I am going to say a few words about the advantages of travelling alone.
1. Learn the language
This is crucial. At least try to get the sound, the melody. Apart from training memory and attention span, there is a lot to be learned by listening how people talk to each other. You don’t even have to know the content of what they are talking about. Just try to tune into the flow of your hearing consciousness. Life will be rich. You will notice. And people around you may notice as well. Once you get the hang of it and start to recognise the
language as such, it will be much easier to arouse interest in actually taking a dip and and a plunge and a deep dive into hitherto unknown waters. You will then confirm what Sapir and Whorf had to say about language and limits.
2. Get disoriented without having to care about someone freaking out
‘Not all who wander are lost,’ said Tolkien. Whenever you are on your own, there is a good chance to ‘get lost’. Well actually you are never lost. You are always here. But the problem arises as soon as you ‘do not know where you are’… on a map, that is. If you are in the jungle, surrounded by snakes, scorpions, tigers and elephants, well yes, than you might be in trouble. You might… have no reason to panic after all. But some people I know (including myself at times) get heady and upset although they are still in a city or town. There are people. They can help you. If you start sweating take a breather. Smile. Ask someone. Maybe you’ll even be invited to dinner and a free couch surfer stay for the night.
3. Rest wherever you like
‘Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.’ (Buddha)
People come closer when they see you have no agenda. Just sit somewhere and watch. Don’t speak. Don’t take out a book. Don’t grab your phone or tablet. Just listen. Watch. See what happens. To me the most amazing opportunities arose out of this simple mode of natural observation.
4. Come and go as you please
A rolling stone gathers no moss, as the saying goes. Then again, I am a bit too young to gather moss already. Time will come to settle down and choose a place to stay for a number of months or even years. Until then, it’s always easy to go if you are on your own. It’s also fine if you do not know where to go but you are sure you want to leave the place you are at. Try this in a group and count the times you hear ‘but’ ‘what if’ ‘I’m not sure about this’ ‘wait’ ‘I can’t’ etc. etc.
‘The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.’ (Thoreau)
5. Meet new friends more easily
The fact that you are on your own creates sort of an entry for other people to get in contact with you. I have come to notice that whenever I am in a group I tend to speak English and I feel more like a foreigner. Sometimes I feel ashamed by the behaviour of one or another of my travel mates. But whenever I am alone I try to get across my message in simple terms – in my conversational partner’s mother tongue, if possible.
Another thing you don’t have to care about so much when travelling alone is that there is only one person you are responsible for. Of course, you may say, that’s always the case with parents as the exception. But how often do we feel responsible or ashamed by the way someone who is associated with us behaves? I just met a Dutch lady on the bus to Hatyai. She felt ashamed of someone whom the driver thought she knows. So she felt the urge to declare ‘I am not responsible for him. I am not responsible for his behaviour.’ The fact that I did not feel that urge gave me a hint, i.e. to associate with all kinds of people and at the same time stay free of guilt or shame that might arise due to their actions. Which seem to be re-actions most of the time.
6. Contact locals, youngsters, families
Getting to know locals goes hand-in-hand with learning the language and having a knack for the culture business. Meeting and talking to strangers keeps you from being preoccupied with the sights you ought to see and with the plans you have to realise and with all the burdens you choose to carry around. You just get a whiff of how people live around this place and how they use the space given.
7. Avoid getting stuck in BP hostels
Backpacker hostels have many advantages, I admit it. Free WiFi, fellow travellers, like-minded people abound. And yet, if you take a closer look, most of them are kind of lost. It seems to me that the majority is drifting along with the rest. Thus, they all end up in the same places sooner or later. Not to say anything against keeping in touch. Don’t get me wrong here. It’s just… not to say anything against dodging the easiest way and diverging from the main route.
8. Avoid being swept along the trodden tourist trails
Finding your way without a book in your hand that indicates all the wonderful amazing must-sees gives you the opportunity to explore on your own. Of course, there are times when it’s good to know what’s the best travel itinerary or the cheapest way to go from A to B. But… you will find that there are ways of the locals that can never be given in a travel guide nor in a tourist agency. Travelling alone can also be cheaper for various reasons, as some of my fellow bloggers have pointed out (see links below).
9. Get a free-of-charge stress management
Every time we get into a social situation with a ‘stranger’ some form of stress or another arises. The more experiences we accumulate, the more we are bound to tell stories and divide them in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experiences according to the stress they entailed. Actually, there is no such thing as bad or good experience. It’s made up by the storyline, the plot. The moment you meet someone, you might be reminded of this or that plot in the past. Accordingly, you might opt for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when it comes to trust the stranger (to whom you are a stranger, too). Why not leave that behind you? Just yesterday a boy drove by with his scooter and yelled ‘Hey bro!’ as he passed. Near where I am staying, a man asked me ‘How was your day, mate?’ It’s openheartedness which lets ego boundaries fall and regard this body, this world as your home. I am not talking about naivete or lack of discernment in knowing who you can trust. It is all about staying away from extremes.
10. Acquire negotiating skills with a sense of compassion instead of exploitation
Now this is a huuuge topic. After having witnessed so many times the clever-greedy attitude within myself and others, I try to reach a balance by sometimes giving just a little bit more than was expected. This never fails to surprise the vendor. It also never fails to put a smile on our faces. And a smile for some good-will bucks, it’s a perfect deal anytime anywhere.
For more on this topic, and with nice pictures, too, please check out these websites: