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What is it like to travel alone?

I love traveling.

I have been aspiring to travel ever since I saw Ian Wright on the Lonely Planet television series, his humor soaked escapades and sights of foreign land always inspired me. In this regard, last twelve months have been pretty exciting. To give you a perspective, I have been to more than a dozen cities in 6 countries. I got to see the Berlin Wall with so much emotion and bloodshed behind it, the ruins of Hampi, Spanish women in summer clothes and unclad Naga Sadhus with their dreadlocks and ash-smeared bodies in the freezing cold at Maha Kumbh.

What excites me about traveling is the immersive experience. For me it is about getting lost in the streets, stumbling upon great places, meeting people and preserving memories. It is the aroma of fresh seafood in Kochi, hearing the sound of 60,000 cheering FC Barcelona fans at Camp Nou, drinking strongly hopped pilsner in Prague and seeing a beautiful sunrise at Mahabalipuram.


Some of these trips were made with friends, some on business and some on my own. I often come across people who wish to travel, but just cannot do so. They can separated into three buckets:
1. Time, but no money
  • they have disposable time, but not enough savings or the lack of a good paying job that prevents them from pursuing their passion.
2. Money, but no time
  • they have sufficient money to cover costs but are tied to their day jobs or family dependencies.
3. Time + Money, but afraid of doing it Alone
  • they are on a constant lookout for companion(s) and often fear traveling on their own.

If you have just enough time and money, but lack the courage to take a trip to your favorite destination on your own, then let me take the liberty of quoting Sir Richard Branson to make a suggestion: “Screw it, let’s do it!”.

If you find yourself regularly stuck in bucket #3, this piece is for you. And before I tell you how wonderful it is to travel alone, let’s get a couple of things straight. Firstly and I’m sorry to break the news, not as many peoplecare about you when you are not around as you might think. It’s just your family and your 3 AM friends. It might sound frightening, but that’s how it is. Second, traveling alone is OK, you are not the first one to do so and definitely not the last one. It is a completely normal activity. Stop worrying about being judged by others - simply because the ones who judge, don’t really matter.


Here’s why I love traveling alone and why you should also do so -

1. Be the Master
It allows you to chart your plans independently, you go to places that you like, eat when you want and do what you love. If you want to spend few extra hours at that museum to appreciate the art that you always wanted to see, go ahead and do it without worrying a bit about wasting someone else’s time. Traveling solo gives you the freedom and flexibility to make plans that suit you.

2. Mingle with Locals
Being on your own brings with it the great opportunity of mixing up with the locals. No travel site recommendations come as close to what local dwellers can suggest, there are always hidden treasures. For instance, I could have never been to the beaches in the coastal town of Sitges, about 40 mins away from Barcelona, if I hadn’t struck a conversation with a Catalan while commuting on the local bus. Even if you don’t understand the language, facial expressions and gestures are enough to get you by.

3. Serendipity
Traveling alone often exposes you to chance encounters as compared to hanging around in a group. You not only get to meet people from totally different backgrounds but good conversations with fellow travelers lead to great experiences. I for one met a lot of people on walking tours, made few friends and remain in touch with them. Believe me, you will have some crazy stories to tell.

4. Solitude
While you are not commuting, eating or keeping up with itineraries, there will be moments of solitude. It is during these moments that you will watch life go by and uncover new meanings. Your mind gets off the regular track and you experience stillness. It is meditative.


It is going to be worthwhile. So if you have just enough time, money and that itch to travel, just go ahead and do it. Get off your ass, pack your bags and leave right now.
As for me, I can’t wait enough to smoke some cigars and sip mojitos in
Cuba.

Wishing you strength and great time,
Rahul
Posted in World Travel on June 22 at 11:36 PM

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