I wanted to do this post because now it’s coming to the end of uni, so many people are thinking about going travelling. One of the things that people say the most is ‘I couldn’t go alone’, but they don’t have anyone that they want to go with or who can commit to going. It’s such a shame when people end up not travelling because of the fact they don’t have anyone to go with, because you’re missing out on something so amazing. I can understand that it’s scary, and that some countries you definitely don’t want to travel round alone (at least as a girl). But for the most part, travelling alone is great.
The first time I travelled alone I was 19 and on my gap year. None of my friends were ready to travel or wanted to go to the same places as me so I just thought screw it, I’ll go by myself. I’m so glad I did because it was honestly liberating. I wanted to do some volunteering so I booked each set of volunteering for the start of my visit to each country. I went with Plan My Gap Year who are great! As part of the deal, when I arrived in each country I was picked up at the airport and taken to a volunteer house/hostel where I stayed with lots of other people doing volunteering. It was such a good way to do it because it meant I didn’t have to worry about finding places to stay or getting ripped off by taxis at the airport; I had a little orientation where local people working for the companies took me round the area and showed me where the shops and ATMs were etc.; I got some language lessons and great advice to help me get around, plus there was always someone to help out; and I had my meals cooked for me.
The fact that I was staying with so many people in the same boat as me meant that I made good friends really quickly. We were all somewhere new and exciting, and wanted to explore, so were on the lookout for travelling buddies. Most people had come alone so it was never like I had to find my way into cliques either. When you are living with people, sleeping, eating, volunteering, going out, and spending weekends away with people, you get comfortable very quickly! This was three years ago now and I made some really great friends from it. We have had meetups in the UK, and I’ve even gone to Paris and Holland to meet up with my friends from other countries.
Before I went I was already quite outgoing but I think it massively pushed me out my shell. You don’t have the time to be quiet and reserved because you’re meeting people all the time, and if you want to go and see anything cool then it’s great to have someone to go with! Quite often people have heard of really cool places to go, so it means that you get to go to places you maybe wouldn’t have thought of. Lots of people I spoke to who went travelling with their friends from home actually found that they fell out with them quite a lot and realised that actually, their friends were pretty useless at keeping organised, or high maintenance, or just didn’t want the same things from travelling that they did. They also said that because they had friends there all the time they never really bothered to make proper friends with anyone else, so came home feeling like they hadn’t really made any good friends.
Going alone and meeting other people there exposes you to so many different people you probably wouldn’t be friends with otherwise. For example, in the first country I visited alone – Cambodia – I made a massive group of amazing friends. People were from all over the place – England, Holland, Australia, and Hong was from Cambodia. People’s ages ranged from 18 right up to 26+, and we were all travelling on different budgets. If I had gone with a group of friends, I know that I would probably have never met such a fantastic and diverse group of people. After the end of my three weeks volunteering, we all travelled together to Siem Reap for Khmer new year and stayed in a hostel together and I think that brought us all so much closer. It is so great because it means you form friendships with people in the country as well, so if you ever want to go back you know there are people you can meet up with.
The second time I went away on a big trip alone was to China for 3 months. That was a bit different because I was doing an internship so I knew I was staying in one place. Again, I had someone to meet me at the airport, cook for me, give me a place to stay and teach me the language. There were other interns from the UK as well and we were all similar ages. Again, I ended up getting really close to them and forming firm friendships. As well as interns from the UK, there were loads of people that worked there full time who I ended up becoming really good friends with. We all went on nights out together, went away together, and some of the people that lived there full time had apartments we could visit and stay at.
In all my time travelling alone I never felt lonely. Of course, I had moments when I missed my friends and family, but I really was surrounded by amazing people all the time. I always had someone to go away for the weekend with, or sit on the roof and watch the sunrise with, or even a small act such as going to the shop with me. I think people are so worried that they’re not going to make friends or they’re going to feel lonely but I promise you that is not the case. There will always be someone in your hostel room who is happy to have someone to go to dinner with, or head to a bar in the evening. You may even decide that you make a great team and continue travelling together.
It made me really discover things about myself. Because I had always had someone else to lean on before, whether that was organising everything or just keeping me company, I never actually realised just how capable I was. It also means that you really can just take things at your own pace. If you want to sleep in until 2pm one day then great, you can! If you realised you love a place and want to stay for a few more days, then there is no one stopping you. You don’t have to wait for your friends to get ready (in hostels that don’t have many showers this can take ages) because you can just get up and go. I urge you to travel alone because you really will find that it makes you grow massively as a person.