Why don’t you like traveling solo?
Aleah of Solitary Wanderer just asked me this the other day while chatting about my recent trip in Brazil.
I do travel solo. In fact, I backpacked last November 2016 in Thailand for 5 days before I met up with my travel buddy in Chiang Mai, then went alone and did an overland border crossing to get to Penang, Malaysia on a failed attempt to visit a tea plantation in the highlands of Cameron for 4 days before I joined friends again in Taiwan.
[It is] so freeing to travel alone, Aleah claims.
I agree with her 100%.
When you travel solo, you don’t have anyone to answer to. You have the freedom to do what you want to do, wake up whenever you want, eat wherever you want and the list goes on and on. My old self’s take on travelling solo even had me saying travelling solo will pave way for new self discoveries and new adventures that would be a great story to tell someday.
However, I realized that it saddens me to travel solo. This realisation hit me when I travelled to Siargao back in 2012. I was eating alone. I walked the plaza alone where some drunk guy tried to make friends with me. Heck, I even walked alone on that 3km road from General Luna to Cloud 9. And when I reached that famous view deck, that’s when it hit me.
The place was so beautiful. I was grinning from ear to ear as I enjoyed that view. There were surfers riding the waves and there were those waiting to catch the next big one. The weather was perfect. Everything was perfect. Except for what I was feeling inside. Despite being happy to have arrived at my destination after that long walk, I felt empty. Empty because I had no one else to share that excitement, that sense of accomplishment of getting there. Disappointed that I had to pay for an expensive motorcycle ride as I have no one to split the costs when going to a famous tourist destination far away from town.
I know what you must be thinking. That I should have made friends while I was there. In fact, Siargao is the perfect place to find new friends and more. But for an introvert like me, talking to strangers is the last thing I would do. Initiating the conversation is punishment already.
When I backpacked in Chiang Mai 5 years ago, I met wonderful female friends. I even shared a room with one of them since all the rooms were booked except for one because of Songkran season and I was happy to split the bill. We went to this elephant camp and trekked on the jungle where our drunk tour guide kept declaring his affection for me after I scolded him for drinking alcohol before the start of our trek making us wait for him for half an hour. I almost rolled over a steep hill on that dry summer trek too. So I’m capable of making friends with strangers. But the process to do it is so daunting. I would rather sit on a train for 16 hours without talking to anyone unless they initiate the conversation first.
Going back, I recently read an article that my friend Ching shared on her FB wall about this old write up from Nomadic Matt about why he also quit traveling solo. It pretty much sums up what I feel about why I prefer not to travel solo.
“I no longer desire to wander cities or gaze upon African sunsets alone. I want to travel with people I know. I want familiar faces. I want to share moments.” – Nomadic Matt
I realized that it’s tiring to travel alone and not be able to talk with anyone, strangers are not counted (I enjoyed my short chat with a hostel owner in Sao Paulo though). It’s like any moment your brains will explode as you can no longer contain your thoughts, ideas, emotions and nonsense stuff.
Plunging on the world’s highest canyon swing is a must-try when you visit #Bohol. This #extreme activity is called THE PLUNGE where you will #freefall over a steep, rocky cliff and swing 70 meters down. When you visit Bohol in the Philippines, include this #canyonswing in your bucket list. The Plunge is only Php700.00 or around $14USD and this is just one of the many activities you can do at Danao Adventure Park – EAT Danao. @eat_danao Surprisingly, this was amazingly fun and I’d do it again and again if given the chance. And now that I know what it feels like to plunge, I guess #bungeejumping’s next? ? P.S. Can’t help but laugh hearing the onlookers’ reaction to me plunging down the canyon. ??? Video by @aleninwanderland #thetravellingfeetph
I would probably feel awful if I went to Danao, Bohol and did the famous PLUNGE with no one to cheer me up and no one to share and retell that crazy feeling when you get thrown 70 meters down a deep canyon.
When I travel, I want to share that amazing moment with friends. I want to be able to chat non-stop about a silly situation, about how awesome a destination is, or even rant about annoying people. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I want to enjoy travelling in the company of familiar faces. Faces I’m comfortable being myself. I want a stress-free trip where I don’t have to worry about my stuff when I go buy something or go to the loo because someone will look after my stuff (#userfriendly). I want to be in the company of familiar faces especially when I explore new destinations. This is like an assessment stage for me anyway. Once I get familiar with a place, then and only then will I get the courage to go back and explore on my own.
Now, I’m content with joining other travel buddies on impromptu trips. I find it more fun and economical. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve found myself joining trips on neighboring islands on 2-3 days’ notice and I like it. What’s more surprising is, with me being bored and nothing else to do, I threw caution to the wind and decided to tag along another travel buddy’s trip soon. Yeah, that’s what I do these days. When there’s an opportunity for adventure and I’m bored, there’s no need to think twice. So I’m off to another adventure again. It’s such a waste to pass on opportunities like these knowing that I don’t have to worry about whom to drag along to explore new places when one’s readily available.
One thing I realised though, based on my past trips, is that you need to have a set criteria when choosing your travel buddy. We have our own unique personalities and surely you don’t want to end up being stuck with toxic people. So choosing your travel buddies wisely is something anyone should seriously think about.
After everything I’ve said, I’d still probably travel solo at some point. But it may not be for prolonged periods of time. I may travel solo to get to a destination where I know familiar faces will be waiting for me. At the end of the day, I’d still want to connect with close friends on the road to catch up and have thought provoking conversations about life.
How about you? What do you think about solo travelling? Is it for you or do you have the same realizations that Matt and I had?