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Who Are You Waiting For? One Very Good Reason to Travel Solo

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If you know me at all you probably know which way I’m going to lean on this debate. I’ve traveled alone through several countries and continents, and while I mostly wander around with a boy by my side these days, I’m still a huge proponent of solo galavanting.

Today I don’t want to talk about why solo travel is so great and rewarding and you can eat 10 croissants for breakfast and nobody judges you. I’ve talked about all that before. Today I want to talk about why solo travel is so important because for many people the alternative is not going at all.

A few years back, when I was single and at an, erm, a speed dating event (I was supporting a friend OKAY?), I met this guy. This was back when I was living at home, planning my Asia trip, and weathering out an excruciating wait to go travel. This guy was the last in a long line of guys to ask me what I do. I told him I was quitting my job to travel around the world. Instead of the usual weird looks and skepticism, this guy’s face lit up.

“I’m going to travel around the world too! I’ve got my itinerary all mapped out.”

“That’s awesome!!” I said, totally shocked, “when are you going?”

“As soon as I meet the right girl to go with me.”

Something about the schlubby, uninspired look of this guy told me he may have been waiting for awhile already. I’m pretty sure he’s still out there somewhere waiting for the right lady with the exact same dream as him.

The thing about waiting for the right person to come with you? It’s an excuse. It’s a reason not to take the steps that you are scared to take. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want a travel companion. But there is something kind of wrong about sitting around, waiting for some guy or girl to show up so your life can begin. 

Along with these people waiting for the right person, are the people who’ve found someone awesome, but they can’t sell them on the idea. I get their emails in my inbox, asking how they can convince their boyfriend/girlfriend/friend whatever to come travel with them. To quote wise Christine from Almost Fearless:

It’s funny because one of the most frequent emails I get is “How do I convince my partner/spouse to travel with me?” The simple answer? You don’t. You can’t convince someone to travel any more than you can convince someone to love you. The more you try, the further you’ll push them away.”

You just can’t pin your dreams on someone else, someone who might not share those same ideas. It’s not practical, it won’t make you happy, and it definitely won’t get you out your front door.

When I made the commitment to go travel, I knew I was making a decision to go it alone. “Isn’t there someone who wants to go with you?” my mom would ask pleadingly, “one of your friends maybe?” No Mom, nobody I know is crazy enough to take a year away from their careers and backpack around the world. Except me that is.

So I set my sights on what I wanted, and, as the story goes, the universe rewarded me with a travel companion I never planned on. Someone who shares my rare values and attitudes about travel. It could just as easily not have though, and then I would have kept on keeping on on my own. Not just because I enjoy it, but because there would be no other option.

It’s not bravery. I’m not an outgoing person. I’m not bold, and I hate asking for directions or fumbling in a different language. If I can hack it, so can you. Even if you loathe every minute you’ll come out better on the other side. You won’t hate it though, because instead of sitting home looking for someone else, you’ll be out in the world, looking for yourself.

Okay that last line was hokey, but my point still stands. Don’t wait for someone else to make your life happen. Go out and earn it yourself.

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50 Responses to Who Are You Waiting For? One Very Good Reason to Travel Solo

  1. Nicole (colehaber.com) April 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM #

    thanks for writing this. it’s something i think about alot

  2. Christine April 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM #

    This is EXACTLY why I travel now. I broke up with my boyfriend a couple of years ago because I realized that if I was filling out his passport application, I’d be dragging him along on MY dreams. Not exactly ideal. I’ve always tried to get friends to go with me, but they all have other dreams and other lives–just because they don’t want to go doesn’t mean that I don’t!!! Brilliant post.

    • Amanda Kennedy May 23, 2013 at 2:44 PM #

      These posts, these comments, and these people make my insides SMILE! Everything i have thought and felt for so long, is now all around me. So many people have gone where i want to go, and done what i want to do… I too broke up with my boyfriend of 7 years because i realized that our dreams were 100% different. I found myself filing out his passport application to go on a trip to the Caribbean, and it seemed like such a huge task to him and i realized i was dragging him…and we wanted so many different things in life. Now i’m working at a job i love as a travel agent (a great place to be with the travel bug!) But i’m planning a long term europe/australia trip within the next couple of years. I just need to save some money :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Mica April 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM #

    Many years ago I realized that the person I was with was holding me down and stomping out ‘my’ personality. I took charge of my life and continued my solo travel which led to some pretty amazing things happening and 5 years later my life is wonderful. When I travel solo I learn so many things about myself.
    This is the only chance we’ll have to make ourselves happy so, as I heard in a song once, ‘leap, and the net will appear’.

    • Vacay Girl April 29, 2012 at 10:19 PM #

      I love that, “leap, and the net will appear”.

  4. Casey Camilleri April 9, 2012 at 1:34 PM #

    Great post! I stopped waiting and I’m taking on solo traveling in August :)

  5. Meghan's Guilty Pleasures Travel Blog April 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM #

    Great post, well said! I’m a big proponent of solo travel myself.

  6. Amanda April 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM #

    Amen, sister. I totally agree with you.

    I think another reason so many people avoid solo travel is that they assume “solo” means “alone” 100% of the time. Which of course isn’t true. If going it completely solo freaks someone out, there are tons of great small-group tour companies that are great options for solo travelers, too.

  7. Fiona April 9, 2012 at 3:04 PM #

    I’ve just sent a copy of this post to my own Mum. Like your mother, she loves to suggest ways in which I could find someone to travel with. I think she finds it difficult to accept happiness is possible without having someone to share it with. Anyway, a cracking post!

  8. Camels & Chocolate April 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM #

    Such a great–and different–perspective on going at it alone. I took my first solo trip for a few months to Europe when I was 20, and it’s still my preferred method of travel! Then again, I’m impatient and like to do what I want to do when I want to do it =)

  9. Hannah April 9, 2012 at 5:18 PM #

    “It’s not bravery. I’m not an outgoing person. I’m not bold, and I hate asking for directions or fumbling in a different language.”

    It’s always encouraging to read things like this. I am setting out on my own soon and sometimes doubt whether I’m actually going to cope on my own. So many people say things like “you’re so brave” but no, I’m not!

  10. Someday I'll Be There - Mina April 9, 2012 at 5:58 PM #

    This is very inspiring! well written!
    I have started this solo traveling last August, though for only 6 weeks, and repeating it this July/August, probably for 2 months this time.

    I have tried before waiting for someone to come along, talked to friends, and what is even worse is that they show real excitement! ask questions and research the internet! act so real! but at the end some lame excuse comes out, and the whole thing always gets cancelled. So I decided there is no other way but to do it on my own. Plan and go, if someone will tag along they are most welcomed, if not, then it’s still fine (sometimes even better)

    And come on, we all know you leave home as a Solo Traveller but you’re never really alone on the road ;)

  11. This Battered Suitcase April 9, 2012 at 9:31 PM #

    Yes!!!! I totally agree. What a great article and what inspiring words.

  12. Go Trek USA April 9, 2012 at 10:07 PM #

    Love it! So true!

  13. Audrey | That Backpacker April 9, 2012 at 10:42 PM #

    Well said!!! My parents used to make the same suggestion, “Can’t you invite a friend along or take one of your sisters?!” Haha, I think once they saw I survived my first solo trip they felt a bit more at ease with my galavanting. :D

  14. The Blonde Abroad April 9, 2012 at 10:47 PM #

    Oh how I can relate! It’s funny what the world will bring us when we decide to set off on our own. I’m definitely on my own agenda when it comes to adventure and there’s never a shortage of beautiful souls you meet along the way. Wonderful post!

  15. Beverley | Pack Your Passport April 9, 2012 at 10:48 PM #

    Great post Steph! I have to admit that, if Mark hadn’t asked me to go to Australia, I probably wouldn’t be travelling right now. It wasn’t that I was waiting for someone to go with me so I wouldn’t have to travel solo but, looking back, I was just waiting for “the right time”

    The problem with “the right time” though is that there never would have been a right time. It was something I was going to do in the future but when? I had no idea.

    I’m so grateful that one of Mark’s friends inspired him to travel and, in turn, inspired me to go out and see the world NOW.

  16. Ari April 10, 2012 at 9:40 AM #

    I think one of the best things about travelling is meeting new people along the way – and if you’re travelling solo, then you’re more likely to get chatting with new people!

  17. Kelly April 10, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

    I haven’t taken the leap into long-term solo travel, but the short solo trips I’ve been on have been pretty damned wonderful. Was I going to hold off on going to the French Riviera last year because I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go with me? Heck no. Ditto next month and Copenhagen. Wonderful post.

  18. Josh April 10, 2012 at 1:23 PM #

    Life’s too short to be entirely dependent on others. Isn’t that part of the the point of travel? To be free?

  19. Marie-Anne April 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM #

    Hear hear. I did some solo travel from September 2010, and while I am working and living in Switzerland now (I am from Belgium), I never cease to explore whenever and wherever I can. It is just so FULFILLING :).

  20. Geoff April 10, 2012 at 6:34 PM #

    I agree completely! The first trip I took was supposed to be with a friend when I was 18. We were going to Nepal for a month and a half, but he pulled out, so I went solo. Best decision ever!

  21. Adina | Gluten Free Travelette April 10, 2012 at 6:36 PM #

    Thanks for this post! I end up traveling alone for work a fair amount so this reminds me that when I do travel alone, I have to remember that I should still get out an explore!

