Ah to travel: that wonderful decision that so few of us are graced with the honor of making. Be it a luxury week cruise through the Caribbean or catching the bus to that town twenty minutes away that you have never quite made it to, there is undoubtedly a sense of empowerment that comes with travel.
As I said though, it seems that it is only a lucky few of us who get the opportunity to travel. Some people (for whom I have the utmost respect) are happy where they are but most have a marvelous list of excuses to keep them happily off the not-so-well-beaten travelers’ tracks. Money, commitments, the dog, anything can act as a viable reason not to go.
The one that I want to tackle is ‘I have no one to go with’.
Hmm, that is very interesting.
No one to go with?
Well, umm, how about the seven billion people on the planet, I am sure you will bump into a couple of them along the way?
Ah, now you explain the problem: you are shy, not too good at chatting to complete strangers plus you only speak one language which can leave conversations rather silted.
Can I tell you a secret?
I’m all of those things too, plus I’m a girl – I’m not mentioning this to create some feminism debate just to put it out there that women can and do travel alone – but despite this I will have spent over three quarters of this year out of my country and the little time I was in England I was pottering about peeking into the nooks and crannies that I hadn’t taken the time to see before.
So now we have the issue, we can look at how to solve it.
A lot of my friends have signed up to do trips with groups which they have all loved, made new friends for life and experienced a stress free travel option as pretty much everything was sorted for them. It sounds great but as an eighteen year old school dropout, there was no way that I could afford it.
Next option: work. Weirdly, the best thing about traveling is the ability to settle. To fit in and become a local who knows where to get the best ice cream and cheapest pizza. Popular options are ski seasons (which I can vouch for as awesome), summer camps abroad or seasonal work in places like Australia. It also means you have a little group to slot into, colleagues to explore this new world with or old hands who can tell you all of the little tit bits that locals know.
Similar to working, volunteering somewhere lets you join a team. Moreover, there are loads of places that will let you volunteer for free (sounds odd but lots of big charities charge as much as a luxury holiday to let you get your hands dirty), try WOOFing, HelpX or one of the other countless volunteering sites where you can exchange food and accommodation for a few hours hard graft doing pretty much whatever takes your fancy.
All of these are still a bit organized, I love nothing more than spontaneous plans and solo travel gives you that. Time for a quick example? On my flight to India I bumped into two girls who had an incredibly busy schedule of plans. We chatted, discovered we were all heading to Delhi and so I hopped along with them until our paths forked. Travelling alone makes it a lot easier to strike up conversation with just about anyone and change your plans at a moment’s notice if something catches your fancy. Not to mention, chances are you will hit the tourist spots, follow the currents of travelers and bump into people to join on your journey.
The moral then, go for it. Pack up your stuff today. Book your flight and hotel. And then jump in feet first, immerse yourself in new sights, sounds, tastes and cultures because the moment you really stop to experience it, you will find someone to share it with. You are never traveling alone and hey, even if you can’t understand a word of what’s going on the universal language of sign language and a smile will get you through.