A question I’ve often asked myself before I left for my travels is: Is solo travel lonely?
The short answer is – No, far from it!
I once loved the idea of travelling endlessly with my closest buddies. Surely it’s one of the best feelings; being able to share some of the world’s vices and delights with your mates. And as well as this, who wants to live in a world where you get to have the time of your life without anyone to enjoy it with? These were the thoughts floating around my head before I left on my travels. Is solo travel lonely?
The reality was pleasantly surprising.
Solo travellers are friendlier.
The first steps you take alone will be the scariest.
After that, things start to form a pattern. This weird thing happens when you see another traveller alone, it doesn’t even matter where you are or in what scenario. As soon as you register that you are two backpackers or travellers, there’s an instant comradery.
Every other solo traveller is in the same boat as you.
After spending a small amount of time sitting alone, even the shyest of people will eventually find themselves looking for others to join up with. Because of the combination of a lack of private spaces and the necessity to beat back the boredom of loneliness, you (and most other solo travellers) will seek each other out.
And for the introverts out there, don’t worry. Once the sun sets, it’s hard to say no to a few bottles of liquid confidence.
After the first few weeks, you get used to talking to strangers and making friends quickly – it comes with the lifestyle.
Since then, the majority of my friends have been solo backpackers, often teaming up as a group and sometimes up to 20-30 people strong. The best part is, everyone wants to stick together. Who knows, you might even
Who knows, you might even find a girlfriend amongst them. Solo travellers are inviting, friendly, caring and also very non-judgemental. After travelling solo, I have found myself growing to be this kind of person as well.
Solo travellers are inviting, friendly, caring and also very non-judgemental.
Dorms are busy.
Very few backpackers can afford to stay in a private room or a hotel, and why would they? Earlier I mentioned the close quarters and lack of private spaces for those who embark on solo travel. A hostel dorm room can be the best place to meet new people, especially if you have to share some personal space. Also, don’t think anyone’s going to care if you’re doing a little eavesdropping or join in someone’s conversation.
I remember a great night out in Bangkok started when I overheard some Canadian’s looking for bars to go to. Having stayed at the hostel a few times before, I knew my way around the neighbourhood (Koh San Road) and couldn’t resist the urge to point them in the right direction. They had just arrived in Bangkok on their first night away from Canada and we were friends for literally 5 hours, but they were a great and far from lonely 5 hours. Within a 5 minute conversation, I went from suggesting a few bars and hidden restaurants to dancing away at 3 in the morning in a strange Thai nightclub.
Several hours later I caught the 12-hour bus to Siem Reap in Cambodia – entirely far too hung over.
Hostels want you to be friends.
It doesn’t take a high level of social skill to find yourself tagging along with another backpacker or even a group of friends – and chances are, they’re far more interested in you than each other. With that being said, in the instance where you might struggle a little bit, most good hostels (helps to have a bar attached) want to help you make friends.
At Dave and Courtney’s Hostel on Koh Rong in Cambodia; Vagabonds Hostel, the staff nearly always took up the opportunity to introduce every newcomer to the rest of the patrons at the bar. Within 5 minutes of sitting down, lonely and shy travellers were drinking beer with overly loud but friendly Canadians and Australians.
In Brook Silva-Braga’s 2007 documentary A Map For Saturday, he found that after arriving alone at a hostel in Sydney, and walking the streets with his camera but no one to talk to – he found himself sat down at the hostel run barbeque amongst fellow travellers and began to share stories.
You can trust in a hostel to give you the environment and activities to keep people social.
Go where you want.
One of the best parts of travelling alone is being able to do what you want. If you want to spend some time by yourself, you can go off on your own for a few hours or a day. If you want to check out another country or city, there’s nothing stopping you. And if you want to follow that beautiful exotic person around the country, you are completely free to do so (hopefully they’re ok with it though… otherwise it’s weird).
You are completely free to travel where you want and when you want. At the end of the day, no matter where you are there will be people willing to be your friend.
Learn to make friends by travelling alone – that skill will stay with you for life.
By now it should be clear that making friends is not difficult nor uncommon when travelling alone. Whatever fears I had of being alone on the road were gone after the first few days of my trip.
After over a year of being on the road “alone”, I find it hard to call it solo travel sometimes. Because in reality, I’m surrounded by people all the time who are on the same path as me.