Aside from “How do you make money to travel so much?”, and “If you’re traveling solo, who’s taking the picture?”, the next most common question I get asked is, “Why do you choose to travel solo?”
My immediate logical response is usually something along the lines of, “Because if I want to go somewhere, I just buy a ticket and go.” But I know although that’s entirely true, there’s a lot more reasons than not wanting to wait for someone to come with me.
It’s not because I think it’s cool, trendy or badass to travel alone. It’s not because I don’t enjoy being with my friends, and no, I don’t have a boyfriend (BTW, WTF?), but even if I did, traveling with him would be a lot different than traveling on my own. But I also don’t travel solo because I prefer to be alone, or because I’m socially awkward, in fact, I’m the exact opposite, especially when I travel solo.
A completely reliable and reputable online survey (JK it was from Buzzfeed or something) once told me that I’m an “outgoing introvert”; I can be very social and personable, but I also tend to keep to myself and prefer not to be the center of attention (shocking, I know).
To me, that helps explains why I enjoy traveling alone. I can have a conversation with pretty much anyone about pretty much anything, but I can also keep myself busy and entertained when I’m by myself. I like people, I like talking and learning, but I’m not the type of person who always needs someone I know around me in order to have a good time. In fact, I feel like I meet more people, and do things I normally wouldn’t do while traveling when I’m not with friends or a significant other, and also have less of a chance of boring people when I have to get my work done.
So it’s really not because of you that I want to travel solo, it’s because of me, here’s my reasons why:
I will never brag about being able to just pack a bag and travel whenever I want, because I know damn well it has taken a while to get to that point, and it is not easy at all. Yes, it’s true, I have built a career and learned techniques that allow me to have an extremely flexible schedule, but that’s because I created a business from my passion and my preference of working style. Not everyone could be a freelancer, and most people would never want to be. It’s unstable, it’s stressful, it’s risky, and it’s a lot more hours and a lot less money than a typical 9-5 job.
But, I made the decision to work more and earn less, so that I can have the freedom to travel. So although I very much respect my friends with steady jobs, I know there’s probably not as much flexibility to travel, and it’s not really easy for me to wait around. I also tend to make travel plans 2-3 weeks before I go somewhere, which makes it a little hard for anyone to join me.
At this very moment, I have about 32 tabs open on 2 browser windows, all of which I am using to plan my upcoming trip to South America. That’s because when I travel, I like to have a well-researched and carefully thought out agenda, so that I don’t end up missing things I want to see, or in dangerous situations. Having an agenda works really well for me, and I really enjoy traveling with one, but for some people, it’s annoying, and a little bit much.
Not everyone likes when I plan out specific times, durations, and deadlines in order to get everywhere, see everything, and get to either the next place, or the place we’re staying at certain times. But since I’ve had a lot of experience planning trips, I know that if I don’t have an agenda, it’s likely I’ll miss seeing things or getting somewhere unless I plan everything out. Sure, I like to have some leisure and down time, but that’s usually also planned out in my schedule.
3. I’m an Ambitious Adventurer
I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, but apparently I think I’m invincible and that the world is going to end soon at the same time, because I tend to cram as much things as possible into all of my trips. I do enjoy having people join me on adventures if they’re up for it, I just don’t always remember that the way I travel can be a bit aggressive for other people. For example, I’m in a Facebook group called Girls Who Travel which connects women from all over the globe who simply love to travel, and some who are currently traveling in different locations. During my Iceland trip, I noticed two of the girls in the group were also planning on going there, so we planned a day to all meet up to go see the waterfalls.
Of course with my over-researching, over-scheduling habits, by “go see the waterfalls”, I meant “go see as many waterfalls as possible in one day”, which they thought was funny and thus dubbed me an “ambitious adventurer”. But not everyone likes or is able to do that type of traveling. I had a guy friend get very irritated with me for wanting to see as many different angles of the Grand Canyon as possible before dark instead of sitting still and watching the sunset, and I always feel really bad when someone seems like they’re having a hard time doing a hike I insisted on.
Here’s a teeny tiny little dilemma that I have when I travel with other people; most people travel for leisure, and I travel for work. Well, and because I love it, but that’s not my point. My point is that most normal people don’t want to be working while they travel because it’s typically their vacation. I on the other hand, still have to work, and personally somewhat enjoy coming back to the hotel after a day of awesome adventures, opening up my laptop and a bottle of wine, and blogging away until my eyes die.
But my work also never ends. It consists of 24/7 planning, writing, editing, posting, pitching, and interacting, which can be quite annoying, especially when traveling with a companion. I can’t just go to an exotic beach and “lay out”, I’d have an anxiety attack about wasting time, and be working away on my phone while simultaneously getting a tan. If I don’t work, I don’t travel, so I will always work as much as possible. The good news is that my work literally depends on my adventures…so I really can’t complain, even if others do.
