“Is this some kind of Eat, Pray, Love?”, was the reaction I got from my partly excited and mostly worried friends when they found out I was going to travel alone to a different country every month. “Is everything alright with you?”… After all, even in modern travel books, there is a sense that we always need a big, dramatic reason to travel alone. We’ve all read (or watched) enough Eat, Pray, Love , to know that Liz Gilbert decided to travel around the world only after both her marriage and rebound relationship fizzled out miserably. ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ took his journey to the other side of the globe after a heart attack. However, that is actually not quite the case for solo travelers. Traveling to recover from a dramatic life event is only a romanticized myth about traveling solo, just like other myths around being a solo traveler
Solitude vs. Loneliness
Yes, one can be alone and not feel lonely. There is a difference between these two terms, as loneliness and solitude aren’t the same at all. Loneliness increases your feelings of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, increases your self-awareness, eventually making you feel more connected with the world around you. Jack Fong, a California-based professor of sociology, says that ‘solitude encourages people to develop an understanding of the self’. If you ask solo travelers about their experiences, most if not all of them will talk about how they are ‘changed’ after each and every trip. Traveling solo has a lot to do with enjoying your own company and appreciating your thoughts that come with increased awareness and excitement. Thus, it is true that sometimes, the very best company is no company at all.
A Means to an End
Solitude is often the first step towards a whole new headspace. That being said, even if you start your experience alone, you don’t always stay that way. We’re never truly alone – in every city you visit or every hostel you stay in, there will be people experiencing a similar journey, traveling on the same route. You meet people on your way. A recent sociology study revealed that although solo travelers choose to travel alone, their motive is not necessarily to experience constant solitude on their trips. When asked, they all stated that they highly valued contact with locals and fellow travelers. Indeed, such encounters were among the biggest benefits they sought from their travels. Solitude, then, was not the whole reason for their travel – rather, it was something that they wanted to experience occasionally.
So, next time before you get intimidated by the idea of loneliness and let another travel go by the board, remember that loneliness, even constant solitude, is only a myth when you’re flying solo. Just go for it, because sometimes, staying in your comfort bubble can get lonelier than a journey you take on your own.
A final recommendation
“If I had stuck to my routine, hoping that one day an external force, like a husband or a child, would bring meaning to my life, I would have never seen what it was like to find meaning all on my own.”
In her TEDx Talk, Jen Ruiz, lawyer, solo traveler and writer, talks about how she traveled 20 countries before her 30th birthday, seeking strength in solitude and experiencing much more on her way. Watch it for yourself!
Header image credits: Pixabay