Why I Travel Alone

Beach scene from Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada (Flickr)

“Joe, did you book your ticket yet?” I asked.

“No. I changed my mind. I’m not going to go.”

“What? You aren’t going to Australia? We’ve been planning this vacation for months!”

“Yeah, I don’t feel like it. We’ll go some other time.”

Over the coming weeks, I attempted to get my friend to reconsider, but to no avail. When Joe changed his mind, he changed his mind, no debates or discussions. Our trip to Australia – our big post-college adventure – was off. And none of my friends wanted to replace him. If I wanted to travel, it would have to be on my own.

It’s a pattern that has repeated itself over the years. While a few people have joined me along the way, more often than not plans to meet friends in far-flung places don’t pan out. When it comes down to the wire, something always comes up, they’re suddenly too busy, or they get cold feet and change their mind.

It’s taught me that if I wait for others, I’ll never go anywhere.

But there are places I want to go, people to see, experiences to have, and food to try — and only so much time to accomplish it all.

So I refuse to wait – I won’t let others keep me from realizing my dreams.

It can be scary traveling alone – especially when you’ve never done it before. But, to me, growing old without experiencing everything you want from life is scarier.

If you’ve been putting off a trip because you’re waiting for someone to go with – stop. Just go. Don’t let others hold you back from your dreams. Trust me, along the way you’ll make plenty of friends – from other solo travelers who thought “Screw it, if I don’t go, I’ll never go” to locals interested in meeting new people. You’re never alone when you travel.

More than that, solo travel gives you ultimate freedom. You wake up and it’s just you – what you want, where you want, when you want. In that freedom and infinite space of possibility, you meet yourself. You hit the limits of what you like and don’t like. There’s no one to pull you in any one direction or override your reasons. Want sushi? Get sushi. Want to leave? Leave. Want to try bungee jumping? Go for it.

It’s sink or swim and you have to learn how to survive – who to trust, how to make friends, how to find your way around alone. That’s the greatest reward of solo travel – the personal growth. Each time you go away, you learn to become a little more independent, confident, and in tune with your emotions and desires.

Solo travel is not for everyone. Some people return home soon after departing, others cry for weeks before embracing it, and some just embrace it right away. But you’ll never learn that if you don’t travel once by yourself. Whether a weekend away, a two-week vacation or trip around the world, try it at least once.

Don’t wait for people or hold back from living your dreams. You could be waiting a long time until someone finally says “yes.” There’s only now and if you don’t go, you’ll regret it.

Because if I hadn’t stopped waiting, I’d still be in my cubicle, trying to convince Joe to go to Australia, and wondering if I’d ever get to see the world.

Matt Kepnes is budget travel expert, author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” and writes at NomadicMatt.com.

Why I Travel Alone