If you’re someone who always loves to be around people, traveling alone can feel weird. But it’s completely normal to take a trip all by yourself.
There’s nothing weird or wrong about it. In fact, many feel alive and connected when they travel alone than with a group.
That’s because the level of alertness and attention to tiny details all rise when you’re left to your own senses.
Why does it feel weird to travel alone?
It mostly comes down to the following reasons:
1. Lack of stimulation
Our mind often wants to ‘chew’ something. And when it chews, it gets a dopamine hit. Friends and conversations fulfill that need.
But when you’re alone, there’s no one to give the mind something to ‘chew’. This could lead to the feeling of boredom.
The simplest way I’ve found to counter this is to talk to people. Also, paying attention to the details around helps too. For more tips, check out this post on what to do if you feel bored traveling alone.
2. Lack of habit
If you’ve never traveled alone, you’re going to feel awkward at first. Trust me, every solo traveler has been through that face. But as you take more trips, you become more comfortable with yourself.
3. Attached to labels
I see this problem in many people. On one side you have the extroverts who say ‘they can’t just go alone because it’s lonely.’
On the other, there are introverts who think since they aren’t extroverts, it’ll be harder for them to travel alone because it will be hard talking to people.
These labels are like crutches. They cipple you even if you. Drop them the mind and start running.
What to do if you feel it’s too weird to solo travel but you still want to do it anyway?
The key here is to change the mindset from ‘solo travel seems weird’ to ‘solo travel is normal’. A few simple steps will help you make this transition:
1. Think of a solo-travel hero
It could be someone you know, a real-life character or even a fictitious character from the books.
For me, I’ve had many such heroes. My biggest real-life hero is my father, who was a radio officer in a shipping corporation. He traveled to some of the world’s finest places before airplanes became mainstream. Every time he tells a story of his visit to one of the 100 countries, it gives me the spark to explore the world more.
Another hero is Bear Grylls whose crazy stunts I’ve always wanted to emulate. And then there’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Carribean who can get out of any trouble even when he’s alone!
Observe and you’ll find some solo-travel heros around you.
2. It’s natural to be uncomfortable when you are alone.
Yes – on your solo journeys there will be moments when you’ll feel uncomfortable. Almost everyone solo traveler feels it. The key here is to realize that it’s just a phase and that you can overcome it – sometimes it takes courage, while in other cases, it gets easier with time.
3. Start small – go out all by yourself for a day-trip to a city nearby.
Mindset is good. But unless you don’t take action, you won’t build the reference point in your mind to take a solo trip.
I remember walking 1.5 km to my home when I was just 9 without informing my parents.
At 15, I remember going out alone for a movie. Everyone thought it was weird. But the 15-year-old Ranveer going out on his own has installed a belief-point in my mind, that allows the 24-year-old Ranveer to fearlessly take a trip across Asia.
Keep building – one step at a time.
How to stay safe while traveling alone?
This deserves a separate section of its own. Here I’ll highlight some simple safety measures you can undertake on your solo journey.
1. Don’t carry valuable belongings
It’s better to not carry valuables like gold, jewelry with you, especially on your body. If you have them, you can deposit them in the hotel locker.
2. Avoid overloading your bags or pockets
Carrying 2 mini-bags and checking your 2 pockets means your overall attention has to be in 4 places. Pickpockets know how to take advantage of such a situation.
When I was a child, my father was carrying me in one hand(attention two) and had a wallet in his pocket. It was crowded. That’s when a group of 3-4 pickpockets came. One tried shoving a hand in my father’s face, to which my father had to defend using his other hand(attention two).
Now that both his hands were occupied, another pickpocketer grabbed his wallet from the pocket, passed it over to his accomplice and vanished before my father could even see their faces.
Keep your attention in place. Don’t get overloaded.
3. Assess the safety profile of a city by talking to locals you trust
Traveling alone in Brazil through a favela is different than traveling at night in Zadar, Croatia. The first one could get you in big trouble whereas the second one would be a pleasant experience.
A local can give you accurate information on what areas to travel through. Locals are more reliable but if you can’t find or trust them, ask Google.
You’ll make more friends traveling alone than if you were in a group.
This seems counterintuitive at first. But there are 2 reasons why it happens:
- In groups, you don’t have an incentive.
Your need to belong gets fulfilled when you’re in a group. So you won’t go out of your way to seek friends or open conversations.
But when you have no friends, you’ll often initiate conversations. You have a social need to connect which forces you to step out of your comfort zone. In the process, you end up making friends.
- People just want to help a solo traveler more
You’ll be surprised but often when you’re traveling alone, people around, especially the locals have an urge to help. At the World University Chess Championship in Brazil, a player from one country used to have his food alone everyday.
On the final day, the players of the host team – Brazil invited him to their table for lunch. 2 hours later, they played Fooseball and clicked some pictures too.
What if you start to feel lonely during solo travel?
This is the most obvious drawback of journeying alone. It’s one that might intimidate you at first, but over time it’ll get easier to deal with it. It all comes down to talking to people.
Here are my go-to options:
- Facetime your friends or family.
- Go to a local community to meet new people.
- Take a group tour.
Is solo travel worth it?
Yes, traveling on your own can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Because of total freedom, you’ll discover what incentives your choices are, who are the people you actively choose to hang out with and what kind of places you like.
So if you haven’t taken a solo trip, it’s time to start planning one! It’s cool! And it’s worth it!