Forget the contiki tours, 2 week trips away with the boys (or girls) and seeing the world as a couple. You will learn more about yourself and become better for it if it’s just you and your trusty backpack to keep you company on the road.
OK so before you grab your pick axe’s and begin to beat me half to death proving why the above mentioned ways of travel are better hear me out because I already agree with you. There is no best way to travel… period. I’m talking more from a character building perspective.
Leaving everything behind to see a part of the world that is as foreign to you as the language, is at it’s hardest when you are doing it alone. You have no-one to lead you by the hand from place to place like a tour will, there are no mates for backup when you get lost and for the couples well boys there will be no girlfriend there to save your ass either.
Taking off to travel solo builds self-confidence which to me is something everybody needs in huge doses. Especially with a world that is constantly beating us down because we don’t look a certain way, have a certain education or act a way that the world perceives as correct.
I look back now and wish I’d thought of/been pushed into travelling after high school instead of now. I left Australia with what I thought was a fairly high confidence level. After two months travelling Europe I soon discovered that what I thought was high, really only filled up to my reserve tank level.
Be it the people you meet (both local and travellers), the places you visit or the things you do everything is off your own back and it forces you to grow as a person (this is a good thing people).
To tackle university or a job with that kind of experience under your belt would have been a major bonus to me. Not only because you get to make everyone jealous with your travel stories but because you have gone out there on your own and proved to yourself you can do it.
If you could navigate getting from foreign city to foreign city where you don’t speak the language and enjoy yourself without the usual support you get at home, then presenting yourself for that job interview should be a breeze. The feeling of having conquered something on your own is a major part of what drives me each day when I’m tackling a difficult task. I walk around with my head up because I know deep down inside that nothing is impossible if you try.
I don’t want to say you can’t do all of this as a couple or group travelling but there is that inherent feeling that you won’t talk to others because you have friends etc with you already or won’t push the envelope as far. I know personally I’d have stuck to my ways from home more had there been a friend with me while travelling. I wouldn’t have been pushed as hard or been as far from my comfort zone because there was always that safety net there.
To me solo travel was a shot in the arm that unleashed a better more confident person that was ready to tackle anything life had to throw at me. If you have travelled do you agree/disagree? I’d love to know what you think.
Yes, yes, yes. That’s one of my primary reasons for solo travel and why I encourage so many to try it. It really is a confidence-builder. And as you say, so many of us could use more of that in our lives.
Glad you agree Gray. Landing in Europe on my own really forced me to face up to some things that I easily side stepped at home because I could.
My desire to travel was as much about seeing the world as it was improving my own self.
I couldn’t agree more. Let other people travel how they want, but do not judge solo travellers unless you have tried it yourself.
Thanks William. I agree people can travel however they wish but there is something more about solo travel that you just don’t get while doing it other ways.
I know for me solo travel was the best thing I could have done.
I totally agree with the confidence aspect. It’s so true that you can learn so much about yourself and how strong and capable you are when you push your own boundaries. Also, I think you can make friends so much easier when you are on your own as you’re more approachable. Having said that, there are some times when you wish you had a friend or partner there to share a certain moment with you so that you always have that shared memory, but that can quickly pass when you’re enjoying a few beers with your new friends! Haha
Julia I agree that at times I wish a friend from home or the like was with me because it would have been great to share it with them. Instead I had a new temporary friend (the one you hang out with for 2 days in the hostel before parting ways) which while not the same still made the experience worth it.
Although I have traveled solo throughout the US, I am leaving for my first solo international trip on Wednesday and I am totally freaking out. Thank you for posting this and giving me the reassurance I made the right decision to step out of my comfort zone to see the world.
Erin I won’t lie, the first day was the hardest but by the end of it I’d made some friends and was on my way. The longer you travel the easier it gets.
Great point about the confidence. I traveled solo around the US from a young age (back when you’d get “wings” and a visit to the cockpit on an airplane if you were a minor) and didn’t realize until much later how much this shaped my view of things. I was always a little perplexed by folks who thought driving from Seattle to San Francisco (in a CAR, that you CONTROL, no less!) was a daunting proposition. I still have an everything-will-work-out perspective on life because of this. Indeed, just hitchhiked in Morocco recently and it turned out more perfect and brilliant than I’d hoped!
