Traveling alone isn't for everyone, and that's okay. I definitely love traveling alone. The first time I did so, I was 21 years old, and I spent six weeks backpacking around Europe by myself. I'd worked my way through high school and saved up every penny, so by the time I was old enough to go traveling, I had enough for a plane fare and shoestring fun-making. All of my schlub friends hadn't worked and saved like I had, so I made the decision to take off alone. I couldn't be bothered to wait for one of them to start putting some money away for an adventure. That was my first important lesson in traveling: Never wait for someone else to be as motivated as you are. When you're ready and able to go—go.
Since then, I've also travelled with friends, and as much fun as that is, it's completely different to the experience of traveling alone. Without diminishing how wonderful traveling with loved ones can be, traveling alone is enriching in a way that having company can never be. You do have to be very comfortable being alone, because at every second of every day, you're acutely aware of that aloneness. If you're the kind of person who should travel alone, that will be the most empowering feeling on earth. If you're not suited to solo travel, you might find it scary at best, hideously depressing at worst. I do think that everyone, even the neediest person should do things alone from time to time. Even if it's as simple as sitting in a cafe and having a coffee without company. It's important to be alone sometimes. But traveling alone is a huge commitment. Here are six signs you might be up for it.
1. You don't worry about missing things
If you're the kind of person who will voluntarily stay home when all your friends are at a party (because you just didn't really feel like going to a party that night) and not wonder what they're doing/feel bad that you're missing out, you'd probably have no trouble traveling alone. A lot of choosing to travel alone is choosing to forgo things you could be doing with other people. It's also accepting that you're going to have experiences you won't be able to share with your friends when you get home. You'll be able to tell stories, sure, but you're never going to have memories and personal jokes with your pals from the time you were away, and chances are, they'll have made some of those things with each other in your absence.
2. You make yourself laugh
It's really important to enjoy your own company if you want to travel alone. While you will meet so, so many different and amazing people along the way, you're going to be spending a lot of time by yourself. Taking trains, being at airports, wandering the streets of new cities and towns and especially eating out, which is where you'll end up taking most meals if you're staying in hostels/hotels. Being able to make yourself laugh, and just being comfortable to spend time with you is the key to traveling alone.
3. You're impatient
I once traveled with a girlfriend who LOVED gift shops. I happen to loathe shopping, especially in rows of busy gift shops with all the same crap in them, in countries where I'd rather be taking in beautiful sights and eating delicious food. I don't judge her love of gift shops (I totally get that I'm the one who is strange for hating shopping so much), it's just not for me. And I'm not very good at being patient with things other people want to do that I find deadly boring or a waste of my time. I fidget. I have resting bitch face. I'm like a little kid who got dragged along to the supermarket with mom: I just want to leave and I'm not mature enough to hide it. If you just want to do you, and not have to wait around for everyone to do them first, travel alone.
4. You're good at talking to strangers and love meeting new people
Even the biggest loner can't be the biggest loner when traveling alone. Even when talking to travel support staff, service staff, and locals, you have to be confident about talking to strangers. You'll also meet so many people, especially if you do any kind of activity, like a tour or class or sport, so you have to be a good conversationalist. Traveling alone isn't as alone as it sounds. Unless you go off the grid and totally isolate yourself, you're going to be sharing many spaces with many new and strange people. If you're on a budget, you might even be in a hostel sharing a bedroom with several other people, so if people you've never met before aren't your thing, oddly enough, traveling alone might not be for you.
5. You're independent
You absolutely have to be able to do things on your own. You can't rely on anyone but yourself when you're traveling alone. No one else is going to look up train times for you. No one is going to find out what time check-out is. No one is going to read your map for you. These are all things you have to do yourself, and unless you're a self-starter who feels confident to navigate unknown and foreign places, often without any assistance (you can always ask around for help but there are sometimes pretty big language barriers!), you could find yourself hopelessly in a bind. On the other hand, if doing everything yourself is your natural comfort zone anyway, you'll likely love flying solo.
6. You thrive on spontaneity
I once got locked out of my accommodation and had to spend a night on the street in Paris. That was an extreme situation by normal travel standards, but I thought, "There are worse places to sleep than on the streets of Paris", as I unfurled my beach towel and used my backpack as a pillow in the doorway of the place I was supposed to be staying. Plans don't always go as planned when you're traveling. You have to be ready and willing to roll with the punches and do so with a positive attitude, otherwise you're going to have a terrible time. One of the most wonderful things about travellng alone is waking up one morning in, say, Rome, and saying "I think I'd like to go to Greece today," or being invited to Sorrento for the weekend by some random you met and just going. Not checking in with anyone. Not mulling it over for a few days—just doing it. That's the loveliest part of traveling alone: you're not beholden to any one or any schedule, so anything could and can happen in a twist of a second.
Photos: Jessica Blankenship/Facebook; Giphy (6)