Traveling is an amazing experience! You get to see new places, meet new people, taste new foods, and learn something you didn’t already know. With these experiences being so vital to molding us and opening our eyes, we often like to share these experiences with other people. Friends travel together. Significant others travel together. Families travel together.
It’s so common for people to travel together that many don’t even think about traveling alone. In fact, many people are opposed to the idea of traveling alone and understandably so. The news seems to have an endless supply of traveler’s being kidnapped, ransomed, or sold off to some criminal region. However, these are exceptions. They just seem more common because we don’t publicize all the stories of successful lone travelers, like myself. Yet, there are many reasons to travel alone.
1. Self-reliance: When traveling alone, you learn to count on yourself. You need to be very good at being independent (or quickly learn to be) and be able to handle stressful situations (like if you miss your train/book the wrong hotel/don’t have WIFI to check your e-mail/etc).
2. Freedom: You only have your schedule to work on. You can to go where you want, when you want, and do what you want. You don’t have to worry about someone else being sick, tired, or burned out. Or too energized when you want a day off.
3. Making Friends: It’s much easier to make friends when it’s just one-on-one. People are more likely to start a conversation if you’re alone than if you’re already in the middle of a conversation with someone else. (It’s worked for me countless times before. :p)
4. Adaptability: Being alone forces you to interact with people more often than if you had a second or third person traveling with you. As a result, you adapt faster to the people and environment around you. You’re less likely to stick to your traditional habits because there is no one there reinforcing your mannerisms.
5. Budget: Traveling alone makes it much easier to watch your own budget because you’re spending money on the things you want: the trips, the food, the souvenirs, the accommodations. Traveling with other people who have different food tastes or sleeping desires can make traveling more or less expensive than what you’d like for yourself.
Even with all these amazing reasons to travel alone, many people find the pros for traveling with others to be better.
1. Sharing Experiences: Many people enjoy sharing their new experiences with friends or family.
2. Luggage Space: Sharing a bag between two people gives you twice the luggage space and packing capacity.
3. Support: New places and cultures can be intimidating, but having someone along for the ride can make these new scenarios less daunting.
4. Language: Perhaps your traveling companion speaks the language of the country you’re visiting and will be your translator.
5. Piece of Home: Taking a friend/loved one reduces the likelihood of home sickness.
Having no one along to travel with me in Japan hasn’t been an issue for me. In fact, I love it! I love having my own schedule to work on and being able to experience new things when I want and how I want and spend as much time on them as I want. I enjoy being self-sufficient, independent, and reliant on myself to figure out maps, directions, travel plans, and being able to just wander streets for hours because I can. I’ve also become more open-minded to meeting new people.
However, of all the reasons I enjoy traveling alone, one thing has been especially difficult: eating alone. Don’t get me wrong! The food is amazing! I could eat Japanese food again and again, but not having someone next to me, filling the space across the table, enjoying the divine tastes as I do or even to talk to over dinner, that is the worst part of traveling alone.
Eating is a community activity. Even if I’m not hungry, I will eat when others eat because it’s nature to eat together. And not having someone to eat dinner with is definitely the worst part of traveling alone, amazing one-of-a-kind food or store-bought. Makes no difference. People are meant to eat together. It’s a form of bonding and while I love Japan and traveling and experiencing all the wonderful new things, I can’t wait for the simple activity of sitting down at the table for dinner back home with my brother and sister-in-law.