Katrina how things have changed in terms of visiting the cockpit these days 🙂
Well, the doors lock and the pilots carry guns… 😉
I would love to have the opportunity to do so. I have never traveled alone but I do tend to wander off when I go just about anywhere on my own. Curiosity gets the best of me every time and it’s not uncommon for me to wind up in a conversation with a complete stranger. I just love learning things and meeting new people.
Aleida that’s something I found I enjoyed the most. I could get up and wander off and not feel like I had to check with someone to make sure it was ok or if they wanted to come with me.
My independence to choose my own direction was scary at the start as I’d always looked to others for confirmation of doing the right thing. But as I soon discovered I didn’t need that approval, the world was my oyster.
I’ve done the solo travel thing, tour thing, and couple thing. However, I disagree on this. Granted, these are my personal experiences so it is different for everyone. However, traveling with my life allowed me to see some of the good and bad things about myself when I travel. When I travel alone, no one may have ever dared to point these out to you so I think you can learn a lot more about yourself – good and bad – when you travel with someone close to you.
Jeremy that’s a good point you make but isn’t what you are saying more about being a better partner rather than becoming a more self confident person.
My point about solo travel is that it can give you the self confidence to tackle the world. Where I once was shy to ask people for help in clothes stores or felt intimidated at job interviews I no longer do.
I managed to navigate foreign countries where I knew nothing about how to get around on my own and enjoyed it. I look at that and then look back and wonder why I was so scared to ask someone “does this look good on me”.
Solo travel is awesome – definitely agree that you grow as a person. But traveling with people develops other important skills – like how compromise and to work as a team.
Totally agree Roy. When travelling in a group you have to be aware of other peoples wishes and opinions therefore you have to be willing to compromise etc.
I look at solo travel not so much as to help in that area although as you meet people on the road you do adapt to travelling with them for a short time. I’m more focused on the fact that travelling solo teaches you about you and helps improve how you feel about yourself specifically.
Definitely agree! While I’m actually not a HUGE proponent of complete solo travel (I like to have a buddy for at least part of the time), I do agree that traveling alone can teach you so much about yourself, and help you grow in ways you can’t even fathom until it happens.
I feel the same way about studying abroad – I think it should be mandatory for all university students. My time abroad during college – even though it was only in New Zealand, where I didn’t have to deal with a language barrier or huge cultural differences – helped me grow SO MUCH. I came back a completely different person – more independent, self-assured, and more motivated than ever.
Traveling alone can definitely be empowering!
Amanda I’m so jealous of the people I met while travelling that were on study abroad programs. I never had that option but if it had come up I’d have been all over it.
While it’s in a school environment you are still living abroad and that is my dream and why I am where I am right now.
Lately I’ve been on a personal mission to not try to figure out what other people should be doing, and to keep my focus on me. But that being said, I totally agree. There’s a certain kind of confidence solo travel has allowed me, a certain inner resource and resiliency I don’t think I would have otherwise found.
I think everyone should also have to wait tables for at least 3 months. And work as day laborer or factory worker. But there I go again… 😉
I agree with what you say Lauren. We should focus on ourselves, I know for a long time I aimed to please others to make myself fit in and that doesnt work. I travelled for me and I believe solo travel for me was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
For a long time I worked in a supermarket behind the checkout or on the floor stocking shelves as I went through schooling as well as helping out my dad around the home and at the family butcher shop.
It taught me what a days work was and got me people skills that so many lack these days. Personally I find people who didn’t work growing up aren’t as well rounded as the ones that did.
I used to travel solo before meeting Jack – I agree on the it building confidence, but traveling as a group and traveling by yourself ares completely different style of traveling with its own pros and cons. I think everyone should do both and mix it up a bit. Even as a couple, I like to fly solo every now and then.
Definitely Jill, solo vs group travel are completely different beasts. I’m not looking to discount one over the other I just believe solo travel was the best method for me at growing self confidence.
I travelled with my gf overseas previously and while it opened my eyes it didn’t empower me like my solo trip around Europe did.
This has to be the most personal post you’ve done. Your emotions just poured out. I agree, absolutely!
Not because I am a solo traveler and have no man. Sure, after me and my ex split I was forced to travel by myself, but I’ve learned to love it for the reasons it affected you.
Doing something where all the conditions are unknown will test everything. Courage, resolve, will, patience.. and finally the one you mentioned… The big ‘C’.
When I met you – I really saw a person who felt good about himself. Sounds like it taught you a new mindset, especially when you feel down or find something hard.
Loves this.. hope to see you again somewhere in the world!
Thanks for the kind words Jeannie. I’m pretty sure you have been tested more than me in your travels since we met here in London last year.
You follow your own terms and instincts when you travel solo, which indeeds builds your confidence as a smart traveller.
Wise words mate, glad to hear it’s been such a rewarding experience for you. I don’t have much experience traveling solo – it’s either been with a good mate or my ex girlfriend. I went to SE Asia thinking I’d be experiencing solo travel, yet found it’s essentially impossible there as you’re constantly meeting fellow travelers and travel bloggers who share your same passions. You’re right though, you’re forced to fend for yourself at time as that good mates shoulder is never there.
You make a good point Matt because even while you are travelling solo you really aren’t because you make some many friends on the road.
To make those friends and connections you do have to reach out and interact with the world which for some like myself was that little bit harder until I’d travelled for a bit.
So agree with this. Solo travel pushes you to experience things in a different way and challenges you more than when you are with others.I’ve learned so much about myself through traveling alone.
I agree Ayngelina. I got lost upon arrival in every new city and instead of having someone there to help me find my way I had to ask/find maps to solve the problem. There was no time to get all worried about it because nobody was there to listen to me.
I don’t think any one thing has changed my life more than travelling alone. I know that’s kind of a bold statement but it really has made me a stronger, more confident person and totally shaped the course of my life. I know a lot of people find the idea scary (and I don’t blame them- it can be a really terrifying prospect), but it’s such a huge opportunity for growth. Good on you for encouraging people to take the leap!
Stephanie it might be a bold statement but one that I’m sure a lot of us will likely agree with, I know that I do.
Absolutely. Everyone should spend some time traveling alone. Native Americans have rituals where tribe members walk in the desert by themselves so they can look within, though meditation is a form of looking into ourselves too.
Nothing has taught me more than traveling solo.
Ana I’ve never thought of it in relation to native tribe’s before, looks like we are just a bit slow to catch onto the ways of old.
agree totally — I tell all my friends to at least TRY it once. Not many have though 🙁
haah Michael perhaps you have scared them with all of your stories 🙂
I have an embarrassing confession: I’m a total scardy cat when it comes to solo travel. Some day I would really love to try it, I just need to get over this fear that convinces me something bad will happen as soon as I leave the country alone.
It’s OK Monica when I first thought about going solo on my travels and indeed on the plane flight from Singapore to Paris I was sacred out of my mind.
The fear was un-warranted thought as within a day I’d made friends and was well on my way.
I’m loving your perspective here and I totally agree about the character-building thing. My confidence and self-awareness completely sky rocketed when I left England solo to live in Hamburg for 8 months.
Nicely wrote mate.
Thanks for the comment Anthony. While I’m now living in London it’s not quite the same but still surviving here can be a hard task as I have found out. I’m glad I got to build up my confidence and determination beforehand backpacking.
I’ve loved traveling solo, even though my trips have been only a few days each. I think a lot of my friends and family thought I was crazy for traveling alone, but really it’s a great experience. I wish more people would give it a try.
Alouise I don’t think it matters how long you go solo for even though my preference is to go for the longer the better. It’s the independence and confidence you gain from each and every trip that really matters.
Flying solo for six months last year was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even though I’d been wandering on and off for a decade prior, I’d never taken the leap and set off for an extended period of solo travel – it had always been with a mate or girlfriend, or to meet up with people I already knew somewhere in the world.
It taught me things about myself that I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and would be my travel preference every time now.
That’s awesome Dave. I’m still very new to everything travel and backpacking but I know over time I’m just going to learn more and more as I continue to see the world solo travelling.
I was going to counter, but after reading through your entire post and reflecting on my own experiences, I’d have to agree. =) Aside from confidence, I think that solo travel really helped me learn a lot about myself. This is also a quality that I feel we could all use more of. It especially helps us recognize, accept and deal with our human weaknesses.
Thanks for this honest post, Chris. =)
haha Samantha I’d like to know why you were going to counter with in the first place.
