When traveling, many people find joy in having a buddy or two by their side, experiencing life together. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat full of pictures with friends tagged in each one, or pictures taken by your friends. Ideally, traveling with others can be an amazing opportunity to share a special moment in your life with someone else, and be apart of an amazing opportunity in someone else’s special moment.
However, my case is not quite like that. When I first began my study abroad experience, my thoughts were to find a group of friends who wanted to traveling everywhere, every weekend, and do everything we could possibly do. After the first few passport stamps, it was official, I enjoy traveling alone – and I’m okay with it.
Why I enjoy traveling alone:
1. What I want, When I want –
As I travel, I have adopted a system on what I do at the airport, how I manage to get around the city, and what I want to do every day. Traveling alone gives you ultimate flexibility on what you want to do, without having to ask someone else if they approve. My struggle to read the minds of my friends on what they think is nonexistent, because the only mind I have to worry about, is my own. If I want to go to a Korean
Restaurant, I go to a Korean Restaurant. If I choose to hike up a mountain, I strap on my boots and I go. There is never time in between of having to ask or have doubt of doing something to be considerate of someone else.
Too many times have I done something that would be unconventional for the average traveler. For example, while I am in cities, I refuse to pay for an all-day bus pass or metro pass. God has blessed me with two fully functional legs that can do the job perfectly. Therefore, I walk (sometimes bike) everywhere that I can go. Typically, anything within a 4-5 mile radius is not intimidating for me. On the other hand, if I had a friend with me, I’m sure after day one I would hear complaints about blisters or jelly legs – rookies. It’s not that I’m cheap, instead, I find walking to be a greater opportunity to act like a local and see what they see everyday. From the variety of shops, restaurants, and business to the advertisements, traffic signs, and vehicles, walking from point A to point B is like a free tour of the city.
2. Hang out with the locals –
When you travel with a friend, you automatically have someone that you can spend your entire trip with. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will always be a table for two, you’ll always have someone to take a photo of you in front of (insert monument), and you never have to worry about forgetting your toothpaste because more likely than not, your friend brought some.
However, having this friend can sometimes act as a security blanket from the city of people that surround you. The best way to travel is to engage with the local people and learn how they live in their city. I have done countless Google searches, Yelp reviews, YouTube videos, and sightseeing apps to try and find the best places to see, eat, and explore. Although this option never fails, the most memorable experiences I have are from the people that I met along the way. As an introvert, I always find the initial conversation terrifying and it takes a lot of courage to find the confidence to
talk to someone you do not know, but I feed off of this fear. I love nothing more than getting past the introductions and getting to talk to people on a more personal basis. Throughout my time across Europe, I have created friendships with other tourists staying in the same hostels as me, on the streets, in restaurants/bars, even from social media apps like Instagram and Tinder. Traveling alone allows you to free up your schedule with no consequences or jeopardizing someone else’s plans.
Plus, the greatest way to spark a conversation with someone, is by asking them to take a picture of you. Then, you ask if they want the same and more likely than not, they will say yes. *initiate friendship*
3. Me Time –
Whether I am traveling or in my hometown, nothing soothes me more than a walk/run by myself. Just me. Since being in Europe, I have learned so much about myself in ways I never thought possible, because of how much personal time I have with myself. In Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, etc, I walked around thinking about my past, learning about my mistakes, reminiscing in my glory days, and preparing for my
future when I return to the States. As I walk through the streets, my mind opens up and allow every thought, dream, and fear to enter in. I am more in touch with my inner self in these past few months, just from traveling alone and being able to be by myself.
4. Spontaneity –
Last week, at 2:00 am on a Tuesday morning, I booked a trip to Copenhagen, 10 hours later, I was on the train to the airport. As you study abroad, you know your class schedule, your work load, your exam schedule, and your personal schedule. However, you do not know when your friends have class or if they have a lot of studying to do, and therefore, it creates conflict if you are only comfortable with traveling with others. As I have traveled, I typically figure out what I am doing the day of. On certain occasions I will have predetermined details on what to see and what to eat, but a majority of the time, I seek advice from the locals. Being spontaneous can be such a thrilling experience. When I was on the train to Edinburgh once, I did not have accommodations figured out yet, and not having phone service makes it a little more difficult. However, that experience of not knowing, and relying on your ability to maintain composure and stay calm has taught me so much.
5. Stick to the Budget –
Nothing is more daunting than when you go to Copenhagen and learn that it costs approximately $10-$13 for a McDonald’s Big Mac Meal. Traveling can be expensive when you calculate transportation and accommodations, let along food, tours, souvenirs, and much much more. The few times I did travel with friends, it was tempting to buy more food than I normally would, because my friends would. Occasionally I had to turn down my friends offer on a trip to a museum or attraction because I felt it was not worth the money, and that sucks! Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real issue when you are not included in a group picture overlooking the Guinness Factory in Dublin.
Even worse, traveling with friends can create hostility when one friend says something we have all heard before, “can I borrow some money”. In the moment, your heart says “yes of course!”, but one week later you realize you’re the one that is out of money now and all you can think of is that 10£ you lent out and have yet to see it since.
As you travel alone, you have a firm grasp on how much money you have, how much you’re willing to spend, and what you’re willing to spend it on. Even then, it can be complicated to stick to a budget, especially when you have to think about conversions and value. In a year from now, I’ll forget that some days I lived off of granola bars and water in efforts to save money, but what I won’t forget is that because I did so, I had more money to do things I wanted to do.
Even though I enjoy traveling alone, it does not mean that I ALWAYS enjoy traveling alone. When I do travel with friends, it makes the experience that much better. When I think of that person, I think of that one trip we took together and every small detail of it. Next weekend I am making a trip to Switzerland with a friend that I made here in Lancaster. We have booked the tickets, reserved a hostel, and are already makings lists on what we are going to eat.