Many bloggers have written their pieces on why they travel solo. Blogs by „solo female travellers“ have come to form a whole niche of its own. I guess I am part of that category, although I never much perceived myself as such. I would hope my blog’s selling points are mainly its focus on Eastern Europe and my writing style – not the fact that I travel solo or that I happen to be a woman. Regardless of this, I will share my thoughts on discovering the world on my own, why I love it and what it has given me. Because it has truly made me a better person.
Me: I’d love to travel after my Master’s…
Her: Why don’t you?
Me: Well no one wants to go where I want to go, no one wants to go to Eastern Europe. I don’t have anyone who would come with!
Her: Why don’t you go on your own?
At this point I had a whole speech in my head within split seconds that offered a gazillion reasons of why that was completely impossible. I never delivered it. Instead I said:
You’re right. I should go alone!
And henceforth, I never wanted a travel partner. I wanted to do this all on my own. Because I could. And I did.
On that trip, my first station in a new country was Budapest in Hungary. I remember getting off the train at Keleti Station, looking around and wanting to take in everything that I saw. I remember distinctly how sunlight fell onto people and trains, and I remember how much I loved the fact that old men were playing chess in the rail heads.
Most places that I arrived at – in fact most places I have visited at all – in someone else’s company have not left such a vivid imprint on my soul. Later that day I sat by the synagogue, and next to me a group of eight German girls were discussing their next move. Every single one of them wanted to do something different – have lunch. Go shopping. See a museum. Have lunch, but at a different place. Their fussy discussion and indecisiveness annoyed me. Not enough to spoil my mood, but enough to thank God for being on my own. I loved it from the first second.
Travelling solo, essentially, is a very selfish act. In many ways it erases necessity of consideration, compassion, compromise. My solo trip was all about me. Does that sound horrible? I think it should not. I think this great focus on myself allowed me to be the best possible version of myself.
For the first time in years, I listened to my inner voices. I got re-acquainted – or should I just say acquainted at all? – with my physical and mental needs. When I felt exhausted, I stopped. When I felt energetic, I moved on. Every new place I came to, I had the opportunity of liking or disliking it by my very own standards. I did not feel forced to like a place just because everyone marvelled at it, or hate a place because the guide book made it out to be less than perfect. I just listened intently to what was going on inside of me. The more I listened, the better I could hear my inner voices and the more I came to terms with them. I had so much time to spend with myself that I got to points when all the thoughts were thought, when a gigantic silence filled me whole and I managed to live and exist completely in the moment. Those may have been my happiest moments.
This is also why I hardly ever felt lonely on that trip. I was alone a lot, but it did me nothing but good – and loneliness, to me, is a forced, involuntary state that I connect with feeling left out and unloved. Being alone, on the other hand, is about finding yourself and learning how to be your own good company. I have written about this when I discussed bravery in travel.
I think some people manage to be in perfect balance with themselves with someone else around. For me that has always been very hard to do. Solo travel has taught me how it feels to be in balance with myself, to have come to terms with myself, to be okay with myself. It is not only something that I still benefit from in my daily life and of course in my travels. I think it is also something that my friends, family and travel buddies benefit from. Not to say that I manage it every day – but I have been there, and that means that I can get there again. If necessary, I will just throw in a quick solo trip somewhere. I know that it will do the trick.
Solo travel might not be or everyone, and it might not be the ultimate and only travel mode – because no such thing exists. I don’t think I will want to travel solo to the end of my days. I mentioned recently how discovering a place together with someone else was a new, exciting and beautiful experience for me. In my personal case, though, I had to go through being alone with myself, I had to go solo, before I could truly come to appreciate the company without losing myself. It was never about loneliness. It was always about self-discovery and personal development – as will be the case when I give up solo travel and go to places with someone else.
What do you think? Do you travel solo, with a partner or with friends? Do you think there is a difference between being alone and being lonely?