What a lot of people don’t – and won’t – realise is that solo-travelling isn’t your standard lad-lash package holiday: it’s more like a challenge, an education, a practical exercise on your own personal character development. I’ve always believed in editing chapters of my own life through travelling and becoming a better person, in terms of confidence and social abilities. And this boy here is still under development – but I know I can only be subjected to improvement as long as I’m travelling.
Travel has opened my eyes to a greater and more fulfilled life. And that’s all done through the eyes of a solo traveller. Bravo Richo, for justifying our love for solo travelling.
Thanks Dylan. Travelling does so much for us and while all forms of travel teach us different things, I personally believe going solo is the best way to boost your confidence.
I’ve never traveled solo…. so I guess I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against it. 🙂 But I would definitely like to experience solo travel, because I think you’re right that it’s very diffierent from traveling with a partner or friends. I don’t know that it would necessarily be better, though – just different.
Christy I’m sort of on the other foot in terms of how I travel. While I did spend a couple of short trips travelling with an ex gf I’ve not done long term travel with friends/partner.
I don’t think its as clear cut as which is better because they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. I just feel from my experience you can grow more as an individual while out there on your own with no safety net.
For a programmer geek, you’re becoming quite the writer, Chris!
Abby you don’t know how much those words mean to me coming from someone with your background and skill.
Hey! Backoff with the geek comments :-)~
Solo travel is definitely a different animal than traveling with others. The only time I haven’t gone solo, though, is for week-long or shorter vacations with one or more people, vacations which in and of themselves are quite different than long-term travel. Traveling solo involves work, not just play, because you have to do 100% of everything by yourself. It really does build up your strength. I agree – for every serious traveler, at least one episode of solo travel should be compulsory.
Sabina that’s a good way to look at it. Solo travel is a lot of work and its all you performing it. In a group you split that work out making it easier to travel.
I think everyone should try at least once in their lifetime to travel solo.The experience when travel solo will make u a better person.Plus give yourself some space.
There is definitely no best way to travel and you’ll learn more about yourself, your strengths and limitations travelling alone. Travelling alone, for me, is awesome because I get to take as many damn photographs and take as many notes as I please. But after moving to UK and living alone for four months and solo trips to New York and Novi Sad, I’m ready to give up the personal growth and learning curvesand just travel somewhere with my OH.
Emm solo travel is great for taking as many pictures as you like or going wherever you please because the only person to argue with is yourself.
I know I won’t always solo travel but right at the beginning of my journey I’m glad I did because now I’m more confident to travel anyway I please.
Australia wasn’t the most challenging of destinations to pick, but I still changed a lot about my life to come here for a year. I can’t imagine doing it any other way than solo, and I look forward to solo gigs in the future. Connecting with others and meeting up with travel partners along the way has its pluses, but I have certainly gained loads of confidence from my solo ventures.
Yay for you Chris!
heather I could say the same about my travels to Europe. On the whole it’s not as challenging as various other places around the world. The thing is though you still need to get around, find accommodation and survive while abroad.
Doing all that solo no matter the location is still a confidence building endeavour in my mind.
Only nine weeks till I leave on my solo round the world trip. I’m going to Auckland, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami, Boston, Denver, Vancouver, Stockholm and Kuala Lumpur.
Have to admit I’m a little bit nervous but really excited. Is Stockholm really as expensive as they say? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Love reading your blog.
Shaun that is an interesting list what made you choose that route?
Just channel all of those nerves into excitement and you will be fine and love every minute of it. As for Stockholm well I wrote a post on how much it cost me while there which you can read here. On the whole yes it’s not so cheap I’m afraid.
Feel free to get in touch and I’ll help out however I can from my experiences.
Thanks for the comment. Yeah lots of friends have said that is an interesting route to!! Here’s basically how I came up with it.
I live in Perth and I have family in Auckland so this had to be included.
I have always wanted to visit the US and it being such a large country I wanted to see a little bit of everything. Honolulu for the beaches and volcanoes, Las Vegas and Miami for the glitz and glamor (if that’s what you call it). Boston for it’s history, Denver and Vancouver for the outdoors and nature.
Stockholm um yeah, not really sure why I picked here. I guess I thought it would be an interesting place. That’s the best reason I can come up with lol.
Kuala Lumpur for shopping, food, Batu Caves and KL Bird Park.
