The most difficult thing I find about solo travel is not the fear of being alone, stranded on the other side of the world with nobody’s company but my own.
It is not the fear of conquering new cities and environments with nobody by my side to support me.
It is not the fear of the myriad of possible disasters which may occur, or the terror of being a young woman in an unfamiliar place with no one to look out for her.
I have travelled alone, and I have loved it. I love the sensation of waking up and moving on my terms. Of spending my minutes in varying states of contemplation and exhilaration. I love the rush of standing atop crests and looking out over a city I met only the day before, and thinking, I got myself here.
Travelling with others is just as rewarding, for its own reasons. But there is nothing quite like the throwing yourself into the hands of the world and giving yourself a chance to fend for yourself.
So, the state of being alone, and the possible loneliness which accompanies it, do not frighten me.
The aspect which I find most difficult is, in fact, the people.
When travelling with others, I find myself absorbed in the sphere which is our own pre-determined and established space. We move together as a united group and that group remains stable. We meet people along the way, but we have our own set plans and don’t need to branch out to others for company. It’s not a conscious decision, but it happens to fall that way.
When I travel alone, I am forced into the spheres of other solo adventurers, of other groups.
A young woman sitting by herself is much more likely to be approached than a tight group of friends in the same space.
Thus, when I travel alone, I become more approachable – whether by virtue of my solitary state or my natural, bubbly desire to connect with others, I don’t know. It is most probably both.
I talk with people. We share stories. We become involved in each others’ plans.
What this does is create a webbed network of friendships and acquaintances which criss-crosses cities and traverses borders. I couldn’t even count the countries in which I have people to visit, and I am constantly forming new bonds.
What this means is that I am constantly leaving people behind. I am constantly in a state of departure, and this is both the most beautiful and exciting, and the most poignant and heartbreaking element of it all. I grow incredibly attached to people, and by extension, to the places that I associate with them. Each time I leave home, I am torn about where to go, knowing that any place I do visit will most probably leave imprints on my heart forever.
The last time that I visited Europe, in 2017, I zigzagged across the continent visiting friends and family from several countries. I experienced beautiful things, belly-laughed with the most amazing people, and further cemented connections which were already strong. That’s hard to leave behind, and each time I uprooted myself to move on to a new place, I was left in tears. And let’s not forget that in between all of these meet-ups and visits, I also met other awesome/funny/brilliant/kind/intelligent people who I am still in contact with today.
I love to invite people into my bubble. Solo travel means that I am able to join forces with so many amazing people from all over the world. It is simultaneously the most daunting and most beautiful thing, because I constantly leave people.
But with promises of returns to Europe and insistence that they should visit me in Australia, I always carry our shared memories with me. So perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that I don’t see these wonderful people very often. Because these connections don’t expire. And it’s these memories, and the promise of creating more, that keep me travelling.