  22. Alouise April 11, 2012 at 12:21 AM #

    I have a friend who keeps waiting for the perfect guy to come by, so she can travel. No matter how much I try to convince her that she could travel on her own, even just take a short weekend trip on her own, she’s convinced she can’t, or that she would hate it. I’ve never understood why some people postpone happiness for some ideal person who may or may not show up in their lives. I’d rather go alone than not go at all.

  23. Claire April 11, 2012 at 9:35 AM #

    Excellent post. As someone who married someone who doesn’t share my passion for travel, we have both just accepted the fact that I have my passions, and he has his. We have a few we share together, but thankfully for both of us, we haven’t let our different loves cause issues. Do I wish he shared my love of travel with me? Heck yeah. But I will take what I can get-we enjoy the weekend trips and the stateside vacations to places neither of us have been. For the rest, I am blessed with amazing friends who love to travel and chances are, one of them is ready to hop on a plane with me. Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad you found someone to share your travel life with!

  24. rhye April 11, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

    Very inspiring… I can very well relate to you..

  25. Jeremy April 12, 2012 at 2:37 AM #

    I never even considered that people would be waiting around for a partner to go traveling with them! I just decided one day that I wanted to travel and I made it happen. Best decision of my life.

  26. Molly April 12, 2012 at 11:17 PM #

    I used to be totally freaked out by the concept of solo travel, and I had only ever planned to travel if I could find someone to drag along with me. But then I started reading a lot of solo travel blogs (including this one) and I fell in love with the idea! Now the concept of waiting for someone to travel with seems ridiculous. I’ve yet to actually travel solo (I’m young and still saving) but I have a plan. And I’m so excited!

    So, thank you! :)

    • Vacay Girl April 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM #

      Good for you Molly. The only person that can hold you back from doing what you want to do in life is yourself. Remember that!

  27. Britany Robinson April 13, 2012 at 2:35 PM #

    Solo travel is the best. Not only because of the joy it provides in having every decision entirely up to you and you alone, but also because of the low points that teach you more than the easy, fun stuff. Some of the most challenging, frustrating experiences of my solo travels are what make me so grateful for having gotten out there on my own because I know there’s little I can’t handle now.

    Great post, keep on living the dream!

  28. Vacay Girl April 29, 2012 at 10:25 PM #

    You can’t wait for others. If you do years could pass before you know it. I know a few female co-workers that blame their reason for not traveling on their husbands. “He doesn’t like to fly” or “He doesn’t ever want to go anywhere.” So that means you have to endure staying at home or only going to nearby places to vacation? Nu-uh.
    I look at those women and it saddens me. I see the want in their eyes and the admiration they have for me when I tell them of my solo travels. Even my non-solo travels. I will never understand why they allow others to hold them back from wanting to be themselves and see the world.

  29. Aussie Bec June 14, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

    I actually started tearing up as I read this! I had a massive mental health breakdown this year, partially because my life/job/relationships was so far from what I had dreamed of and I couldn’t take it any more. I’ve always dreamed of travelling but the ‘Nobod will come with me’ excuse always stopped me. In the last week I decided it was time to stop sitting on the couch and wishing my life away and instead I should go out and just live my life. I’m starting to plan a three week trip to the UK in January as my very first solo travel and I am so excited. This blog has pretty much summed up everything I was thinking and has affirmed my decision so much. Thank you for your thoughts…and as cheesy as it was, I loved you line about looking for myself rather than someone else :)
    Bec xx

  30. Aryn June 26, 2012 at 2:42 PM #

    I’m doing the solo travel thing and I’ve been asked the question by locals, travellers and family, “how does your boyfriend feel about you leaving for a year”. Frankly, he wasn’t willing to go with me, doesn’t want to go to the same places I do and we don’t travel the same anyway (I’m all about hostels and couchsurfing with the occasional hotel and he’s all about private apartments and 5 star hotels). Frankly, I’m getting really annoyed with the question. He survived 21 years without me, he can make it one more. He is coming to visit me for a short while though.

    I’ve also been asked why I’m traveling alone and isn’t it lonely? I’m traveling alone because no one wanted to come with. I would think the answer to that question is pretty obvious. If a friend wants to join me, they know how to reach me. And when you stay in hostels and couchsurf, it’s actually rather difficult to find alone time.

    Solo travel forces you out of your comfort zone but you learn and see sooooooo much you would do otherwise. There’s no point in waiting around because you miss so much in life if you don’t go and grab it by the balls. Excuse the crass language, but it’s true.

  31. peer July 1, 2012 at 7:21 AM #

    Thx…this is very inspiring…will b travelling alone to indonesia next january…just for5 days…indeed a short one…but hopefully will b a good start for other solo trips….

