You’re alone in a hostel room. Surrounding you are five sets of bunk beds, towering out of the floor with a sense of foreboding, similar only to that of a medieval fortresses. Sleeping in these beds are 10 strangers – not to mention the one who is directly above you. They may not speak your language, but they sure all know how to snore.
Travelling alone is an exhilarating experience. Love it or hate it, it provides you with a feeling of freedom, one you’re unlikely to experience again.
You are met with your usual horrors – drug addicted roommates, creepy old men and sometimes loneliness. But, travelling independently allows you to tailor your trip to your own desires, meet new people and experience the world away from the securities of your normal life. If you’re looking for an escape from your daily life, doing it solo is the best way to go about it.
A recent study by American Express found 16 per cent of the 1500 Americans surveyed planned to travel alone this year, an increase of 12 per cent since 2011.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that more people are living on their own now than ever before, with an expected increase of three million people living singularly by 2031. Naturally, more people are travelling alone too.
According to writer Yolanda Redrup, there are some clear pros and cons to travelling independently:
The dreaded singles supplement:
Despite consuming less of the free goods and undoubtedly using up less hot water wherever you stay, many tours and cruises still charge a singles supplement. This varies anywhere from an extra $10 to an extra $200 on some tours. When it comes to sharing rooms, if you’re on a tour also be prepared to be the person who gets swapped between groups every night as it’s unlikely people travelling together will be split up.
You meet more people:
It’s simple, if you’re alone and not overly shy, you meet more people. Whether it’s at the hostel bar, on a walking tour or the cute local who sees you looking lost when you’re stood bent and confused over a map. A person on their own is far more approachable than a large group. The people you meet are truly remarkable. In Munich I met an American who was a reformed drug dealer, learnt to cook in prison, before turning his talents into a multi-billion dollar catering company. In the Bavarian Alps I spent the day with a couple from Christchurch, New Zealand, who recounted the horrors of the earthquakes. While in Vietnam I met a group of students who decided I’d be the perfect person to help them study for their upcoming English exam.
“A table for one?”
Yes, sometimes you will have to eat dinner alone… It’s rarely an enjoyable experience, but an unavoidable part of travelling on your lonesome. If you’re someone who is likely to feel uncomfortable about this, consider bringing a book and ordering a glass or two of Pinot – makes the overall experience much easier. Instead of staring into open space, you can pretend to read the words on the page while eavesdropping on the conversation of other patrons. Trust me, eating out on your own beats buying a take-away salad from the local supermarket and eating it huddled up in your room at your bed ‘n’ breakfast in the English countryside.
You have no restrictions:
Some like to wake up early and hit the galleries (or the bar). Others sleep in until 11am and use their holidays to catch up on some rest and relaxation. Some people plan, while others prefer an unchartered course. The beauty of being on your own is that you’re free to do as you please, however you please. You don’t have to jump on your friend every morning to wake them up, nor wait for them to finish straightening their hair before embarking on a safari. You can trudge through the muddy hills of Sapa, Vietnam or choose to browse the designer shops in Dubai. What you do is entirely up to you.
It can be more dangerous:
It goes without saying, when you’re travelling alone, particularly if you’re a woman, you are more vulnerable. That said, if you’re street smart and avoid notably dangerous areas, the chances are you will be fine. Stories of backpackers going missing, African adventures gone wrong and hiking accidents are plentiful. Be sure to research the areas you are going carefully and always be mindful of your possessions and the people you meet. That sweet lady in Vietnam who helps you cross the road and tells you they’re a tourist from Malaysia, might not be so sweet. In fact, she might try to push you onto a motorbike after you tell her you don’t want to go to her house for lunch (trust me, it happens).
But despite the attempted kidnappings, the occasional loneliness and the dinners for one, travelling alone is life changing – particularly the first time. You gain a sense of self-reliance, trust and resilience that is simply unparalleled. So spread your wings, leave the nest and go and explore.
>> READ MORE: If you want to read more about travelling solo, we did the courtesy to source some of the best reads for you.
>> TELL US: Have you had any memorable solo travel experiences? Post below.