By: Staff Writer, 11 Jul, 2018
“But it’s not safe!”
That’s a refrain I got used to hearing – and refuting – a long time ago. I love travelling (who doesn’t?). But, more than that, I love travelling by myself. I’m a fussy traveller, but not in what I expect from the destination. I’m just really particular about my company!
I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to get out there and explore the world from a rather young age – I suspect my mother liked having the house free of bored kids through the summer, and regularly carted us off to visit friends in other cities. What this meant, though, was that I got used to navigating train stations and airports by myself pretty quickly, and soon, the itch to go even further with this grew. Not that having the right sort of travel companion can’t be great, but I learned that I’m happiest on the road by myself, unfettered by the need to compromise on what I want to be seeing and doing.
Most importantly, it is safe, if you’re sensible. And sensible is something that all travellers – male or female, travelling solo or with others – should be, so why is this even a question? But I’m not here to wax eloquent about gender politics or the state of the world today – I think travelling alone is a very personal choice, and it’s a choice that for me at least, has been incredibly rewarding.
Being by myself challenges me to push my boundaries. I’ve discovered that, as horrid as I am at knowing my left from my right, I can master any public transport system in minutes. It’s a weird talent to have – but it gives me a strange sort of joy. I’ve navigated the Slovenian rail system at 3 am and figured out which platform to wait on in Japan without a hitch, without knowing the language. Of course, I’ve also gone the wrong way and thrown my schedule off, but I’ve realised that it’s not the end of the world – after all, it’s my own schedule, no one’s gonna care, right?
I’ve had delightful conversations with strangers who’re experiencing something new at the same time as me. It’s freeing to be left to your own devices, and be surrounded by people who have no preconceived ideas of who or what you are – you can be the person you feel like being at that moment, with no-one looking over your shoulder saying, “Oh, but that’s so not you!” When your travel companions aren’t people from your ‘real life’, you can spend days in silence on a beautiful beach with only books for company, or hit all the party spots every night – or both!
But, when it boils down to what motivates me to travel alone, I don’t do it out of a quest for self-actualisation or ‘finding myself’, as countless books and movies have us believe. The fact of the matter is, I’m picky and hard-headed. I don’t want to be dragged out at night because my friends want to check out the nightlife in Siem Reap; I don’t want to be stuck eating half a portion of biryani because everyone else misses desi food. I love being in charge of my own schedule and doing (or better yet, not doing) whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it.