Single travel: It's okay to travel alone

2017-04-25 12:57 - Anje Rautenbach
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(Photo: iStock)

Cape Town- Here we go again.

Correction.

Here I go again.

There is no we, there is no us; I am not part of them, they’re not part of me and possessively it will never be theirs. I shall always be am, often referred to as is, never are, because there is only one, there is only me: a solo traveller on a journey for one, another solitary experience, all alone, until alone becomes one still slightly more than none.

Here I go again.

A little tick at the box of single supplement, a surprise 1 pax surcharge and a discovery that less is in fact more and that more for less just can’t be missed.

At the guesthouse, curled up on a couch in reach of the wifi and coffee, I’m armed with a notebook, a netbook or just a book when questions from the opposite side of the room are fired in the direction of the silent single empty seat next to me. 

“Are you travelling alone?”

I see the stares, I notice the glares as I shake my head yes on the question, “Table for one?” and no on the question, “But are you not afraid?” while my lone wandering sanity is under the magnifying glass of a very social society travelling together.

Eyes are filled with a hint of pity, a sprinkle of sympathy and a dash of “ag shame”; hypothetical scenarios, what ifs and inane questions lead the way as ears listen to answers skeptically, with a head-tilt to the left and another dash of “ag shame”.  

The murmurings echo all the way from a place I used to call home to the reality of not being here or there; “Will she ever settle? This phase has been going on for more than a decade.”

While a handful understand my choice to choose an independent journey, the social society choir trumpet in one voice “But it is just you; don’t you have any friends or perhaps family to join? Do you really want to go alone?”

And then the celebrity question puts its best foot forward, “Don’t you get lonely?”

SEE: Solo travelling the Indian Ocean islands

Here I go again…

Truth be told and simply put, in a one word one sentence answer: no.

But allow me to explain, address a few of the uncertainties and put the “ag shame” head tilt to rest with a few truths and lessons about solo travelling.

I’ve learnt that it is okay to be selfish

Henry David Thoreau said, “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travel with another must wait until that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off” and the best thing about a solo trip is the fact that one can be selfish…

Selfish with your time, selfish with your journey and selfish with your wallet.

Don’t want to visit that temple, dine here or pay for that experience?

Then don’t!

I’ve learnt that is it okay to NOT be afraid

The world is not a big scary place; solo travel pushes you to rely on your own instincts and teaches you how to hone your instincts over time. Not everything/everyone/everywhere is dangerous; it is okay to be careful and it is okay to trust strangers.

I’ve learnt that it is okay to dine alone

It baffles me why sitting alone in a restaurant or café is so often frowned upon, especially in countries where couple culture is quite big. Dining alone is quite okay; the alone time around that “table for one” can score you some insider-information about the place you are visiting, you can catch-up on a book, a travel journal or just do some people-watching.

I’ve learnt that is okay that I’m not an extrovert

You don’t have to be an extrovert to travel alone; being shy, quiet and a bit of a loner does not mean that group travel is your only choice. The beauty of being a solo travel introvert is that the connections you make will most likely not be forced, but deep and meaningful while you can still enjoy your alone time.

I’ve learnt that it is okay to travel with confidence

Solo travel is empowering; you navigate your way through unfamiliar territory, realise what you are capable of doing, and you know your strengths (and weaknesses).

I’ve learnt it is okay to change your mind

Travelling alone means that all choices rely only on you but it is okay to change your mind; nothing is set in stone – you have nothing to prove, you are not responsible for anyone else and your purpose, priorities and passions are allowed to affect your choices.

I’ve learnt that it is okay that I’m alone and that I’m not lonely

Travelling alone does not mean that you are lonely, unhappy or sad; it means that you are embracing an experience, indulging in your own curiosity and making time for yourself; and that is okay! It is okay if you don’t feel like always talking to strangers or meeting new people. To be alone is not lonely.

I’ve learnt that it is okay that this is not a phase

If you Google, “Reasons to travel alone,” about 6 million results effortlessly pop up; some would say it is a fad, but is it really if solo travel is on the rise year after year?

My first solo trip was a no-brainer; I was living in a foreign country for less than 2 months, had no close friends there yet and my vacation dates did not match the dates of my friendly acquaintances. But I had a desire to explore, and so I did.

All alone.

That was about 10 years ago and I survived not only to tell the tale but to continue the tale of going solo.

I’ve learnt that it was not a phase; and while it may change in the future, there is no age limit to solo travel and it is not something you can get out of your system.  Travel – whether you are alone or in a group – is not something you get out of your system.

SEE: Blacks Do Caravan: Make the most of Freedom Day by exercising your freedom to travel

I’ve learnt that it is okay to ask for help

The independence of solo travel is awesome, but since we are all human, one often needs help; be it with luggage, directions or information. Asking for help does not deprecate your independence, it strengthens it.

I’ve learnt that it is okay to be out of my comfort zone

To be out of my comfort zone and to be exposed to the unknown has showed me how to thrive outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve learnt that it is okay if others don’t understand it

Solo travel is not for everyone.

And that is okay.

Solo travel is however for some.

And that’s okay too.

Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram!

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