Everyone talks about the people you’ll meet you’ll make when you travel alone. My problem? I just… don’t meet new people. This is why I suck at solo travel.
Making friends is often a given, if not expected, part of travelling solo. But for some of us, we genuinely prefer this time to be for just us – no pressures to meet new people and just enjoy being alone.
Solo travellers that I know of are often great at making new friends and being very social during their solo trips. They appear to be living their best, most extroverted life, and it’s a little intimidating for someone where that type of behaviour doesn’t come naturally. So I came to the conclusion that I must be really bad at travelling solo.
I suppose my preference to hardly speak to another person while I take a trip alone makes me either a terrible solo traveller or an excellent one, depending on which way you look at it.
My solo travel experiences
I love chatting with locals on trips. Whether that’s a helpful tour guide, a friendly bartender, or anyone in between. In fact, my time alone in Melbourne was particularly great for exactly that reason – I didn’t meet a single Brit in those two weeks (unheard of in Australia) but I did chat with several Melburnians.
Of course, I’ve made friends while solo travelling. A couple of really good friends in fact (ahem… my partner of over 5 years? Long distance and all!).
If a solo trip involved a multi-day tour or organised travel, I didn’t really make friends outside of those tours. It’s admittedly much easier to meet people when you see them every day, sit with them on coaches, and sleep in the same dorm room.
Despite this, even then I found others were much better at friend-making than me – I was mostly along for the ride.
A partner in crime
I actually really enjoyed spending time alone. Yes I thought it would have been cool to have someone to chat with on long bus rides or to share interesting experiences with but for the most part, I was quite content doing completely my own thing.
I am also not always very confident when alone. I thrive when I’m paired up, a double act if you will. Whether that’s a new friend I’ve met on the road or an old one I planned to travel with, it just suits me a bit better.
But you know what? I will still take solo trips. They’re just for me. It’s not a problem that I don’t really talk to anyone else, because I don’t even try. Sure, the trips I take solo are much shorter than that first long gap year, but I still prefer them solo all the same.
I’m also not going to NOT visit a place because no one is available or wants to come with me. I’ll go alone and if I want to spend that trip being social I will be so. It’s just that I tend to choose the mindset when I pursue a solo trip that this time is for me, to be alone and enjoying it.
Now let’s dig a bit into why I suck at solo travel in this way…
It’s not you, it’s me
I’ve never lived alone. I sort of see solo trips as a chance to reconnect with myself and take quality me-time without constant company. It’s exactly how I want it to be, no compromises. No answering to anyone or negotiating how long we spend at each attraction.
The idea of then interrupting this indulgent time with new friends doesn’t appeal to me, it’s not what I wanted from the trip in the first place.
This may sound selfish, but I find it liberating to be able to spend time with myself exactly how I wish. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy visiting art galleries – for the quiet open spaces with you and your thoughts. Bliss!
More broadly speaking, meeting new people and making friends as an adult is HARD. This is true in the city I’m already living in, let alone somewhere new and unfamiliar that I’m unlikely to be based in for very long.
For my whole adult life, I’ve wondered if it’s me doing something wrong, or if everyone struggles with this hurdle. I love my existing friends, and it’s very difficult to showcase yourself to someone new without the years of history and shared experiences.
But perhaps this is the very reason meeting new people abroad should be easier, in some ways? The immediate mutual connection of a new place, ready to be explored together does sound appealing. Knowing that you’ll be at least temporary acquaintances and at best life-long friends is overall quite low-risk.
Each to their own
I get the impression it’s common to assume that enjoying solo travel includes the ability to make new friends. My idea is to be, well, solo. But that’s just me! Many of the best solo travellers out there might love their trips for the opposite reason – the chance to connect with new people in new destinations. All power to them. A couple of my favourite bloggers for tips and advice on solo travel are Cassie the Hag and Where Goes Rose.
Could I change my mind in the future? Perhaps. But I don’t see it happening for now. I think I’d need to become more confident to truly want to meet new people on solo trips. Although building confidence is something I’d like to work towards, it would not be for this purpose. In truth, I’m happy with the way I take solo trips as they are so it’s not something I’m looking to pursue.
It’s important to mention that I love travelling with people as well. When Kaz and I were in a long distance relationship I would take weekend breaks alone and often thought how much fun we’d have on some of those trips together. I’m also less likely to take solo trips now that we live together, but it’s not off the cards for either of us.
So, does this mean I suck at solo travel? I like to think not – it’s just a different preference. I enjoy the people I do meet, but meeting them in the first place isn’t my priority.
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