Travelling alone is a wonderful experience in many ways. Before I got into the plane to Sri Lanka for the first time on a solo trip, I had no idea what to expect from three weeks of backpacking in a country I had never been, where I didn’t speak the language and where the culture was different than the one I grew up in. I had a great time here, and have crossed some of my own boundaries (in a good way). But although solotravelling has many advantages, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best option. Therefore, I wanted to tell about my experience and mention the up- and the downsides of travelling by yourself.
- The biggest plus of a solotrip is – ofcourse – your freedom. You don’t have to think about anyone else, so if you don’t like it in one place, you just go to another. Tired and not into a party tonight? Let’s get back to the guesthouse and go to bed early. Want to go on an adventure? Then go! Craving for a hamburger and fries instead of the local dish? No one said you can’t go to McDonald’s.
- When you’re alone, you have a lot more time to think. Not only about yourself and things at home, but also about things you have experienced on your journey. It’s easier to enjoy special moments, because sometimes, you don’t have anyone to talk to. My most memorable moment of Sri Lanka is really small, but still very special to me: having breakfast at my guesthouse in the mountains of Ella, in the middle of nowhere, with view over the monkeys swinging from palmtree to palmtree. Make sure you write down these things in a journal – or, like I did – type it out on your blog.
- Then another cliche which is also true: you’ll meet much more other backpackers when you’re travelling alone. If you’re on a trip with people you already know, you easily stick with your travel partner in crime and you will be less open to other travellers. When you’re alone, you have to get in touch with people, because otherwise your time in this country will be much more boring and lonely. After having travelled alone, your social skills will have been improved.
- Not only will you meet more other backpackers, you also talk a lot more with locals. The hosts of my guesthouse kept me company when there were not much other tourists around, and while travelling from one town to another, they helped me a lot with the trains and buses I had to take. On one train station, I met a Sri Lankan man who provided me the train schedule and afterwards told me how he had survived the tsunami of 2004. It was such an impressive story which I probably wouldn’t have heard if I were with other people.
- And last but not least: it gives you so much confidence doing this all by yourself. If you can travel the world and take care of yourself at the same time, you have a feeling you can do anything. And that’s the best feeling ever!
- During your trip, you’ll definitely have moments that you feel alone. Sometimes, you’re in a town with not many tourists, or you did meet people, but you prefer having your own friends around you. It can be quite enviable to see other people having fun with their friends and you’re in a restaurant eating alone and reading a book.
- In countries like Sri Lanka, it can be awkward to walk down the streets by yourself if you’re a Western woman. If I walked with someone, there was no problem at all, but while walking alone, I was an easier target and especially men tried to talk to me all the time. Where I was going to, if I needed a tuk-tuk, why I was alone, or what country I came from. I have to be honest: the first couple of days, it was not easy, but eventually, you get used to it. Though it can influence your feeling of safety while travelling.
- Another downside because of safety reasons: you sometimes have to think about situations on forehand. Especially walking in a desolate town or through the mountains in the dark of the night by myself was a no-go for me. Therefore, planning a trip to a bar or restaurant was not really adventurous anymore.
- Figuring out everything by yourself is pure freedom, but it also means you need to think about your planning yourself the whole time. Discussing where to go next and having someone to make a decision can sometimes also be a relief. They always say that travelling and going on a holiday are two different things, and that’s definitely true. Lying on the beach for two weeks and not think about anything is much easier than backpacking and travelling through a country. Standing in buses, walking in the heat of the sun, dealing with tuk-tuk and taxi drivers, creating a travel plan: it all belongs to travelling and it’s sometimes quite exhausting.
Having told all about my experiences, I figured out that I have written more ‘upsides’ than ‘downsides’, and that’s exactly how I think about it. And at the end of the day, it really depends on yourself: if you love to explore a country, if you’re comfortable with being alone and if you think it’s (quite) easy to get in touch with other people, you will love solotravelling. If not, just travel with (boy/girl)friends or family. Or do both, like me!