First of all I love to travel to far away and exotic destinations. But finding a willing travel companion for the right timeframe and destination can be most difficult and limiting. Many friends have family obligations. Of the single people I know without family obligations, their career obligations reign supreme.
Today’s U.S. economy and company styles are not time-off friendly because of downsizing and competitive work nature, it’s frowned upon. Even when you have the vacation time accrued companies don’t want you using it other than a few days timeframe now and again. Many cannot even manage a month’s worth of time. I myself had to ‘fight’ for a month off at work for a really good vacation. One of the comments I would receive from several co-workers was “aren’t you afraid that after a month off the company will notice and figure out that they don’t need you”. Many have to be satisfied with a one or two week vacation a year. Then there are differences in travel styles, budgets, and levels of comfort for activities and destinations. A lot of compromising needs to occur, and inevitably arguments.
I started with 3-4 week long vacations while I was working and chose to go solo. What I discovered is a sense of ultimate freedom when you decide to travel solo. This doesn’t mean I will never travel with other people. I still do occasionally and find it rewarding. You develop your friendships even further when you travel with people you already know. If you can get them to travel in the first place! You can share accommodation and commuting expenses as a bonus.
During my month long travels while I was working I first started with travel packages. As my adventurous travel spirit and knowledge grew I found these packages to be rather limiting, rushed with little time or flexibility for doing your own thing. Plus they all had a ‘Single’ supplement so many travel companions were couples or friends that stuck to themselves. Of course you had some conversations but you still felt somewhat like an outsider.
I wanted to spend a month in Egypt 2005 and had researched many places I wanted to see with added activities such as Scuba. The options were widespread and the logistics was challenging. I found a U.K. based company called “Imaginative Traveller” which has some low-budget adventurous itineraries. They had everything I researched that I wanted to see and do and had some free days to add some Scuba for myself. Their group tours have you pairing up with someone else in a room and avoid ‘Single’ supplements. This was my best travel experience ever. I traveled with great people, great fun and made friends. I was not an outsider. It was a perfect trip experience. This fueled my desire for further solo travel.
Alternatively with solo travel you can choose a low budget style such as hostel accommodations and begin new friendships as you encounter like-minded people with similar travel styles as yourself. You’re not really alone. With online information and websites increasing as the years go by, planning and organizing your own trips became easier. You can stay in contact with your friends back home as well. I actually encountered some friends and acquaintances in different parts of the world briefly. There was nothing left to hold me back from my travel desire… except my budget and time away from my job. With online research I found I could plan and execute my own itineraries for a third or less budget than any organized group tour, except for a few group tour itineraries offered by Imaginative Traveller are still an occasional option for me.
With solo travel you begin to break all the mental boundaries you grew up with. True growth comes from forcing yourself just outside of your comfort zone. You gain psychological and mental growth through self-reliance. Hone your organizational skills, navigation skills, develop your communication skills through interaction with people of different cultures and background. Time alone allows for self-reflection. You get to enjoy your own company, know yourself, your true likes, dislikes and needs. You discover you can live with less materialism. Solo travel will change you for the better. You start to feel lighter, less burdened. Your self-esteem improves and self-image as a person grows as you navigate the world with planes, train, automobiles… and sometimes camels, adapting to different modes of transportation. Longer journeys may inevitably lead to obstacles and mishaps. You’ll be flexing your mental muscles to get past these. You develop empathy for different people and why they behave they way they do, including yourself. You’ll surprise yourself. So why Solo travel? Because it removes limitations and expands your psyche.