Song for this article: Lost Boy by Ruth B
Ah, the age old debate: solo travel vs. buddy travel.
A few years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you ever suggested that one day I'd travel alone. I used to be the kind of person who needed to be constantly surrounded by people that I loved in order to feel happy. I had bad FOMO, and cringed at the thought of my friends hanging out without me.
But now, I'm a true lone wolf. I much prefer traveling solo over traveling with a group of friends. While traveling with others has its benefits like having people to laugh with, handing the reigns of navigation over to someone else, and going out at night with a group, I much prefer the more selfish route of traveling by myself. Why? Well I'll tell ya!
1.) It's more challenging.
When you travel solo, you have to rely on your own instincts all the time. There's no passing the map over to someone else if you're lost, or letting someone else take the reigns on the itinerary. While this may seem like a negative, I personally love to challenge myself so I can be a better person in the end.
There's lots of little things that are more challenging too that you may not think of: you have to in in restaurants by yourself, you can't leave your belongings alone to go to the toilet, and you have to figure out public transportation by yourself. By doing these things, you learn who you are in the most vulnerable situations without having to rely on others.
2.) You ain't gotta deal with nobody else's agenda.
Nothing drives me crazier than traveling in a group and spending 6 hours in an art museum.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy art museums, but in small doses. If I've come to a new city, I want to delve into the culture, eat the food, meet the people, and explore as much as I can.
But that's not the case for some. Some people just LOVE art museums. If you're with a group, everyone has to accommodate for each other's personal agendas. While some love museums, some may love hiking, others may want to do a day trip, a few may want to drink all day, others may want to sleep late, etc etc. If you're by yourself, YOU GET TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. Magical.
3.) Your storytelling skillz are unique.
Because your experiences will be yours and yours alone, people will want to hear about your unique perspective on the world. You'll never get sick of telling your travel tales, and if you're solo, you get to be the one to keep them alive!
4.) The best companion you need is yourself.
In life, you have to spend the next ~60 odd years with yourself. So you better get to loving yourself pretty damn quick if you don't already.
5.) Three words: ULTIMATE ME TIME.
I just got back from a solo weekend jaunt to Paris, and it was the best me time that I've had in a very very long time. The first day I arrived, I went to the store, picked up some brie, baguettes, grapes, cider, and macarons, and took a picnic blanket and just laid in front of the Eiffel tower for like SIX HOURS. My phone had died and I had forgotten to bring my book when I left the hostel.
When was the last time that you were just alone with your own thoughts? I don't know about you, but I'm always in front of a phone, a computer, or a book, and rarely have time to just sit in silence. But this weekend I did. I got to be alone in my head for the first time in ages. It helped me to fall in love with myself all over again!
6.) Planning is easier.
Ever sat down with a large group and tried to plan a trip? A nightmare. Everyone has their own say and opinion. But guess what? If you travel alone, nobody has a say but you.
7.) It will make you a better traveler.
Traveling solo, you learn what you like and what you dislike, how you prefer to travel, and what you appreciate doing. After doing it for a while, you develop your own standards and practices of what you think is the best way to travel, and you GET GOOD AT IT. That first moment when you visit a new country or city where you realize 'wow I know exactly what I'm doing' is incredibly freeing.
8.) It's easier to save cash-money.
Not only are you dealing with other people's agendas, but you're dealing with other people's budgets. Some people in your group may be fine eating out every night, while you may not be able to afford a nice meal out every day. If it's one thing I learned, it's that people aren't necessarily very understanding when it comes to traveling on a budget, so your voice may be drowned out in a group of high-roller$. It's much easier to stick to your budget if you're alone.
9.) It's easier to meet people.
In my experience, I've met far more people generically while traveling solo than with a group. Some may argue the opposite, but I will say that most of the travelers I've met while in a group have been through nightlife. But meeting others during the day, befriending locals, or chatting with ex-pats is much easier to do when you're by yourself.
Why? Because large groups can be intimidating! Especially with locals. If you have a large group and you're all speaking English, a local is probably far less likely to approach you to chat than if you're alone.
One of my biggest regrets in living in Spain was that I was ALWAYS in a group of other Americans. This made it extremely difficult to meet the locals because NOBODY WANTED TO TALK TO US! We were a group of loud, obnoxious Americans making our way through Madrid with no mind to the local culture. If you get too comfortable in your social circles, the more difficult it can be to penetrate out of them.
10.) It's EMPOWERING AF.
When traveling solo, you learn far more about yourself than in any other situation. I almost compare it to Crossfit or Yoga, neither of which I have much experience with because #sports, but it's about challenging yourself to push the limits of what you thought you could do.
Your mind is your only obstacle. Telling yourself that you cannot do something is detrimental to whether or not you actually can achieve it. Overcoming obstacles on your own while traveling solo, navigating an extremely complicated city, finishing that hike with no outside help - those are the moments where you feel alive.
11.) "No-no drama. No-no-no-no drama" - My Humps
Now y'all know I love girl power, but let's get real, groups of girls can be dramatic when put together for a long period of time. And LAWD KNOWS that together they'll find something to argue about. Traveling solo entails not a single ounce of drama.
12.) You learn to see the world through YOUR eyes and nobody else's.
All your commentary and observations on the world are YOUR OWN!
13.) You're forced to pay attention to the world around you.
Not sure about you, but when I'm traveling with others, I'm more distracted. I'm entrenched in conversation, catching up on drama, or telling stories, and I'm not as focused on the world in front of me.
My first trip abroad was with a large group of about 30 of us. About half were people from home, and half were German. During those few weeks, I was so caught up in the excitement of meeting new people. We went to Berlin and honestly, I can't even remember much about Berlin. We walked down the streets of Berlin chatting and laughing, getting to know each other, and while I have so many fond memories of them, I can't even tell you much about Berlin in itself! There were other distractions in my way.
I can say genuinely that the trips I have taken by myself or with my boyfriend have been far more memorable and important to me than the ones I have taken on my own. You are forced to live in the present when you're by yourself.
14.) You realize that you're not actually alone.
Traveling solo makes you realize how big and beautiful the earth is. The world is an incredible place, and I've been blown away time after time (cue song!) by the kindness of strangers. Everyone is in this together - trying to navigate the earth peacefully, figure themselves out, and make the world a happy place to live.