Ever since I left Australia in January, I've been swamped with questions. "What's it like?" "Where have you been?" "Are you happy?" "When are you coming back?" "Have you seen this place?" "How much money do you spend?" "Are you missing home yet?"
But by far, the general type of question I get asked the most is: "Aren't you scared traveling alone?" or, "Aren't you lonely?" or, "Have you made any friends?"
There are so many things involved in answering this that I had to write a list of what I learned traveling alone.
1. There's nothing wrong with being alone.
I never get asked these questions by people that are single or have a strong sense of independence. People that have walked off the beaten path (relationship -> career -> marriage -> family) seem to understand what I'm doing, or have a better concept of it.
I've had my happiest moments alone. Sure, they weren't filled with laughter like they are when you're with friends or love like when you're with your partner. No, the moments that have been my happiest have been in solitude, completely free of expectations and living my life at my own pace.
There is something so deeply satisfying about being content with who you are and where you are in your life. The happiest moment of my life so far was sitting on a beach at Koh Phangan, Thailand after a recent break up. I've never felt so completely content with my situation and my life. And guess what? I was alone.
2. Being alone doesn't mean you're lonely.
If you believe what I just wrote above, then it just goes to show that being alone doesn't mean that you are lonely. So why do so many people think like that? I personally believe it's insecurity. People become tangled in their normal lives, constantly surrounded by a support network that makes the very thought of having to deal with things without any close friends or family debilitating.
This is only re-confirmed for me because I know I did the same thing. I used people - not in a malicious way - but as a crutch. When something upset me, I would lean on my boyfriend. When someone angered me, I would vent to my mum. Since traveling alone, I've had to learn to deal with and overcome things that happen on my own.
People think that others judge them for being alone, without any friends. It couldn't be further from the truth though - people are too busy worrying about themselves to consider what's happening around them.
3. Traveling alone is scary, and that's a good thing
Most people wouldn't dare catch a plane to a strange country without any support network - because it's "terrifying!" It is scary, don't get me wrong. I'd never been overseas, let alone by myself... it was the most humbling experience I've ever been through. But living your life in the monotony of 9 to 5, with the same group of people (that you often don't like all that much) and the same routine is soul-crushing.
Being alone in a foreign country opens you up to so many experiences. You'll meet a pair of Australian boys on the beach who take you under their wing and show you around Seminyak. You'll get breakfast with two English lads, then on the bike ride home have a motorbike accident and scars (and memories) for life. You'll meet hundreds, and I mean *hundreds*, of people who are traveling alone and think it's the most normal thing in the world.
If I was with friends, I never would have met the two Israeli boys in Chiang Mai after my accident, who saw me as I was - a very injured, solo traveler who couldn't do much except sit around at the hostel all day. I can't help but smile when I think back about that week spent with Nir and Tal - they spoilt me rotten, and they'd only met me the day before!
4. It's hard not to make friends while traveling
Asking if you've made any friends while traveling is like asking if you've blinked at all today. Making friends while traveling is one of the easiest things you can do, especially because most people are traveling alone. People are relaxed, open to experiences and looking for fun when they're traveling. You can't walk five meters without running into someone doing something interesting or funny. And the great thing is most people are open to adventure while overseas, so you get to meet all sorts of crazy characters to create unforgettable memories with.
5. It's actually tough to feel lonely while traveling solo
At the end of the day, if you get some alone time while traveling alone...you're a very lucky person! I've literally been on the go non-stop for the last two months and getting back to Australia was a nice surprise.
It's not just that there are always things to do, it's more that you're constantly surrounded by a group of people that is coming and going. They have plans, they have stories, they want to go do this (and invite you along!). You don't have much time to relax and it's even harder if you're trying to work while traveling, like I am.
So no, I'm not scared of traveling alone, I'm not lonely and yes, I've made friends (for life). I wouldn't swap the experience for anything in the world.
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