When I was 23 years old, I found myself completely alone, hung over from the Halloween party the night before, on an overnight bus from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile.
I looked out of the window, into the dark, vast unknown, and it hit me that anything could happen that night.
Those who cared about me wouldn’t know, and those who would know wouldn’t care. I was traveling into the unknown, and while it scared me, all of the possibilities and future encounters exhilarated me.
It should be noted that I am a female from the United States. The majority of the world still employed a male-dominant approach to society, and since it was 2004, right before presidential elections, traveling with a US passport wasn’t necessarily something to brag about.
It’s no secret that George W. Bush had pissed off a lot of people worldwide. Many people suggested I claim Canada as my native country, that I wear a fake wedding ring, or carry a picture of my fictitious husband in my wallet to avoid hassles and improve my safety.
That was bullshit.
I would be who I was, because it was me traveling, not some alter-ego or made-up fairytale character. Just like traveling, and doing so alone, is by no means a Disney cartoon show.
So, if you’re wondering if you have what it takes to travel solo, ask yourself the following questions:
• Does it make you sad to go to a restaurant alone?
• Is watching a movie by yourself pathetic?
• Are you the kind of person who needs a buddy to go grocery shopping or jogging?
• Do you get uncomfortable while walking or driving through an unknown neighborhood?
• If your plans don’t fall into place, does it ruin your mood or your entire day?
• Did you fail basic arithmetic?
• Are you painfully shy?
• Do you always need to seek advice before making decisions?
• When it comes to self defense and survival skills, are you at a total loss?
• Are you often aloof, and dependent on others for directions?
If you said yes to any of these above questions, you might want to think twice about heading out on an adventure by yourself. After all, you will be BY YOURSELF the majority of the time.
My advice would be to try to do more things independently and see how you feel during those experiences. However, if you said yes to all of the questions, don’t leave your city, much less the country, without your BFF (or your mom) by your side.
If you plan on traveling alone, just prepare yourself!
Read up on the country and learn its statistics, regions, cultural habits, dress codes, and so on. Know that all of the stories of abduction, rape, stealing, assault, and even murder are very real. If you keep your head about you and know how to compose yourself, blend in, and treat people kindly, these things most likely won’t happen to you.
Disclaimer: this is NOT a promise.
Things can and will happen; you could be the most seasoned solo traveler and still have nightmarish experiences. However, if you don’t act foolishly, more than likely you’ll have nothing but great, mind-expanding, eye-opening experiences in whichever country you choose to visit.
Just don’t forget: things will go wrong.
You will get lost and experience varying levels of culture shock. People will constantly try to rip you off. More than anything, you’re going to get lonely.
It will be a loneliness that you have never felt before- extremely frightening at first, but also extremely liberating. You will delve into the deepest parts of your soul, learning to trust yourself, take care of yourself, and spend days or weeks on end not speaking to anyone.
If this has all completely turned you off or scared the shit out of you, then please don’t travel alone. But if you still have that urge, that curiosity, that inner confidence and drive (as well as awareness of surroundings and self), then I think that traveling alone might be a great adventure for you.
You will meet fabulous people, possibly make lasting friendships, learn a great deal about humanity and yourself, see many beautiful landscapes, and have a whole lot of fun!
So, do you have what it takes to travel alone? I don’t know.
These are just my mere observations and suggestions. If you know you’re a scaredy cat, then you already know the answer. But if you hold a strong belief in your heart that you are meant to go on a journey that will forever change you, your view of the world and of yourself, then I say go for it.
Don’t ever forget the reality of the world while you’re out there, but just go. Go out and explore the world. It will probably be the closest you ever get to your true self and your reason for being.