I used to be the ultimate solo traveler. I had taken backpack trips, traveled to Asia, and lived abroad entirely by myself without the need of another companion. ‘It’s better this way,’ I always thought. ‘Why would I want to have to worry about someone other than myself?’ I was a strict believer that every experience traveling should be experienced alone or with someone who you weren’t super close with (the one exception being my good friend Ruth—my original roommate studying abroad in Venice). It could only set you up for arguments and resentment toward your fellow traveler.
I didn’t really start to travel consistently with someone else until my boyfriend and I got together. While we have our moments traveling when things don’t go smoothly, my perspective has been changed on solo travel and what I think about it. Here are three realizations I’ve come to while traveling with my best friend.
1. Some experiences are better alone…some are better with someone else
Recently, I went ziplining solo in Guatemala. Even though my boyfriend had come there with me and we had spent the past week together, he was not interested in plummeting from the top of the rainforest canopy. I signed up to go and thoroughly enjoyed the activity without him—he wouldn’t have been happy doing it and I wouldn’t have been happy hearing him complain. This experience was better alone, but many experiences I’ve more than enjoyed having someone along with me.
When we visited Egypt, we both were able to share our interest for the ancient culture, and visiting the temples together meant so much more than going by myself and not being able to talk about how incredible the large columns were or the preservation of the hieroglyphics. I was thrilled to have him there with me because it is a time we can talk about again and again and relive.
2. Some locales are just not safe for solo travelers
Years ago, I would have fought this point tooth and nail. While I still believe that most of the world is a playground and solo travelers should feel free to explore, there are just some spots where it is better to have someone you know and trust along for the ride. Although Sicily might not seem the most dangerous place, I was soon warned not to leave the hostel I was staying at by myself—the hostel owner had even been assaulted and almost raped and she was a local who was born and raised in Palermo.
I was able to make a good friendship with a young lady from Wales and we traveled together—but I wouldn’t have felt entirely comfortable walking around the city at night by myself.
3. Living abroad long term
Living abroad can be an entirely different experience than traveling solo for a few months (or even a few years). Living in Lucca, Italy, I had to work hard to meet people and to feel as though I had a connection with them. Even then, our friendships were always superficial to some extent because we had grown up in different cultures. As a result, much of my time there was very lonely. While I had some incredible moments living there by myself, and those moments will always be precious to me, I’m looking forward to living in Spain with my boyfriend for the next few months. Again, it’s an opportunity to make memories together. I am sure I will feel much less alone and will be more tempted to unlock the secrets of my new city of Granada with someone at my side.
Even though my perspective has altered a little bit, I still believe that solo travel is important. However, I also believe you can benefit from traveling with other. Regardless,
“The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson