Many first time backpackers are often concerned about traveling solo. I receive countless apprehensive emails on the subject. Girls are worried about safety and both guys and girls fear that they will be lonely and won’t meet anyone along the way. Understandably, there is a certain degree of safety and comfort that comes with traveling with a friend. However, there is nothing as liberating and confidence building as traveling on ones own. Although it can be difficult to adapt to solo travel at first, and can be lonely at times, traveling alone develops great inner confidence, forces one to make friends and allows for uninhibited freedom.
One of the main drawbacks of traveling alone is that once you hit the road, you no longer know how to define yourself. When we are at home, it is our society and friends that reflect back at us the image of ourselves. All the interactions we have throughout the day help define our purpose and who we are. The idea of losing this is a frightening one for many.
However, everyone is able to adapt. While at first it will be difficult and perhaps anxiety ridden, you will soon learn how to recreate yourself. For me, I really enjoy this process. I find that it forces me to summon an inner confidence and I envision myself as a world citizen who spreads happiness and love, and can survive no matter what.
The second drawback of traveling alone concerns loneliness. There is often no one around to share your experiences with or your fears with. When you lay eyes upon the Pyramids or Angkor Wat, you won’t be able to turn and smile to your friend and share the joyful awe of the moment.
However, there is a way to overcome this solitude and it is the way I have dealt with it for years. I simply make everyone my friend. I talk to everyone as if we had known each other for years. I talk to people sitting next to me on planes and trains. I talk to the homeless people outside the train stations, and I talk to the shop keepers and ticket vendors. More, there are almost always other backpackers, who share a similar loneliness, who are down for a chat or to hangout for the day. I find that people are people no matter where you are and that they are always open to making a new connection. As long as you are willing to connect with others, you will never go lonely.
Finally, there is the issue of safety. There is no doubt that traveling with others is inherently more safe. Robbers, if you do encounter them, are less likely to try and rob you if you are two or more people. Additionally, girls are less likely to find themselves in precarious predicaments if they are traveling with a guy or another girl.
However, traveling is not as dangerous as you might think. Like I said before, people are people everywhere and no country or person is inherently evil. Most all of us have caring families and friends, and harming others is not something our conscience condones. Robbers, rapists, and murderers are not common place no matter where you go. However, the best way to avoid these few people who have lost the light is to stay away from the dodgy bits of the city at night. Another yet more spiritual way to avoid negative encounters is to emanate positivity, love, and confidence instead of fear and hatred. I know it sounds very hippie-ish, but it really works.
While traveling alone is very intimidating at first, one quickly adapts and ultimately becomes a more confident and even happier person. It forces one to love people of all countries, and grow spiritually. In the end, there is nothing like the freedom granted from traveling solo. You can go where you want whenever you want. No one and no thing binds you. You are free as much as you allow yourself to be.