When you tell people you’re going travelling, one of the first things they ask you is who you’re going with. It’s a standard question; who’s going to be taking your photo in front of the respective famous landmarks? Who are you going to share those long plane/bus/train journeys with? And, perhaps most importantly, who’ll be watching your bags when you need the toilet?
It’s a popular opinion in today’s society that you need to be part of a couple in order to be happy. If you’re single, you’re repeatedly asked about relationships and whether there’s anyone on the horizon, as if that’s the most defining element of your personality. Speaking as someone who’s been devoid of a real relationship for a good few years, I know the trappings of being in this state. I also know how dangerous these conversations can be: when you start believing in the words of these loved up questioners, and begin to think that your life really might be valued on the merit of whether you happen to be seeing someone. As you regret all the nights spent on the sofa, and wish for a bright and shiny male friend to whisk you away into couple-land, you can also start to lose sight of all the joys that come with being single.
The ability to be impulsive is at the single traveller’s immediate disposal, and makes life a hell of a lot more interesting. Unlike those in a relationship, the lucky singleton gets to swan off at a mere moment’s notice because they don’t share a flat or a bank account with any significant other. Now, I’m not known for being the most impulsive person in my day-to-day life, but when it comes to travelling, anything goes. During my first internship I suddenly realised I hadn’t been abroad for over six months, and within the week I’d decided to go to Iceland to help out at a music festival.
Quite apart from being an awesome destination that I’d always wanted to visit, it also doubled up as being the perfect explanation for my life post-internship. Whenever my colleagues broached the subject (which was immediately awkward because I knew at that point that they weren’t going to offer me a job) I was able to breezily boast about my upcoming travel plans. And, as ever, was duly faced with the interminable question,
“So, who are you going with?”
I was working at a travel company. Everyone working there had done more than their fair share of backpacking. For the most part, my answer of “I’m going by myself” was met with nods and smiles, which was a welcome change to the norm. Except for one woman who, somehow feeling the need to burrow deeper into the topic, kicked off with such gems as,
“Hang on, why aren’t you going with your friends? Why would you want to go to Iceland by yourself?”
Ok, so obviously it’s lovely to share a trip abroad with someone. And of course I would have loved my friends to come with me. But there was no way I was going to pass up such a strangely wonderful opportunity to go to Iceland just because I didn’t have a back up squad! And that sentiment rings just as true every time I feel like travelling. What if none of your friends have the money or time to travel when you do? And what if they’d prefer to head off on a city break to somewhere you’ve already been, while you’ve been lusting after that trip to the Amazon for the last three years?
Most importantly, being independent enough to travel by yourself is often the gateway to an even more incredible adventure. Every trip I’ve taken solo has resulted in meeting more people and creating firmer friendships than I ever have when I’ve travelled with people I knew before I left.
Solo travel may be a disregarded option for many people, and you may feel a tad vulnerable and scared of the idea at first. Ultimately, though, travelling by yourself gives you a huge boost of confidence, heightens your self-awareness and makes you way more outgoing. Which is why I looked at my work colleague slightly pityingly and replied,
“I’m going travelling alone because I want to. And why the hell not?”