Saturday, 24 May 2014

Why travel alone?

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” 
T.S. Elliot

Many people I have spoken to are shocked, and congratulate me on being ‘so brave’ as to intend to explore parts of South-East Asia alone for two months this summer. Part of this comes from being a nineteen-year-old female, and part of it comes from the trouble that is currently plaguing Myanmar and Thailand. See, all of my friends lacked the money to join me on this trip, and I saw going alone as no reason to cancel to such an adventure. Independence here I come! 

So, why travel alone? One of the great things about travelling alone is that is forces you to go outside of your comfort zone and make an effort to socialise, or risk spending your days alone. For this, a hostel of course is highly recommended, as you will meet many like-minded solo travellers. Last summer, whilst travelling with a friend, we allowed ourselves to stay in bed and watch TV as there was comfort in knowing both of you were too burnt/ lazy to move! However, alone, to avoid going crazy, your social skills are guaranteed to improve.

I think what is also nice about travelling alone is that you have a lot of time to reflect on what's really going on, my favourite memories from travelling include times when I have been completely alone. Sat on the top deck over the edge of a boat in Ha Long Bay, I was in awe at how lucky I was and how surreal the whole trip had been yet also being reminded of how beautiful the world was and how much I had left to see. Often isolation reminds you how lucky you are as it gives you time to think about all your friends and family who might never see this sight. It is one of those moments you have to pinch yourself to check you are not dreaming!

Travelling alone also means you can of course do the route that you want and the pace you want. You do not have to worry about pleasing your friends and forgoing what you want to do. For example, perhaps your friend is not quite the daredevil that you are, and therefore does not want to spend their days jumping off cliffs or throwing themselves out of an aeroplane, now, you are free to do as you please!

In addition to this, without a friend by your side, you are forced to become organised in order to avoid missing out on the best places to see or stay. Last year I left a lot of the planning to my friend as she really enjoyed doing it, whereas I prefer to generally go with the flow. However, this year, without her, so far, fourteen days before my trip begins, I have no route and I am likely to miss out on a lot of the popular hostels and miss sign-up for trips to other places if I don’t pull my act together! The best places always sell out fast.

Finally, to quote T.S. Elliot again (yes, I have an obsession), "There will be time, there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet". This reminds me of the constant pressure to please people at home. But again, one of the wonderful things about travelling alone is that nobody knows who you are. I hate myself for what I am about to say as it is so clichéd, but the reason it is said so much, is because it is true! Travellers have no history to judge you on and no grudges to hold, allowing you to find out who you really are or who you really want to be. Perfect.

So, as the famous Mark Twain once said, “Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”. I beg you not to be deterred from going alone!

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