From family holidays to romantic getaways, memorable travel moments are often spent with others. But sometimes, travelling alone can unearth unique experiences that are otherwise unattainable when navigating the wants and needs of a group. To find out more, we turned to question and answer site Quora, asking, “what is it like to travel solo?”
You never know what’s going to happen – or who you’ll meet
“When I travel alone I push myself to talk more with everyone and I leave my plans open to anything,” said Janice Waugh, author of the Solo Traveler blog. “This has led to wandering the alleys of Lhasa only to end up being invited to a traditionally male-only tea house; [taking] a motorcycle ride between the lakes of Udaipur; being invited to an underground gambling hall in Shanghai; diving in the Red Sea [and] hiking in tea plantations in Munnar.”
Mario Wilson, from San Francisco, said he ask questions without judgment and throws away the guidebook. “It can never get me access to the experiences I really want. Those experiences are shaped by who I meet, and who I meet is driven by who I am … In Cambodia, one of my taxi drivers was a former Khmer Rouge. I got to spend an afternoon asking him questions about his life, and, now that he is a parent, how he views the past ... To this day I am amazed that I could have four- to five-hour conversations in languages which I do not speak – and yet be understood,” he said.
You’ll uncover better places to eat
“If you're an adventurous eater, solo travel is for you,” said American Stephen Ford. “If you really want to try grilled ox heart, fish head curry or lamb brain sandwiches, there will be no one to nix your plans because they'd rather have chicken wings and nachos from the Hard Rock Cafe.”
Travelling alone also offers the chance to have a different dining companion each night. “One of my favourite questions is: ‘Where is a good place for lunch? A place where you would take your family?’” Wilson said. “Often I offer to buy them lunch if they agree to order the food.”
Anonymity will be a blessing
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” Bhowmik advised. “You can do a lot more fun things with greater abandon if you know that what you do won't follow you home.”
Lawrence Kurniawan, from Jakarta, suggested chatting up the people you meet, even if you are usually shy and reserved. “If you don't like them you can just go separate ways,” he wrote. “No need to stick with people you don't like. After all, it's your adventure!”
Ford added that solo travel helps remove cultural crutches. “When you're travelling on your own, you don't have others from your culture to support you,” he said. “You tend to act less like a tourist and more like a local. As a result, the locals will tend to treat you differently.”
The loneliness will pass
Solo travel can be full of self-revelatory moments and deep connections, but those magical experiences don’t happen every second of a journey.
“Connections with people [are] usually what bring happiness. Laughing, teasing each other, building inside jokes, seeing each other dance all wacky, having memories, growing, sharing, having random adventures or nights out, learning, loving... those are the really awesome things in life,” wrote Kyle Pennell, originally from the US and now living in Mexico. “Sometimes they happen when you're traveling alone, but just as often, they don't.”
In those moments of loneliness, he advised solo travellers in another answer to “just be ready for it, accept it, and let it pass”.