When I say I “don’t have a big budget”, I mean I literally usually only have just enough to pay for accommodations, transportation, and food when I travel. One thing that is extremely difficult about traveling with other people, is that not everyone’s budget is the same, which can make it difficult when deciding where to eat, stay, and what things you can do. There have been times when I’ve felt forced to spend more money than I should because someone wanted to eat at a nicer restaurant, and on the contrary, there have been times when I’ve had to lend more than I was able to because someone couldn’t afford to even split the cheapest accommodation.
Money always makes things awkward, especially when you’re traveling. Luckily I’ve gotten very comfortable with embracing my poor-ness, so I have no problem conveying that if someone wants to travel with me, we’re going to be flying coach, staying in cheap hotels, and doing a lot of outdoor activities.
I’m not exactly what you would call a Chatty Cathy. In fact, for how much I freaking write, I really don’t talk much at all. My brain runs about a million miles an hour, if brains were comparable to speed rates, which means I’m constantly thinking, wondering, planning, and dreaming. I feel bad, but if someone is talking to me about something petty, or something dramatic, I’ll tend to tune out because I typically have much larger things to worry about.
I’ve been called “not present” a few times. But I remember each of those times, and what the conversation was, and why I had zero interest in contributing to it. I don’t like hearing people talk about others, and I can’t give relationship advice for shit considering I’m not even in one, so really the only conversations I’m good for while traveling…are about traveling, and random sarcastic rants about life.
Sometimes I feel like I need to put on an act when I’m around people that I know. Although I may expel the image, I’m actually not a girly-girl, or a ditzy blonde, or someone who just wants to have aimless fun and party. I’m an over-thinker, with an obnoxious subconscious that always makes me feel like people I know are judging my every move or expecting me to act a certain way. When I’m not around people I know, it’s like a clean slate. Sure, they may judge me at first based on my looks, but from the majority of my experiences, my “true light” shines more brightly when I’m on my own.
I don’t like feeling like I have to act or behave in a certain way around my friends, or around anyone in general. I also don’t like feeling like it’s weird or “not like me” if I do something they wouldn’t expect me to do, like go talk to a complete stranger, or salsa dance at a bar. When I travel solo, I can act however I want, whether or not anyone else is watching.
I’m going to be completely honest; if I’m dating someone, or even if I just like someone a lot, my dedication, loyalty, and focus, is going to be primarily on thembefore anything else going on in my life. Anytime I’ve ever traveled somewhere with someone I was in a relationship with, I cared more about being with them than I did about the actual place. I guess it’s not a terrible problem to have, especially for the person I’m dating (or maybe it is), but I also have a similar problem if I travel with friends as well.
I never complain about being injured, sick, sad, or scared, but for some reason when anyone else does, it becomes a huge concern of mine as well. It makes me upset when other people are upset, so if I’m traveling with someone and they aren’t having a good time, I get in a mopey ass mood that steals my focus away from the awesome place it should be actually paying attention to.
One thing I really loved when i first started traveling solo, was how it forced me to break out of my shell, and do things I normally wouldn’t have ever done. I was in a sorority in college, then in the social scene of LA for years, both of which kind of teach you to act a certain way, and talk to certain people, which is kind of lame, but the honest reality. I always felt like I was weird because I wanted to go do things or talk to other people, but quickly realized once I started traveling, that that’s perfectly normal.
Like I said before, I was also pretty shy before I started traveling; I was nervous meeting new people, and wouldn’t be caught dead eating by myself at a restaurant. Now I wouldn’t think twice about not eating in public alone (not to mention, hiking and camping), and tend to strike up conversations with anyone next to me. I’m still a little bit shy, and couldn’t be on camera to save my life (unless I’ve had a few glasses of wine), but continuing to travel solo helps me get over that, little by little.
There are tons of people who can talk to everyone in sight whether they’re traveling with someone or not, but for me, I find I meet a lot more people when I travel solo. That’s because instead of just isolating myself to conversations with the person I’m with, or feeling awkward talking to someone else, I have the freedom to really listen and learn about other people. I’ve been in so many situations where a friend I was traveling with has either thought it was weird that I was talking to a stranger, or has pulled me away because they were bored or annoyed that I was talking to someone else.
Another aspect is that I feel like I seem even less approachable when I’m traveling with someone else, and even if I were to be approached, there’s a good chance I’d have to worry about the other person’s behavior. I’ve seen friends be rude just because someone we didn’t know approached us, and I’ve seen friends be way too flirtatious because they wanted the attention. Both scenarios typically end badly or embarrassingly, which is why I prefer to only be accountable for the conversations I have on my own. I keep it friendly, I keep it straight forward, and I end up keeping friends in other countries for a very long time.