You want to travel. You make a vague plan. Maybe you’ll fly to Thailand or maybe to Mexico, but either way, you’re leaving in six months time. You start saving money, you start doing research every single night and your level of excitement grows with each passing hour.
Of course, as this will be your first ‘real’ travel experience, you naturally prefer to travel with other people and so you start asking your friends to join you on your epic adventure. As you show them photos you found online of white sand beaches on a Thai island and of the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza, you are more than confident that you will have a travel partner or two in no time at all.
But interestingly enough, the first friend you ask, perhaps your closest friend, turns you down. And so you move on to the next friend, but they too, tell you that they have no desire to join you at all. The third friend, the fourth friend and even that guy that you don’t really like but whose company you think you could stand for a few months in Southeast Asia, all say no as well.
Suddenly, you are faced with the idea of embarking on a journey to faraway and very foreign lands all alone. You start to doubt whether or not you are up for the challenge, whether or not you have the courage necessary to survive as a solo traveler.
Maybe you decide to postpone your trip for another six months, hoping that one of your friends will change their mind and decide to tag along. Maybe you decide to forget about your trip altogether, fully convinced that you can only travel so far away from home with a friend or travel companion by your side.
You still desperately want to travel, so much so that you still spend many a night awake in bed researching random destinations, reading every travel article you can find and browsing through travel blog after travel blog. But now you try to accept the fact that what you read and see online is as close as you’ll come to actually traveling yourself.
DON’T GIVE UP JUST YET!
Perhaps, during your online dreaming, you stumbleupon my travel blog and you decide to stick around long enough to read a couple of posts. Maybe you find yourself reading this very post and you can relate to that process of giving up on your travel goals simply because you don’t want to travel alone. And in all honesty, if that is the case, then I’m quite happy that you are reading this post right now.
Here’s my advice to you. You may be on your own when you board that flight to Bangkok or Mexico City, but believe me, once you arrive, you’ll NEVER actually be alone.
That’s how travel works. Unless you stare at the ground and never talk to anyone, you’re going to meet people when you travel, lots and lots of people from all over the world who will be interested in meeting and hanging out with you. In fact, meeting new people is probably one of the easiest things to do when traveling because you have an instant connection with every other traveler. All travelers are strangers in a foreign land and as a result, we often would love an opportunity to travel with a new friend.
Maybe you’ll meet someone at the hostel or guesthouse where you’re staying or at a cafe, in a shop, on a bus or just in the street. Maybe you’ll end up wandering around a city for an afternoon with this person and then parting ways. And the next day, you’ll probably meet someone else to share new experiences with as well. Perhaps you’ll meet someone and decide to travel together for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks. Maybe your plans match up so well that you team up for a month or more.
The point is, you’ll meet plenty of people in just about every single corner of the world, even if you’re the most shy, introverted person on the planet.
MY FIRST SOLO TRIP
When I left for Southeast Asia back in 1999, I did so all alone. Sure, I asked every single one of my friends to join me, just as most of us would do, but they all said no. However, after a long, hard internal debate, I made the decision to visit Asia anyway, with no travel companion. And this decision proved to be the most important decision I have ever made.
I won’t lie to you. When I boarded that flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok, I was shaking. I was so scared of the uncertainty that awaited me that I could barely even think and as a result, I couldn’t help but realize that this was the most terrifying experience of my life.
In fact, several years later, when I was given ten seconds notice one day that I would have to give a forty-five minute presentation to 1000 people on a cruise ship, the fear I felt at that moment was NOTHING in comparison to how I felt on that flight to Thailand.
But of course, despite the fear, as I soared high over the Pacific Ocean, high over Taiwan and eventually into Southeast Asia, I knew that there was no turning back.
AND THEN MY FLIGHT LANDED…
…and I passed through immigration and customs at the Bangkok Airport and I even managed to make it from the airport into the city center without any problems despite the fact that it was after midnight. I spent the night in a budget hotel room and then, during my first stroll around the streets of Bangkok the very next morning, I met a British traveler at a cafe. We started talking and sure enough, we both had planned to travel overland to Cambodia in order to celebrate the Millennium at Angkor Wat.
That was it. Just like that I had a travel partner, less than nine hours after I had arrived in Bangkok. And we got along so well that we ended up traveling together for almost two months.
Will that happen to you when you embark on your adventure? There’s no guarantee of course. But again, if you look up, smile and start conversations with those around you, the chances of you actually being alone are quite miniscule (unless you want to be alone).
And before long, you’ll understand why I answer every single email that asks me what it’s like to always travel alone with the very same response. I simply say, “I may be a solo traveler but I’m never really on my own.”
So, with that now said, I urge you to not let the fear of traveling by yourself stop you from achieving your travel goals. It would be such a shame to let that happen, especially when that fear will disappear shortly after you arrive at your first destination.
Have you experienced this fear? Have you reconsidered your travel plans when your friends didn’t want to join you? Do you agree that meeting people is quite easy while on the road?