Why I hate solo travel (and the skills that make you stronger)

 

I’m not afraid of anything. Especially doing things alone. Being my own dinner date sans book? Check. Taking myself to the movies? Easy. Flying half-way around the world alone? Simple. But I sort of hate it.

Why I hate solo travel

1. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING

This can be an absolute nightmare. Flying into an airport, remembering where the hotel is and how to get there, and then how to say whatever you need to say in the current language. The first thing I did was print everything at home, but then I’m fumbling with a binder in the middle of a deserted airport at 1am trying to remember how to get to the public transit.

A. You get organized

I like to keep all of my travel plans, hotel addresses, tour information and anything else I need in my calendar app. It’s pretty basic, but I know where things are, where I’m going and what time I need to be there. I know there are other organization apps out there to help keep you organized, like TripIt and Google Trips, but somehow a calendar just seems simple.

2. YOU CAN'T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

This sucks for people that don’t like to look like a fool. I feel like travelling is synonymous with “looking a fool” and being stared at. I’ve never been one to care if humanity on the whole judges me, but that hotel receptionist is definitely thinking about how dumb I am right now. The best phrase I ever learned in any language is “I don’t speak <insert language>”. The problem is when I ask if they speak English, I get the mirrored look I think I’m giving them. Shoot.

B. You are really resourceful

So I whip out my google translate, type in what I want to say, and hand it to them. Now they are nodding, understanding that I have a reservation for tonight. Some people take my phone from me to reply in English, returning the favor.

Anyone had their luggage lost for 5 days? I found out what I really need to live: 2 pairs of underwear and socks, 1 pants and shirt outfit, 1 pair of shoes, deodorant, and conditioner. And my phone charger. I almost felt guilty for all the shit I had packed in my suitcase when it showed up.

3. IT'S UNSAFE

Are you sure it’s safe? How are you going to get around? What if you lose something? What if you are robbed? How will you get home if you get robbed? Where is your passport? Did you bring any cash? Did you bring too much cash?

C. You learn how to stay alert

Maybe we didn’t lock our doors or our cars growing up in South Dakota.  But that didn’t remove my instincts when I’m in a crowded street in Santiago, squished back to front with the person in front of me on a subway in Tokyo or wandering a dark and abandoned street in Paracatu. Being in the unsafe or the uncomfortable forces you to stay alert, and learn how to keep what you have (your life) safe. Also, you program the locations and phone numbers of the local American Embassies in your phone.

4. YOU'RE LONELY

There is nothing lonelier than being in the middle of a beautiful place and not having anyone to share it with. As a traveler, you make “single-serving friends” (according to Tyler Durden) everywhere but no real or long-duration connections. In a travel culture, someone is always leaving, which can make experiences really lonely.

D. You get braver than you ever have been

Making decisions while lonely is a difficult task, when all I want to do is stay in bed with my head under the covers. But why did I come all this way to do something that I can do at home? Forcing myself to go out, to see things, to be brave, to talk to strangers, to try something new, to make a fool out of myself, is something I’ve only done in small chunks at home and it was never so fearful in the great U S of A, where I speak the language and most things are generally familiar.