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Travelling alone: a life enriching experience

Different kinds of people want different experiences from their travels, but for me, travelling through Europe for a couple of years in my early 20s was really about building myself as a person and leaving the familiar and the expected behind.   As such, I underwent the majority of my journeys alone, and was able to set my agenda entirely as I wanted, without the commitments of anyone else interrupting my freedom.

Travelling solo offers a liberty unobtainable when accompanied by friends, such as the time I entered a hostel in Utrecht, Netherlands and found that it was staffed by guests who, like me, weren’t in a hurry to be anywhere.    I ended up working there for a month, and it was one of the best experiences of my life, one that would have been cut short if I had friends in tow, impatient to get to the next city.  You can use to find out when to catch the next train.

Starting on the journey alone doesn’t necessarily mean being alone.   On the contrary, I found myself in a far wider variety of situations and conversations than I ever imagined.   Most hostels are  great places to get to know people in a similar situation to you, and it can be great fun to go out and explore the town with your new friends.   But if you don’t meet anyone in the hostel, go out by yourself, sit at a bar, and see if you can start a conversation with a friendly local.   An individual attempting to immerse himself in the culture is much more likely to be welcomed than a large group that simply wants to down the local booze and talk to each other.

Even when I was travelling by myself, I often wasn’t.   In New Zealand, I often encountered people in hostels and at campsites who were heading the same way as me, and in exchange for paying a share of the fuel costs, I could catch a lift with them.    If at some point, I wanted to stay and they wanted to move on, then we would say our goodbyes and I would move onto the next group of new friends.

It’s not always easy travelling solo.  It can be lonely, and it can be tiring.  But every day is a new experience and you are always in charge of where you want to go next.

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