Why did I travel solo? (April 2013-May 2013)

Settit Beyene, Cusco, PeruIn April 2013 I travelled solo for seven weeks through south America. This was a decision I’d been deliberating over for a long time, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Since my last year of university, a close friend and I, had simultaneously developed a burning desire to visit Brazil and I’d also had a big interest in Peru and visiting Machu Pichu too. Bolivia was between the two countries and thus, my journey was mapped!

Family really struggled with the idea of me going solo, envisioning the horrors that await young girls foolish enough to travel alone. I, myself wasn’t really scared; growing up in Landaaan, I felt had made me a bit more robust. A bit more aware. Plus I was going to follow common sense; don’t get crazy drunk or walk alone at night. See? I was going to be fine.

In the end, I enjoyed travelling solo, but it was hard. A lot of the “solo travel” accounts online only seemed to mention the positives of going alone, talking about how invigorating, enlightening, self-discovering, liberating etc it can be. You’ve got to be very socially adept (not me!!), have no fear when talking to new people and just be very gregarious. I’m sure a lot of these accounts were written by people a lot older than me who’d been stuck for years in jobs they hated. I’d just graduated from university! I was essentially taking a holiday from a holiday (this is, in essence, the nature of a university degree in England.) So maybe that’s why their accounts were so upbeat. I’d gone from socialising regularly with a large network of students to….travelling solo and leaving the life I loved (sappy music).

Despite being a little too happy in my own company in general, the transition was really difficult. But since my 19 year old hitchhike to Morocco trip, I’d caught the travelling bug. I’d had this trip planned in my head for a year and friends had expressed interest in joining me, but none could commit. Online I saw this:

I’m currently taking a gap year, working full time trying to save up to go travelling round Thailand/SE Asia and Australia for 4 months! I’ve always been planning to go with my best friend but its looking like she may not be able to come now so I’m starting to panic! Is anyone else going on their own or have any advice about travelling alone? I would really hate to not go because this is something I’ve been planning for so long, but I’m scared to go alone

A lot of people might feel the same as the above anonymous poster but I quickly learnt that you should never ever wait around for people to ‘do’ things with. Living in London, I’d put off seeing certain sights, until I had a friend to do it with. Again, interest was expressed, but the trip never really materialised. The same with my big south america trip, lots of people loved the idea, but couldn’t put pen to paper. So I went alone.

Ultimately, I figured it would be better to travel solo, see beautiful things and maybe have a mediocre time than not go at all. If you constantly put your life on hold and wait around for others, you might be waiting a very long time. I’d worked for years at university and had taken on temp jobs to save to go around the world AND had months of free time. When would the stars align like this again?!

Suffice to say, travelling alone is what you make it. I enjoyed travelling alone for the introspection, the lack of drama and running on my own schedule. I’d often see groups of girls/guys hanging out in a cool city in Peru, chatting about mundane dramas from home. I was glad to be exempt from that. Also the thing about being more approachable is true and I was temporarily adopted by a Brazilian family on a hike, was bought dinner by an American couple on Copacabana beach and spent time shooting the breeze with an elderly man in Cusco. I really enjoyed these experiences and getting to know the people that lived there. If I were to do the trip again, I’d probably stay in hostels less and couch surf more and do more things that took me away from tourists and towards the people that live there.

One last thing. If you do choose to go with a friend/someone you’ve met on the internet/a one night stand, just make sure you’re compatible. I feel that it is always, always, always better to travel solo than with crap people!

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