In 2010 when I made the decision to go on a 4 month backpacking trip, I knew I'd be going alone. I'd be lying if I said that was my preference. I would have loved for my best friend, Becky, to have joined me but it wasn't going to happen. Becky was just starting out in her HR career and besides, she had no desire to join me on a trip that would involve days without hair straightening! Although I would have jumped at the chance to have had someone come with me, I knew that if I wanted to travel, it would have to be on my own.
And going on my own was the best thing that ever happened to me.
When I left London for Bangkok in September 2010, I had all the feels. I had been to South Africa the year before, but I joined a conservation programme so as soon as I landed I met the people I was spending the next month with. My 2010 trip was entirely different; I was going to be landing in Bangkok, a city known for it's craziness, and I was expected to navigate it all my myself. Before I left, people asked me, "Aren't you scared?". I can't remember how I responded to them at the time, but with the wisdom my travel has given me, I would tell them the thought of growing old without seeing the world is scarier.
The term 'solo travel' probably doesn't describe the experience very well. Sure, I left London on my own, did the journey on my own and had to figure everything out on my own, but in reality, there were very few times during those 4 months that I was on my own. Solo travel could imply a sense of loneliness, but it isn't like that at all. Unless you want to stay by yourself; you have that choice too.
I am genuinely glad that I was forced to make my first backpacking trip on my own. I honestly believe I wouldn't be the person I am today without that experience. And who knows, if I had the opportunity to go with someone back then, I may never have had the courage to embark on solo travel. As you get older, you generally become more used to home comforts and of course, for a lot of people, getting older brings greater responsibilities in life.
When I look back, I never really got hung up on the issue of having no one to go with. I don't remember trying particularly hard to convince anyone to join me. I had university friends who had been travelling that I could have asked. But I don't recall doing any of that. I quickly accepted I was going solo and with hindsight, I wonder if that was my intuition. Consciously, I had no idea what was ahead was going to lead to the greatest opportunities and experiences of my life.
Travelling independently gives you the ultimate sense of freedom. And for those of you who know me well, I like to do what TF I want. When you wake up, you can decide what to do and when to do it. You don't need to consider someone else's plans or likes and dislikes. I know that sounds selfish but it's in that space of freedom and liberation that you meet yourself. You learn what you really like and don't like. There's no-one to influence you or pull you in any direction, other than your own instincts.
You have to learn how to go about it alone. You learn who to trust and who not to trust. You learn how to find your way around on your own which in a foreign country where your language isn't the first language, can be a daunting experience at first. But it's those experiences that lead to personal growth. It made me more independent, more confident and more aware of my own feelings.
If you don't want to travel solo but you can't find anyone to commit to your plans, please just try it. If you wait for others, you may never go anywhere. Don't let other people keep you from living your dream. There's only now and if you don't go, you'll regret it. And if you like the idea of solo travel but fear is holding you back, I urge you to just try it. That fear isn't a bad thing. It's natural and is likely to be the thing that leads you to grow. What's the worst that could happen? You won't like it and you'll book a flight home soon after departing. Sure, that might happen. But I highly doubt it. My guess is you'd have the most incredible experience of your life and experience personal growth you have only ever dreamed of. Do it. Your only regret will be that you didn't do it sooner.