I think there is a single, solemn voice of the solo traveler or vagabonder. Sometimes when I’m out walking, I can barely hear it. Many believe that the solo traveler must reach lonely moments or times when all does not line up or things become desperate. This is true. But I want to discuss the other times. I think there are a few things the solo traveler gains by their travel.
- The sense of being there. There are no interruptions. In the coffee shoppe, eating a bowl of Pho; walking a street in Hanoi. You are there. There is a more immediate sense of being there without having to explain choices or rationalize the why and how of things to another person.
- The feeling of belonging. Yes I am only one but I belong. Not to a group of fellow travelers or backpackers. The bigger and wider thing lets me join. Its the world out there that perhaps welcomes me with either a raindrop or a change in plans.
- Changing things up or down. There is no one really to explain to when you want to change things up. The solo traveler can just make a change and perhaps reap the rewards or pay the disadvantages.
- Responsibility and Accountability. I don’t like those things much. I subscribe to the philosophy that the less responsibility I have the better I am. I also don’t like accountability. I don’t like owing another person something that may change the entire thing.
- Choosing not to. Sometimes the best choice is to choose not to. Not to do a thing which did not impress you or make you want more. Choosing not to is a big thing; but it leads to another…
- Choosing to. This is even bigger. Its like 3 above but with power. You have choice!
Finally, the big gorilla in the room is whether you are okay with solitude. If you are gregarious or fun loving or an extravert you may suffer when the road and its impact strikes. The road less traveled may become a hell on earth for you. If you need someone around a lot of the time; a hand to hold, lips to kiss, a meal to share; you may not be so good at this. Perhaps you will be though. Its hard to pronounce a sentence on anyone and say they would enjoy the solo movement instead of the group decision.
Give it some thought when you plan a trip or a backpack thing. Could you, would you do a solo trip? Perhaps a shorter one to see if its your cup of tea. Maybe you will find out you hate it that you need those lips to kiss and that hand to hold or that companionship to feel.
That’s okay too.
I’ve found that during the quiet times over a coffee or after two beers that a truth emerges for me. A thing I wondered about, cursed, hated, wondered about has had another element added. Its like a lens of a thing has opened and let you see it with a different filter. I must confess that I have never been good around a lot of people. I have done better being alone. So when I decided to retire and hit the road in Asia solitude was not one of the things that worried me. I did have some thing though and perhaps if you consider traveling solo these may be interesting.
I worried about money. Did I have enough money and what is enough money to keep my life going? My take is you worry about it you don’t have enough so after a few days I realized trying to keep a budget of meals and money spent on fun and travel and tours it was worthless. Getting rid of that elephant on my back was huge! It meant money could be dismissed.
I was concerned about the pace of my travel. Was I going too fast, too slow, just right? Since I’m by myself I have no one to satisfy but I have learned a thing abut this. There is no too fast or too slow. If you are uncomfortable with the speed you may be going too fast. Slow down! You will only remember the border crossings and visa permits and nothing in-between. I also arrived at meaningful pace of things which relates to the first thing. In places that are expensive like Japan or Singapore, I would spend limited time. In places that are more reasonable like Vietnam or Cambodia I would spend longer. Of course, Vietnam has a wondrous array of things to do across the country for those spending time.
I worried about choices I made of technology. Everything from the Mac laptop and iPhone to the backpack I’m carrying. What I found out with the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L backpack is that its perfect for what I do but I read a lot of reporting on different backpacks. Unfortunately, the only way you can find out a technology will work sometimes is by using it. Just be careful with electrical and USB things. Different countries use different voltages so be careful out there.
So, the $100 question is,
could I do this solo travel thing?
The answer is I don’t know. Sorry. Crystal ball does not show me what you may be scared about or excel at. You could do a shorter trip and be fine and hit the road for months and be weary of it. Let me ask you a question.
Do you talk to yourself or sing songs to yourself?
Its not important if you do or don’t. I do. I have sometimes longish discussions as I walk on a day or perhaps create new lyrics to some old rock song. If you don’t, no big deal.
Doesn’t help much define whether you would be good or even be able to do this, does it. Don’t believe the blogs that say just try a shorter trip as a solo traveler. There is nothing the same as a week in Colorado and a year crossing Southeast Asia. There are no books and no authors and no tricks and no tips.
Sorry but its the way it is to me. You may find out a month into it you are good! You may find out 4.5 months into it some loneliness or sadness and you need a coping mechanism. May I suggest ice cream in a mall or walking in a market in Hanoi? Its not the other people that will do it for you. At least not for me. It was the finding of a thing so different surrounded by new sights and smells and food that seemed to make the difference.
should I try this solo travel thing?
Yes and No. Yes you may enjoy it. No. You may hate it.