I’m a person that has always thought everything is better with others. I’ve done living alone for 2 years now and I still don’t get why its better than living with others. Everything is double the fun and half the cost! I would prefer not to eat alone, to watch TV alone, none the less travel alone. Perhaps its my upbringing with having 2 brothers but it just naturally made sense to share living and experiences with others unless you really really needed a break.
So when it comes to traveling of course I’ve always traveled as a pair or in a herd. Traveling with others give you security and comfort, makes it easier to take on challenges, you can defuse stress and joke about any uncomfortable or tragic situations that may come up, and you have someone to share the experience and memories with. So it’s never occurred to me to go traveling solo intentionally if I had the choice.The only time I’ve intentionally travelled on my own was 1 week in Japan when I was texting / calling my boyfriend all the time because I wanted to share the experience or if I absolutely had to.
In thinking for this S. America trip, the ideal situation was to go with a friend or a partner but that meant they had to be in the same life stage as me and want to take 1 year out of their lives to travel. Surprise! Not may out there and because I figured not, I didn’t even ask around. So it was to do this solo or not do it at all.
So it’s been over one month in S. America, about 3 weeks traveling solo and I will say,
SOLO TRAVELING IS AWESOME!!
I never thought so, but many experiences over the weeks have made me a big believer in solo traveling. Here’s why.
- You meet more people!
You think traveling solo is lone dinners and lone time reading books? Not at all! This wasn’t so obvious to me, but it is very obvious now. You meet more people traveling alone. Because when you have a partner, you experience everything with them and you digest the experiences through conversations with them. When you are alone, you either digest them alone or you find someone to share it with. And it is so easy to meet people when you are alone. Whether people migrate towards you, or you strike up a conversation, you are more prone to connect with others in the same experience.
Chapada Diamantina – Because I was alone, the bike tour was hesitant to offer me a good deal because it would have costed so much more without a group. Another solo traveler I had met at the agency found me the next day and invited me to join him and his new friend to go biking together. This lead to bike rides, me switching hotels, hikes, dinners and all kinds of doors opened. If I just joined a tour, this would not have happened.
Maceio – Went on a day trip to Gunga in a tour with people from the hostel. Hung out the whole day because everyone was solo, cooked dinner together and went out together at night. It’s good to plan together if we’re headed the same way, so decided to head up to Maragogi, met some new friends to form a road trip. This spontaneous meeting could not have been done if I was not traveling solo in a hostel.
Meet people and you get to take fun photos like this!
2. No Planning, No Stress
As much as traveling with people is great, there’s always a bit of stress in what you want to do, how much you want to spend, how long you want to stay etc. and it leads to stress. Especially in my case, I have a lot of time but with a limited budget so if people are not in the same state, it would end up having the to sacrifice their trip. I feel I am a pretty easy going traveler but maybe sometimes that gets on people’s nerves because i don’t like to plan things in advance. I like to leave it to chance and how I feel and what I see, so that could be stressful for people that would prefer I researched and had an idea before hand.
So ultimately, traveling solo means you don’t decide, you don’t have to consult and you can do whatever you like, whenever you like. It also means that if you don’t decide anything you don’t do anything, and that is okay by me. But I definitely love the feeling and it outweighs having a companion, because as I mentioned of reason 1, meeting people is actually quite easy.
And those are obvious but good reasons why and here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Stay in Hostels!!
I can’t stress how important this is to solo traveling. When I was thinking backpacking and hostels, I was really worried I would be out of place with college kids and millennials, having to act younger to fit in or keeping to myself because it was not “my crowd” anymore. But to my surprise, that simply has not been the case and I have met so many people from various ages and various backgrounds, and Very Impressive ones too! Some in university, some newly graduated and getting ready for their first job to professionals in marketing, engineering, nursing to freelancing programming geniuses to entrepreneurs to the retired. It is amazing the mix of people and and how they all meld to gather in this place called a hostel. If it was a hotel, not so much I think. Hostels are not just a economical choice but a great meeting place for people traveling solo.
AND, there’s cooking in Hostels! Here’s a Brazilian BBQ by Natan in Maceio. There’s always people that are cooking, wanting to share time and food, so its great to get to taste other people’s home cooked meals and economical too!
Being taught how to make Caiperinas (lime alcoholic drink) and Panquecca
2. Go out the first night , wherever you are
The first night you are in a new place, ask for what is happening, where the party is and get out there! Even if you are alone and afraid, it’s just a drink or two, go out and look like you’re having fun and the next day, people will recognise your face and say hi. Of course alcohol will help ease you up and you’ll be exposed to more people and in more light situations. Next day, you can do the “hey whats up. Yesterday was good eh?” nod with people that you recognise and it you will feel more connected.
3. When people talk to you, talk to them back.
No doubt, there will be more people that talk to you if you are solo (particularly if you are a girl) and its easy to pass them off as risk and ignore and walk away, but when they talk to you, talk to them back. This may sound like a stupid point but especially if you come from a big city, you may be accustomed to just say “I’m busy” and walk away or ignore as there are many shady people and businesses bothering your day. But when you’re on vacation, you’re not in a rush to get to work so whether they are vendors, tour sales, beggars, crazy people, other tourists, people hitting on you or people that just want to help, respect that they want to talk to you and talk to them.
That is one thing that impressed me with Brazilians that they give everyone the time of the day. Whether they are beggars, crazies or sales people, they listen. So I decided I’ll take the chance and talk to people when they talk to me and to my surprise, it has been more often good than bad. Of course there are annoying times like sales and getting hit on because you look different but there has been great encounters resulting in an in interesting or useful conversation and even friendship that I could have missed out on.
4. Wake up early! – There must be sayings in every language about the benefits of waking up early. The one in Japanese is “早起きは三文の徳 “Hayaoki ha Sanon no Toku” which means the same thing as “The early bird gets the worm” and it is absolution true. Wake up early, seek out options and opportunities and make the most out to he day. I have been waking up at 6, okay maybe 7 or 8 these days, but it allows me to do what I have to do and try out things I want to do. Also, when you are traveling solo, it is a good idea to be out when it is light out rather than later at night so I’d really try to follow this one rule if you try solo traveling.
5. Most of all, SMILE – And this is the most important truth in traveling alone. People will come to you, people will talk and they will feel more connected to you as long as you smile. Even if you cannot communicate in the language, a smile goes a long way.
I had an interesting conversation with a man at a bus station in Olinda. He came help me with the bus because its really hard to understand if you are not a local, and we had a pretty long 20 min or so conversation about Olinda, things he liked, my travels, hobbies, language etc. It was a friendly in topic and he and I put a lot of effort in communicating in Portuguese so it should have been a memorable moment with a local for me, but throughout, he never smiled and it make me feel very uncomfortable. The flat expression completely negated the friendly conversation and I was inching back and having bad thoughts in my head. Its just that simple, a smile changes impressions and the mood and when traveling solo, do take advantage of the SMILE as it will open doors so much.
So, solo traveling is great so far, though my solo traveling always seem to lead to traveling with people, it gives the right about of freedom and connection with people. I hope I feel the same way through-out my travels.