While I’ve lived overseas three times, I’ve never been completely on my own, as there was always someone to pick me up at the airport, an arranged living situation, a job or university to attend. Sure, I did and still do things by myself often, and I see myself as a rather independent person. I don’t mind going out for coffee, lunch or to the movies by myself.
I do, however, have quite a few thoughts and worries about my upcoming trip to South East Asia that I’m currently about to embark on (literally writing this at the departure gate – if the format or layout is skewed, I apologize!).
I think my worries stem from the fact that I haven’t traveled alone since my depression brought on anxiety and panic attacks, and I felt that the best way to create a manageable overview of my thoughts was to sit down and write down the pros and cons of traveling solo to ease my mind.
I’ll be starting with the cons, since they take up the most space in my mind:
Traveling alone makes a person vulnerable to certain dangers as they are easier targets for criminals. Whether it be pickpocketing, kidnapping, drugging or rape, there really isn’t anyone to keep an eye out for you and come to your aid or report you missing. Similarly, corrupt cops or taxi-drivers are less likely to meet resistance from a single person than from a couple or group.
Having suffered from depression for quite some time, being lonely is one of the worst thinsg I can imagine experiencing on a trip. I fear that I’ll miss having someone to share the experiences with or being bored on the beach after an hour.
If going on an excursion with other people, I’m worried that I’ll mess up the group dynamics. Like, everyone traveling with someone else and I’ll be third-wheeling in the back of a bus or boat or whatever and feel completely out of place. More than that, I’d have so much trouble being able to carry all my gear, such as camera, drone, water bottles and beach towels, not to mention taking pictures of myself in gorgeous locations. I’d be too embarrassed and awkward to ask someone to do it. First world problems, for sure, but still stuff that’s on my mind.
4. Anxiety and depression
More than just feeling lonely, I fear that I will be too challenged to go everywhere by myself. Crowded, loud and unfamiliar places tend to trigger my anxiety – as well as being emotionally charged, even if it’s with excitement. I’m unsure of what to do in case of an incident, even though I haven’t had one in a long time. Furthermore, I’m worried that my fear of having an attack will keep me from going out and doing and seeing things, which will ultimately lead to me missing out on unique experiences.
Traveling alone may mean that the trip will be more expensive. Particularly rooms, taxis and any types of rentals would’ve been cheaper if the expenses were shared. This is a minor inconvenience, which is why it’s the last point on my list.
Now, to all the good things about traveling alone!
Being free to eat, sleep, do whatever and go wherever you want, whenever you want is priceless. You never have to wait for someone to finish their shopping or be dragged to a museum you have no interest in. Additionally, if you change your mind about something, you can change your plans whenever you want to without having to discuss it with someone else. Cutting the trip short? No problem. Extending a stay on a remote island? Don’t mind if I do!
Another thing that I like the idea of is that you can let go of the person that you normally are. No one knows you at your destination, so there is no need to live up to someone’s expectations and perceptions of you or your looks. You are really free to be whoever you want to be, and who knows, maybe you’ll get to know yourself better and find peace with the person that you are.
2. Personal challenges
When traveling alone, you’re bound to find yourself in a situation that you’ve never been in and probably don’t feel comfortable with. Learning to deal with it is undoubtedly healthy for you and will make you stronger and better prepared for another time. Sometimes, traveling will demand that you are open-minded, think out of the box, talk to other people that you wouldn’t normally talk to and perhaps practice a different language. Anything that will help you grow as a person is a great challenge.
Perhaps some time away from your friends and family will make you realize how lucky you are to have them in your life. A little absence can definitely make the heart grow fonder – and if that isn’t the case, then you’ve won either way!
Likewise, a different country can make you appreciate your own country and its systems, customs and traditions. Nothing puts your life into perspective more than seeing how others are exposed to less than what you’re used to.
So, while there are more points to the list of cons of traveling alone, I think that the pros make up for them – for now. I’ll make sure to write a follow-up post during or after my travels and share some tips for anyone who’s dealing with these worries.