  32. Jacqueline Young August 1, 2012 at 4:51 AM #

    Thank you for writing this. I have tried to explain why I am traveling alone to virtually everyone who asks… and I always tell them that if I waited for someone to travel with, I might wait forever. You put into words what I could not. And your last line isn’t hokey, it brought a tear to my eye :)

  33. Felipe August 7, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

    This post has so many helpful tips it should be obligatory reading for anyone planning to travel anywhere.

    I had the chance to go to China for two months and no one could go with me. I was terrified, I have never traveled solo and this was my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go there. In the end I decided to go, and I felt an uneasy feeling all the way to Shanghai. That feeling disappeared the moment I got off the plane. You own your time, go at your rhythm, decide where to go and how much time to spend at different places.

    This enabled me to discover great food and make lots and lots of new friends who took me to places that weren’t on any travel book and recommended me what dishes to eat. I am very happy to say I went to China by myself and traveled around the country without the help of any travel agency. It is really easy and a fun experience. Of course that knowing the language at a basic level and being single helped a lot, but I understand now that if I ever have to decide again between traveling solo or not going, there will always be more fun and adventures and things to know and learn when traveling than not going at all. Even the bad times bring me a laugh when I tell those anecdotes!

    Thank you for putting in words what everyone should know about this amazing experience.

    • Steph August 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM #

      I’m glad that you went and that it worked out so well for you! Thank you for the kind words.

  34. Kaleigh August 16, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

    Great post! I am hoping to travel to London and Ireland next summer, either with friends or alone. I’m concerned about the financial aspect of it though–how are you able to afford it? (especially taking a year off from work!)

  35. Nienke | The Travel Tester December 29, 2012 at 3:43 AM #

    You’re so Right! I don’t consider myself brave or outgoing either, but I loved travelling solo and wouldn’t recommend anything else for a first time journey. And I ended up finding my boyfriend that way as well, so no complaints at all :) I know so many people that would love to travel but don’t go because of the fear of going alone. I’ll send them here next time :) Thanks for your article!

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  37. Canyoning April 9, 2013 at 9:19 AM #

    I’ve got a friend who’s been waiting for someone to go traveling with him for 4 years. I’m not even convinced that he wants to go anymore, I think he just likes the thought of going than the actual reality of packing up and making a move.

  38. Ann April 25, 2013 at 5:29 PM #

    Those are all good points, but what if something were to happen to me and I was a lone woman so far away from home? That is what scares me.

  39. Brad June 24, 2013 at 1:58 PM #

    I’m really proud your doing that and I respect you greatly. I wish you good travels.

    I feel like i’m living with hobbits because no one ever wants to go anywhere with me even LOCAL. I mean traveling 20 minutes to go to a waterfall or 20 minutes to go hiking is like I used a sware word on people around here. They are very homely and don’t want to go anything. They just want to sit at home watching tv which drives me crazy with boredom. They make me feel like i’m not normal for wanting to go out and do things. Especially on wonderful hot sunny days.

    So in a small way I can relate to doing things on your own because if you wait for people your life will pass you by and one day you will wonder where the time went. The thing about time is that you can’t press the rewind button to get it back. So a moment that you had to do something is only there once. Do all you can.

    There is nothing worse then someone who holds you down as well like a partner friend or spouse. It feels claustrophobic.

  40. Simon July 21, 2013 at 8:14 AM #

    Iv recently just taken the plunge into booking a 12 month round the trip.
    I also was waiting for the right person to go with. It wasn’t actually till my partner told me if you keep waiting you’ll never go. So I recently gave up waiting and booked it and it feels amazing

    I know travelling solo will be tough but I believe the positives fair outweigh the negatives

  41. Dilli Raj Devkota July 31, 2013 at 8:17 AM #

    Thank you for the post; I liked it.
    Dilli Raj Devkota from Pokhara, Nepal

  42. Charmaine October 2, 2013 at 12:30 PM #

    Great post. All sounds so familiar. I decided to give up waiting and I leave on the 15th October to begin my mini adventure, ‘alone’. :-)

  43. Amielle October 3, 2013 at 5:28 AM #

    Even when I was younger and still at home, I started travelling by myself. One of my first trips was six weeks in Quebec when I was 16. I wasn’t alone alone, but I went with people I didn’t know and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was definitely a good first step towards moving far away for university and eventually moving to Europe for two years.

    It was really interesting as well because, once I got back, all the kids in my class were saying that they wished they had done something like that, even though six months before, when all the planning was happening, that had been the furthest thing from their minds. Stepping a little outside your comfort zone really is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and I’ve met some amazing people while travelling by myself, people I probably wouldn’t have met if I had been travelling with someone else because the seat next to me wouldn’t have been empty or I wouldn’t have asked someone for directions because two people can normally figure these things out. It really is worth it!

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