Travel Solo: Because your friends will cancel on you

My first trip abroad was to the Caribbean Islands at 17 years old. My dream of traveling internationally was finally materializing (sooner than anticipated) and I was filled with so many emotions but the one I remember the most was the feeling absolute terror. I was petrified. I come from a township where the only airport has all of one terminal. And then here I was, already struggling to navigate my way through OR Tambo international airport, faced with having to catch a bus just to switch terminals at the Heathrow Airport. It felt like a country on its own. I was never ready.

East London Airport, Eastern Cape province, South Africa

Heathrow International Airport, Longford, England

So having survived being sucked into the black hole of the universe, getting lost and being wiped off the face of the planet forever, I was finally in the Caribbean Islands, on an island called Barbados. I had survived and made it successfully to the other side. When the nerves finally settled I thought to myself, I could do this again. And from then on, I loved the idea of traveling solo and relying on only myself for any experience I was to have.
Over the years I have tried numerous times to plan group trips with friends because I wanted to share the magic of traveling to foreign countries with them. None of the trips ever materialized. I have only ever travelled with either my partner or my best friend. I’m sure many of you have stalled many a trip waiting for your friends to get it together. Well, I’m here to advise that you stop waiting and to just go by yourself. Book a trip to your dream destination, the rest you will figure out as you go.

I still absolutely love traveling solo. In fact, it’s my preferred method for exploring new locations.

 

Here’s why:

You’re forced out of your comfort zone. Travelling with someone else  is just that much more comfortable. You always have someone to talk to in a language you prefer, someone to eat with, sightsee with, shop with. When you travel solo, you have to be okay with doing all of these things alone, which can makes some people feel really uncomfortable. But over the years I have learnt that it is in solitude that you truly discover yourself and there’s no greater teacher than having to figure things out on your own. Self love is in being okay with your own company and not needing to rely on anyone else for fun. It’s a useful lesson for not just travel, but all aspects of your life.

You set your own programme & your own pace. When travelling with someone else, you sort of have to do everything together. I like to split up and do some activities solo during a trip, but sometimes it’s not easy to negotiate. Some people prefer to do absolutely everything together, which is great if you absolutely love all of the same things. If not, one of you invariably spends time or money being bored by something they have no interest in or being rushed through something they really wanted to see or do. When you travel by yourself, you can set your own programme and pace – and spend as much or as little time as you like exploring.

You can change plans. When it comes to travelling I always prefer to have an itinerary so that I can maximize the use of my time. I always have places to see and things to do and a lot of shopping in between. But sometimes things change, you meet people or discover new activities or the weather acts up and it’s nice to be able to change things around without having to negotiate with anyone. The best part of travelling solo is having zero consultation to do.

You have a greater chance of meeting new people. Of course you have the opportunity to meet new people when travelling with others as well. But I find that when I travel solo, people are more comfortable approaching me to start a conversation. And I’m more confident to chat to new people. I have formed life long bonds in many different countries this way.

Silence. Sometimes you want to get away from everything and go to a beautiful location and soak in your surroundings in total silence. Whether it’s to solve a life problem, recharge your batteries or reconnect with your spiritual self, you can totally sink deep into a silent, almost meditative state. This is practically impossible to do when there’s a travel companion who expects you to be able to communicate with them at any time.

Traveling is about letting go of your fears, trying out new things and making memories. But most of all it’s about discovering who you are and finding your place in the world.

Hope to see you again soon!

mangwanya

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