I’ve been traveling throughout the Balkans over the past few days, and I’m always reminded of the trials and difficulties you can face when traveling alone—and, of course, some of the rewards too. Setting out on adventure on your own can be scary, frustrating, lonely, and can test everything you have when you find yourself in a difficult situation. I’ve always said that travel is like an exam. You can prepare for it all you want, but sometimes you are going to run into an issue or two that you did not know you were going to.
But you can also experience some really wonderful things, as well. I’ve met some fantastic people on the road this trip, and they’ve been amazing as I try to get from place to place and need a ride or two. It’s been such a fun experience taking a road a little less traveled—I’ve met very few Americans, and the ones I have are a bit more intrepid than the ones you would see hanging out by the Eiffel Tower or snapping a selfie at the Tower of London. All types of travel are good, in my opinion, but it’s fun to meet some new kinds in different locales.
Traveling alone can also be incredibly isolating at times. You wouldn’t guess so when you are surrounded by people at your hostel, on trains, planes, or more, but you can feel as though you are the only person in the world. Sometimes this is welcome, other times you might find yourself a little homesick and ready to return back to the people you love and care about. Even if you manage to meet a whole host of new friends, you can still feel very alone—and most the time you probably will be.
However, traveling alone is one of the best ways to gain confidence. Not only as a traveler in general, but because it also allows you to see that you can handle things on your own, without help from others, and that even the more dire-seeming circumstances can somehow be overcome and everything will turn out okay.
There is nothing like having to face a situation far from your support system and completely relying on yourself. It takes a new level of courage that you can’t get from journeying with friends or family, and you’ll learn lessons that you won’t be able to through any other experience. Since I’ve made several travels alone, a few moves to a foreign country, and plan to continue to travel solo when the opportunity arises, I’ve found myself an entirely different person than I was a few years ago. There have been times when I have felt scared or overwhelmed or immediately doubtful, but the lessons I’ve learned have far outweighed any fears that I might have had.
Have you ever traveled solo before? Which do you prefer—alone or with a group?