On my own at Iguazu Falls, Argentina
I’ve been labelled a solo traveller a lot. “Solo female travel” is a big label in travel blogs, and a lot of my favourite bloggers are indeed solo female travellers. Of the 87 countries I’ve been to, I’ve travelled on my own in 52 of them. I love travelling on my own, and I’m proud that I’ve tackled a lot of adventures by myself. Some of my best memories have been as part of solo trips: looking out over Cape Town from Table Mountain, flying over the Himalayas of Nepal, wandering through the streets of Rome, spending the nights stargazing in Chile. This year alone, I travelled solo to Portugal, South Africa, Zambia, Spain, and Ireland. Travelling solo has made me stronger, smarter, and more confident, and I really cannot recommend it enough (here are some tips if you’re thinking of doing it).
Beer for one (and selfies) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
However, I also think it’s totally okay if you don’t want to be a solo traveller. In fact, I have a bit of a secret: I often travel solo because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me… maybe their schedule didn’t work or their budget didn’t align with mine, but I wanted to go on the trip anyway. That’s not always the case – I often plan trips without even considering asking someone else to come with me, because I really do love solo travel. I wouldn’t take back my months travelling on my own through Europe, Asia, Central America, or South America for anything, and I’ll continue to travel on my own.
Christmas beers with my sister Zalie in Vienna, Austria
Sometimes, though, I don’t want to travel solo. A beach holiday by myself, for example, isn’t high on my list of “must-do”s for 2015, despite the fact that I seem to have hit up a lot of honeymoon destinations on my own in the past, and I have enjoyed many beach holidays on my own before. And when I picture my dream trips for 2015, either a train journey through Central Asia or a road trip through the Balkans, I picture somebody by my side, be that a friend or a family member. When I went to Porto earlier this year on my own, I didn’t feel lonely; with plenty to do and lots of great staff members at the hostel, I really enjoyed my week there. The solo trip I took to Alicante, Spain in the summer, however, left something to be desired; although there were great people at my hostel, I didn’t really click with anyone, and the hot days left me with little to do but sit on the beach by myself. I loved the weekend I just spent in Limerick on my own, but I probably would have wanted a dinner partner by the fourth or fifth day. Had I been there a few more days, I would have made the effort to meet someone to hang out with.
That’s the thing about travelling on your own; you have to be totally comfortable being by yourself. There really is no guarantee that you will meet someone you want to hang out with or travel with, and that’s the risk you take. That being said, if you’ve never travelled solo and are worried about meeting people, don’t be; the times I’ve been on my own have often been when I put myself in those situations, i.e. decided to be a bit antisocial (like in Alicante or in Limerick), stayed in a hotel and not a hostel, or travelled somewhere during off-season or somewhere quite isolated. In fact, I’ve often met too many people… so many I often forget their names or where they’re from. If you really want to travel and you don’t have anyone to go with, go anyway. Seriously.
Dinner with my mum in Ambergris Caye, Belize
But now, living in London and working/studying from home, I spend a lot of time on my own to begin with. A lot. Like, there are whole days I don’t see anyone face to face unless I go to my local pub for a drink (even though I try to tell myself that Skype counts, I don’t think it does). I love the idea of going on holiday with someone or a group. When I went to Botswana earlier this year for my 30th birthday, I joined a tour group; I didn’t want to face the challenges of solo travel through that country, nor did I want to be alone. It ended up being a fantastic trip and I met tons of wonderful people.
Travelling with someone has many benefits: you always have someone to go sightseeing with or eat with, you have someone to help with directions and problems that may arise, you get to share the memories with him or her after the trip, and, oh yeah, you have an incredible time together. A lot of my other favourite memories have taken place while travelling with someone, especially my best friend Kerri or my mum. I love that I can ring them up and chat for hours about our past travels, be it that time we slept under the Moroccan stars or epically failed our train journey into Bulgaria. And that’s the key with travelling with someone, it has to be the right someone. If you are doubting travelling with a person, and fear that he or she may spoil your trip, I say leave them in the dust and do it on your own. Travelling with someone else or in a group is only fun if you have the same travel values.
That being said, there are infinite benefits to solo travel, too. It allows you to discover things you may not have discovered if you were with someone else; it makes you hyperaware, much more attentive to the details around you. It is challenging and exciting, and, as many people will attest, you are rarely actually alone. All it takes is a quick conversation with someone on a bus or in a hostel common room and you can often find a friend and/or travel buddy.
Best friends (and travel buddies) in Mancora, Peru
I believe there are some journeys that are best done solo and I do believe that everyone should try travelling on their own at least once. But I also think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do a trip with someone already at your side. I mean, if nothing else, you get some pretty fabulous photos. Oh yeah, and there’s always someone to rub suncream on your back.
Wouldn’t have been as fun without Kerri at Machu Picchu, Peru
Do you prefer travelling solo, travelling with someone else, or, like me, enjoy a mix of both?