’d like. Before a friend came to meet me in Tulum, Mexico, I barely even explored. I stayed in the old part of town and didn’t once venture to check out the new area, 20 minutes away – the part everyone thinks of when they think of Tulum; the part I ended up loving.

In Bali, I was on my own for two months. I stayed in Canggu in a $17 a night room with a rock-hard mattress and a three-generation family chattering away in the courtyard outside (which was actually kind of comforting). I knew there were better spots to stay but the thought of dragging my suitcase along the scorching hot streets to move seemed like too much effort. And so, I stayed.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by sangeeta (@sangeetatatiana) on

ADVERTISEMENT

You can learn more about yourself with people

And then, finally, what really cemented my stance on solo travel not deserving of its hype is this: I learnt more about myself travelling with others than I ever did travelling on my own. Way more.

The ‘self-discovery’ moments everyone talks about with solo travel happened to me not when I was alone, but when I was with friends in a one-on-one situation. They were my sounding board. Without them, I realised my behaviour and reactions had been evaporating into thin air. Traveling with them, I felt as if I was under a harsh spotlight. In the best possible way.

I discovered I could be stubborn, impatient and controlling. When my best friend got food poisoning twice in Indonesia, I got annoyed at her complaining.

Instead of being sympathetic to the fact she was out of her comfort zone – she’s American and it was her first-ever time in SE Asia – and trying to do the best she could, I felt impatient with her. Which made me reflect on myself and realise I needed to practice more compassion. Not just in that situation, but in general.

On a Topdeck tour through the Balkans, I spent the bus rides working on my laptop while the others played card games and got to know each other. Looking back now, I regret not having made more of an effort. Group tours are as much about the group as they are about the cities and sights themselves. I wish I had lived more in the moment. Again, a learning I still think about today.

So, don’t think I’m convincing you to not to travel alone. It could be the best thing you ever do. But if you haven’t done it and feel like you have to, I’m telling you: you don’t. There are so many different ways to travel. Doing it solo is just one of them.

Tags: features , opinion , solo-travel , travel
00:00 / ???