I remember last year when I traveled alone, just using couchsurfing and myself I had a much more intense experience than now (studying abroad in Italy) where I have tons of native english speakers to talk to and haven’t needed to be out of my comfort zone such as when I was alone. Definitely I agree that traveling solo is the best way to go when it comes to not only improving yourself, (which it does, in leaps and bounds) but to also learning about the culture and how the people are since you pretty much need to immerse yourself into it. Great article, I agree fully.
That’s great Alex and I love that you got into the couchsurfing community. I’m hoping to get more involved with it when I visit spain later this year.
I could not agree with you more, Chris, and the sooner you start the better. Solo travel is immensely empowering, character building, and all the rest, and it leaves you with a huge range of life skills.
Thanks Theodora and I agree if you solo travel early on then I personally believe you will be setup for everything afterwards. I really wish I’d travelled solo straight out of school.
This is a great post Chris! I swear by solo travel for this exact reason and I know I become a totally different person when I’m traveling. Aside from the incredible opportunity for personal growth, travel solo also provides me with a strong feeling of accomplishment for doing something that is genuinely hard!
Aside from the personal benefits of solo travel, can you imagine how much better the world would be if solo travel was compulsory for all?
Aaron to imagine everyone having some form of solo travel under their belt would be crazy. The world would be a very different place I know that for sure.
You and I have already had a heated discussion about this but I need to share my thoughts with the rest of the world!
I have done three Contiki tours in my life and they were some of the best trips I have ever been on. Being a solo traveler specifically being a “female” solo traveler a Contiki tour is a great way to build up your confidence to let you know that you can go out and do it alone. They aren’t holding your hand the whole time telling you everything you are going to do, its pretty much a hostel on wheels, its the exact same thing and I personally think they are awesome.
and yes everyone should travel solo 🙂
Whenever I travel, I always bring a friend along. And, I completely agree that when you travel with people you’re less likely to go out of your comfort zone. Less likely to talk to other people because when you’re traveling with friends you feel as though you don’t need to. I definitely want to travel by myself one day and see how things turn out.
Here I am, late to the party as usual. 🙂
I’ve taken most of my trips solo, but there can be too much of a good thing. I find I complain too much when I travel with others. Complain about them that is. “Whadda ya mean you want to pay for a deluxe room?” “You’re not actually thinking of taking a taxi instead of walking those 3 miles are you?” “Did you really just give 10 cents to that orphan?”
And so it goes…
I needed to read this today. At a time in my life where I’m between jobs, it was good to be reminded of the confidence that solo travel has brought me. Like you say, what’s a job interview when you’ve crossed a street in Saigon? Climbed a peak in Bolivia? All on your own?
Besides, as I say, traveling solo is never traveling alone because you make so many friends along the way.
If you can do this, you can do anything in life.
Completely agree. Backpacking alone in Central/South America was the scariest and best thing I’ve ever done. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will force you to get to know yourself in the way that solo travel does. And not just the bad, but the good too. For me it was eye opening not just in learning things about myself that I wanted to change, but discovering strengths I had that I never realized before. Very enlightening and very exciting.
Im only in my 3rd week of travel, but try to avoid a lot of alone-time anytime I can. I seek out public places to meet people. And the confidence thing, Im still working on it.
Ah the joys of solo travel. I have forgotten what being solo means. I can’t even go to the dunny now without have a 3 year old’s head popping around the door to come and just hang out!! Enjoy it now.
I totally agree that solo travel is a brilliant way to get to know yourself and build your strengths. You are forced to get out of your comfort zone, learn and become comfortable with who you are. There is no where for you to run and hide.
I think the next step in the evolutionary path is travel with a couple. That is when you learn a different set of things that can help you in life and your relationships.
And then of course if you can deal with the chaos there is travel with your children, where you can learn all over again about simplicity and the magic in small things.
i reckon solo travel is the best way to start. It help prepare you for the other stages a lot better!!
I liked the article , and of course agreed with what you wrote completely as a solo traveler myself !
I am finally to the point in life where I can afford to travel the places and the way I want. I do not have a companion to travel with me. I am planning solo travel, this encouragement helps not just from you but all the others.
doing solo travel tests your endurance on all the aspects of travelling.a well written article.,tempts me to plan my next trip asap! thanks