The idea of solo travel ― throwing yourself into the great unknown without any familiar faces or places - has been pretty popular lately. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C. You get the point. More and more people are playing with the idea of putting everything behind you (at least for a short time), leaving home, and traveling your country or other places with just you and your handy backpack the size of Mars.
I get why solo travel is so attractive to people, especially millennials. It gives you the chance to throw off the shackles of the familiar and embrace the uncertainty of a new town or country. It gives you time to reflect on who you actually are and where you have room to grow. You might magically find the love of your life wandering the streets of Rome or Bangkok. Traveling alone teaches you so many lessons that your squad back home just can’t.
That’s all so true and I couldn’t agree more with the hundreds of travel bloggers that say everyone should travel solo at least once. The experience will change your life for the better, no doubt. But I can say this after my experiences with solo traveling: Just because an estimated 30 percent of millennials have spent time abroad alone; that doesn’t mean the trend is for everyone and that’s completely OK. Here’s why:
1. Long Lasting Relationships Are Few & Far Between
Somehow, deep-down, you know that that one guy in your hostel from Southern Italy who you’ve already forgotten the name of won’t be getting an invitation to your wedding. Even if you have the best, life-altering drunk conversation with him at 3 a.m. in your 10-bed sweaty hell of a hostel room, you guys probably won’t be best friends once you part ways. I’m the kind of person who loves making deep connections with a few people, rather than having superficial relationships with a lot of people (I’m an introverted Virgo after all). If you’re like me, traveling alone and staying in hostels won’t be the place to find deep relationships that will last a lifetime.
Solo travel doesn’t give much in the way of nurturing meaningful relationships. Your hostel buddies are always on their way to another destination. Maybe your hostel is full of groups of friends, spending quality time with their squad. Or maybe there’s just no one around that you particularly like.
Moving to a new place every week is great for meeting people from around the world, but not always for building up true friendships. I’m not saying that it’s completely impossible to make long-lasting relationships on your solo travels. But simply because of the nature of traveling, there’s a bigger chance you’ll meet a lot of people who you won’t see again.
2. There’s No One to Share Special Moments With
Imagine that you’re standing on a bridge in Amsterdam, looking at a beautiful view of a sunset on your first day in the city. Or you’re strolling through the Van Gogh Museum and see the most stunning piece of art you’ve ever seen. Or you have the best local street food of you’re life. For me, these are experiences that I want to share with someone. I want to turn to a best friend beside of me and say “Wow, isn’t that great?”. But when you look away from that sunset or art piece, all you find around you are unfamiliar faces. You’re surrounded by hundreds of people, and yet, you’re alone.
For me, the experience of traveling shouldn’t always be a solo adventure. It’s an experience to be shared and cherished with your friends, partner, and/or family. Yeah, you can share and connect through social media, but it’s not the same as a shared special moment. Traveling solo means having a lot of these lonely experiences. And it can get overwhelming at times, especially when you appreciate the simply beautiful nature of sharing experiences with those close to you.
3. Settling Down Can Be A Good Thing
This is a point that I didn’t even agree with until a month or so ago. If you’re like me, the term “settling down” literally used to send chills down my spine. I used to think that settling down meant giving up on the experiences I could have for the security and stability of a family life. That’s not true at all.
Settling down means finding a homebase. A place you can come back to when you want with no worries. You have a strong network of friends and family who will do anything for you. You know there’s a coffeeshop around the corner that sells the best latte in the world. You know that one small grocery store on the other side of the street that sells avocados at the perfect ripeness.
When you travel by yourself for a long time, you risk never being able to build those roots. You risk not finding that solid ground to jump off of to your next adventure. And it’s even been shown that people who settle down in one place are happier than those who choose a nomadic lifestyle of popping from one hostel or couch to the next. I think at the end of the day, most of us want that. Traveling solo made me realize that I want it too.
I’m not at all hating on solo travelers. If you’ve traveled alone and love it - so be it. But, just because solo travel is trending right now, that doesn’t mean it’s the single best way to experience the world.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to travel. It should be an experience that you appreciate and one that makes you a better person. Try solo traveling. If it’s not for you, then travel with your partner. Travel with your squad. Travel with your parents. No matter what you do, get out of your comfort zone and experience the other side of the world.