Feedback from an introverted woman who’s been traveling alone since the age of 19
It’s me, on top of Lion Rock, in Hong Kong. Image: Author.
I was 19 years old. I packed my bags and flew halfway around the world. From Paris to Hong Kong. All by myself. Not because I hadn’t found anyone to join me. Because I wanted to go alone.
Since then, I have traveled to Berlin and Lisbon, alone again. My next destination is Mexico. I am a young woman, rather introverted. I used to have the worst sense of direction in the world. Sometimes, getting out of a store, I couldn’t remember if I was coming from the left or the right side of the street.
So if I can do it, why couldn’t you? I’m willing to bet that you, too, are perfectly capable of traveling alone.
I would even go further. It’s not that you can. Actually, you should do it.
What are you afraid of?
If being attacked is a fear for you, I understand that. That’s what people fear most of the time. It crosses my mind from time to time as well. But if you pay attention to the security criteria of the destination you choose, chances are that you are no less safe abroad than in your home town. All you have to do is follow the basic safety rules. Make sure that someone knows where you are at all times. Use your common sense, be careful, and hope for the best. Alternatively, you can dig a hole in the ground to spend the rest of your life “safe”.
But chances are it’s not the only thing that keeps you from going on the big adventure.
If you are afraid of not being able to solve the inevitable “problems” that occur on a trip, trust me: you’ll figure it out. When you have no choice but to solve things yourself, without being able to rely on someone else, you will find a way. You will. And besides, you’ll grow tremendously thanks to that.
What other things could you fear? Being bored alone? I can understand that. Sometimes I get bored too. But, spoiler alert, sometimes I get bored at home too. More often than when I’m abroad, even.
Are you afraid to do things alone? Why is that? Who put it in your head that some things can only be done accompanied? I went dancing in a club by myself. I went to a restaurant alone. I’ve gone to movies, sightseeing, day trips, hikes, and walks alone.
And that taught me something crucial: to enjoy my own company.
Here’s Why You Should Consider Taking the Plunge
Cut out all the thinking. Go to Skyscanner and book your plane tickets. It doesn’t have to be far away. 100 km from your hometown is perfectly fine if you feel better that way. Choose a city that appeals to you — I’ve found that it’s easier to start in the capitals, it’s more reassuring — , pack your bags and go.
You know, at the end of the day, we are alone. You were born alone, and you’ll die alone. You can connect with people, but you’ll still remain by yourself. There’s only one person you’re stuck with for the rest of your life, and that’s yourself. How do you want to lead a balanced, healthy life if you’re not comfortable with that? If you can’t tolerate being alone? you must learn to be alone. And traveling solo is a very good way to learn this.
It will be tough at first. You’ll feel out of your comfort zone. But don’t run away. Learn how to deal with it. Feel how your feelings, your sensations, your perspectives change over time. Feel how comfortable you’re becoming, and how much it feels like the ultimate form of freedom. On the way home, feel how much you have evolved.
It’s golden. It really is.
Traveling alone does not mean staying alone.
Traveling alone means making the trip by yourself. This does not mean staying alone for the whole stay.
You can either stay in a hostel, which is a good way to meet other solo travelers. You can join Facebook groups or download dating apps, to meet locals or fellow travelers. It's not that hard.
I hardly meet anyone when I travel with people. When I’m alone, however, I always meet people. And the moments spent in their company are often the best memories of my trip, and some of these encounters sometimes lead to long-term connections.
Of course, this requires you to get out of your comfort zone. I was very stressed when I joined that rooftop barbecue in Hong Kong. I was a little stressed when I walked into that club in Berlin alone. It was already better when I met people here in Lisbon. It’s like everything: the first times are always the toughest. Then, you improve.
I fully understand that traveling alone can be scary. But I know more and more people who do, and each one of them comes back delighted. It’s such an incredible feeling to pack your bags and go to the airport by yourself. I have never known a stronger feeling of freedom than this one.
You’re going to learn a bunch of things. About you. About life. About the person you are and the person you want to become. The Solo Journey is one of the best teachers I’ve ever known. You have no idea how transformed you’ll come back. In a good way.
Don’t wait for others to do the things you want to do. Have you ever tried to organize a trip with a group of friends? X is only available between this date and this one. Y wants to go to this country, but Z wants to go to another. And once you’re there, you have to divide the time between everyone’s desires and expectations.
Traveling alone means freeing yourself from all this. You do whatever you want, from dawn to dusk. You eat whatever you want, from breakfast to dinner. No one holds you accountable. There’s no one to please.
Only you. Go.