Is solo travel even safe? What if my friends and family don’t approve? Won’t I be lonely? I am kind of shy. Won’t I get bored? Isn’t it better to travel with someone together? What if I’m not brave enough? Or if I get homesick? What if I come home early because of this homesickness or if I run out of money?
The first time I traveled alone was for a two week holiday to Marrakech, Morocco. I cried my eyes out walking away from my waving mother and sister who dropped me off at the airport. And that was only for two weeks. A couple of years later I started my ten month journey, also alone. I nearly shat my pants that day. I was scared as hell.
I’m pretty damn sure that EVERYONE thought exactly the same before embarking on a solo journey. I for sure know I did! To not have gone traveling because of these reasons would honestly have been the biggest mistake of my life. It was the best choice ever to kind of ignore these questions and just hit the road. Here I will answer some of the most asked questions about solo travel.
Is solo travel even safe?
Do you ever go out on your own back home? Yes? Or are you always accompanied by at least one other person, the whole time? No. Well, there you have it. As long as you don’t travel to a war zone, you will be just as safe as back home. Personally I felt safer in many places in Asia than I sometimes do in my hometown. You do need to keep your wits about, but that’s what you do back home as well right? When do you ever leave your bag with valuables unattended? Or your drink in a bar? There’s creeps everywhere on earth, and you’ll always need to keep an eye out for that. But don’t make yourself paranoid because you’re in a different country.
Something that truly helps with the safety problem is deciding on where you are traveling to. On my first long trip I decided to start in Vientiane, Laos, of all places. I didn’t want to throw myself in the chaos of Bangkok or Hanoi in my first couple of days. That was a good decision. To travel in Southeast Asia is a perfect way to start as well – it is generally safe, there’s so many solo travellers to spend time with and build friendships with and locals are open and friendly and some of them became some of my best friends.
What if my friends and family don’t approve?
Well, you can’t please everyone, can you? Next to that, the only one you have to please in your life is you. It’s your life, you have to live it the way you want to. You can’t make everyone happy, you can make you happy.
Your friends and family should be glad you have the opportunity to fulfil the dream of a lifetime. They should support that. If not, they aren’t true friends. With family, this might be a bit more difficult to say, but it still is kind of the same. Promise your mom you will call her once a week. Send her a present and a picture every once in a while. Tell your family the amazing stories, about beautiful things you have seen, lessons you’ve learned and people you’ve met. Nobody can say no to that, not if they love you.
My mom came to visit me in Nepal, after we hadn’t seen each other for ten months. It was awesome to be able to share the experience with her and show her that.
Won’t I be lonely?
No. Absolutely not. Okay, it kind of depends on where you are going. I met an English guy who’d been traveling for over fifteen years. I just came from Bangladesh and I met him in Kathmandu. He told me that while he was traveling through Bangladesh, this was one of the few times in his life he truly felt lonely. But this is easily solved. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to start traveling in Bangladesh. It would make more sense to start in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, somewhere around that area. And the amount of solo travellers you come across in this area is astounding. Seriously, I had to escape the crowds every now and then to just have the opportunity to be alone for an afternoon.
Won’t I get bored?
Bored? BORED? How can you get bored while traveling? There’s so much to see, so much to do and so much to explore. Ancient ruins, deepest jungles, bluest oceans, highest mountains and the most beautiful cultures are surrounding you. Are you getting bored? Pack your bags and move on to the next place! Time to explore something new!
Isn’t it better to travel with someone together?
I wouldn’t think so. Honestly, after traveling alone for some years I now feel scared to travel with someone together. To be able to make your own decisions, is awesome. You meet way more people when you are traveling alone. But most important, if you want to go on a long journey and you want to do it with someone together, you will need to know this person through and through. You’re gonna be on each others lip every single minute of every single day. You’re gonna go through terrible bus drives, horrible delays, you’re gonna get food poisoning and both of you are gonna be cranky every once in a while.
Are you going to get through that shit with the person you are traveling with? It might screw up your friendship. On the other hand, it might strengthen it as well. Think well and good about this. If you even have a friend that you know that well, shares the same travel dream and ALSO has enough money in the bank to embark on a journey like that. Chances are pretty slim. I didn’t, so I chose to go alone. I wouldn’t change that decision now, not even for a million bucks.
What if I get homesick?
To tell you the truth, I got terribly homesick in Vietnam (sorry, Vietnam lovers, this just isn’t my favourite country). I wasn’t even traveling for a month and a half when I started thinking “What the hell am I doing here? I want to go home.” I thought that for a while, scared to give up, mainly scared for the reactions I would get back home if I would give up, feeling like a failure. After these questions had crossed my mind a couple of times I made a decision: I was going to keep on traveling for at least another month. If, after this month, I still felt the same, I could start thinking seriously of quitting early.
After Vietnam I moved on to Cambodia and from day one in this country I had the time of my life. The month passed without me even noticing. At one point I started laughing at myself. How, HOW, could I ever be that stupid to think of going home? This is life! This is amazing! I’m NEVER going to stop doing this!
So, maybe the outcome won’t be the same for everyone, but it was a good idea to push myself and set myself an ultimatum at the same time. And what if you still feel the same after that ultimatum has passed? Well, you go home. Maybe traveling for a long time isn’t for you. Not everyone is the same. Who cares? At least you learned one valuable lesson, maybe even more. And now you can find out what is the way for you to live your life!
What if I come home early because of homesickness or if I run out of money?
Homesickness: see upper question.
Run out of money: as long as you spend it well, on awesome experiences and make the fullest out of those. Don’t spend it all on alcohol (how easy that may be), ‘cause that might make you feel sorry afterwards. Spend your money wisely on awesome experiences and if you run out, well, either get a job or go home, but with great stories to tell! Make it count!