For most who decide to travel alone, it turns out to be an exciting and empowering experience. However, before departing the thought of “flyin’ solo” can be frightening. It’s like the fear of eating alone in the cafeteria. Except now that cafeteria fear could turn into a 24/7 reality.
“Eating every meal alone!? Noooo!”
Take a deep breath. Eating alone isn’t all that bad. Especially when you’re thousands of miles away in an exotic country. So stop complaining, will ya?
For me, traveling alone is as normal as drinking coffee in the morning. (Which is the norm.) Nonetheless, people (especially in the US) are surprised when I say I travelled to Malaysia or Cambodia completely by myself. Which leads to the question, “What’s it like to travel alone?” Sometimes followed by, “I could never!”
In my experience, I find solo travel empowering. Others feel the same, like travel blogger Erin Marie Musich from The World Wanderer. Speaking about her first experience traveling alone to Europe,
“While I was a little nervous before the trip, as soon as I got off the plane, I felt an enormous weight lifted off me, and it felt so good to be all on my own, far away from anyone I knew; it was so liberating.”
Traveling alone is so liberating. But even more than that, I find solo travel to be inspiring.
When traveling alone, I experience this unparalleled creative spark. I become a voracious writer and oftentimes transcribe 3,000 or more words a day. Moreover, I suddenly have all these business and book ideas. The ideas just keep flowing. This is actually one of the main reasons I love solo travel—heightened creativity and motivation. I just don’t experience this back at home.
Solo Travel Sparks Creativity
I’m not the only one who feels a pulse of inspiration. Michael Huxley of Bemused Backpacker said he, too, is much more creative when unaccompanied. He wrote his first novel (yeah, I guess he has more than one!) when traveling alone in Egypt and Sudan.
Huxley attributes his increased productivity and creativity to the fact that he puts “effort into creative projects” rather than concentrating on spending time with another person.
I couldn’t agree more. Let’s face it: People are distracting. Phone calls and texts and emails and conversations in the workplace.. argh! What better way to focus on a project than to completely remove yourself? If I were to ever write a book like Huxley (hopefully one day), I too would prefer to do so while traveling alone.
Plus, as Huxley points out, “…you are much more introspective when traveling solo. You can take all these amazing new, unfamiliar experiences, analyze how they make you feel and, in turn, it can spark a jolt.”
Without a doubt unknown and changing surroundings cooks up inspiration.
Is Traveling Alone Different For Girls?
In general, not just when traveling alone, girls and guys face different challenges. Girls have to deal with awkward situations like getting cat called while innocently walking down a street in mid-day with families around. On the other hand, guys are way more likely to get sucked into some random bar brawl while out on a weekend.
As Samantha Wei, half of My Tan Feet, explains, “I wish that the expectations and reality was equal for both genders but there are still some situations that you need to take extra caution as a woman.”
Wei then shared a story with me about a ten hour overnight layover at the Miami Airport that went awry.
“I was alone at my gate and an older man started talking and following me all around the airport all night. I was incredibly put off and my personal space very invaded. If I was traveling with someone else, the man probably wouldn’t have come and talked to me. Undoubtedly he wouldn’t if I was a male.”
On the other hand, Eytan Levy from Snarky Nomad thinks guys have it more difficult. (Calm down feminists!) Let him explain,
“As far as I’ve repeatedly seen, guys are statistically far more likely to be the victims of violence when traveling through other countries than girls. The reason for this isn’t that guys are more vulnerable, but that guys are more likely to engage in risky behavior, like getting so drunk they can’t walk in a straight line, and then getting into a bar fight with no one to take them to the hospital afterwards. So although our society is apparently paranoid about girls traveling on their own, and we seem to have effectively taught girls to be careful, we should really be telling the men to be more careful, too.”
I definitely see Levy’s point. When traveling alone, I rarely drink. And if I do it’s definitely not to a point where my judgment is blurred. Generally speaking, girls are more cautious than guys.
Okay, so there’s a difference between girls and guys … but what about race? Does that make a difference?
Does Ethnicity Matter When Venturing Solo?
Travel blogger from Singapore Hendric Tay definitely sees a difference between genders when it comes to traveling solo. “Naturally girls have it easier while meeting people because guys will be attracted to them and other girls will find them less of a ‘threat’—since they are probably not hitting on them,” he says.
More than that, Tay also notices differences between race. As he explains in a post about what it’s like being an Asian guy traveling solo,
“We are not as exotic as Asian women, not perceived to be as fun as Caucasian guys, and definitely not as outgoing as the African dudes. Of course I am generalizing but the point is that people won’t naturally warm up to us that quickly.”
I guess I can’t really comment on that… since I only know what it’s like to be a white girl traveling alone. Any other Asian dudes out there agree? (Let me know in the comments!)
One of the biggest fears people have is safety. Of course, bad stuff can happen anywhere.
But take in these wise words from Huxley (Bemused Backpacker),
“The reality is the actual risk of becoming a victim of crime when backpacking is very low (and can be reduced even further by taking reasonable and sensible safety precautions) but the media portrayals of exceptional cases where things have gone wrong blow everything out of all proportion and forget to mention that the vast majority of people traveling solo return safe and sound after having the time of their lives.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or guy or Asian or white. Solo travel encourages problem solving.
As Tay explains, “…there is a special charm to solo travel. It’s really exciting because there’s this constant unexpectedness which keeps you buzzing and on your toes.”
And that constant unexpectedness leads to personal growth and reflection. Nonetheless, beyond self-improvement, solo travel is really empowering. As Musich from The World Wanderer describes,
“There’s a lot about solo travel that I love, freedom being the best part. When you’re alone, you are free to do what you want, when you want to do it, there’s no one else to worry about. In this aspect, solo travel is completely liberating. Sure, there are difficult aspects, but through any trials and challenges, the feeling of overcoming them at the end, when you are still all alone, well, there’s nothing like it.”
Have you ever taken a trip by yourself? Were you inspired? Motivated? Liberated? If so, tell me in the comments below. Or tell me in a tweet!